Improving the farmland biodiversity value of riparian buffer strips: conflicts and compromises

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Th e intensity of management of lowland grassland fi elds in the United Kingdom, coupled with the fact that such grasslands dominate much of the lowland landscape, means that there are now few opportunities for many plants, invertebrates, birds, or mammals to survive. Th e Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) has investigated whether fencing off the margins of such fi elds next to watercourses to control diff use pollution has any positive impacts on biodiversity, based on assessments of vegetation composition and condition and structure of assemblages of invertebrates of importance as foodstuff s to farmland birds. Fencing watercourses increased the abundance of key groups of invertebrates. However, the invertebrate species diversity was not increased unless the margins were ≥5.4 m in width. Margins established in the study area to prevent access by livestock to watercourses or to enhance biodiversity are generally ≤2.6 m wide and are therefore unlikely to provide conditions for additional invertebrate species to use. Th e dense, tall swards within such margins are also unlikely to provide foraging opportunities for farmland birds. Management (such as low-intensity grazing by livestock in the margins) is essential to provide the conditions required for these groups, but this could confl ict with the diff use pollution mitigation aims. A compromise is proposed whereby limited autumn/winter grazing by livestock could be used to open the vegetation structure in the margins. Grazing by livestock at that time may be acceptable since it is not occurring in the period of main diff use pollution concern (i.e., the fecal contamination of watercourses and bathing waters in the spring and summer). It is also essential that a landscapescale approach is taken, driven by knowledge of the full needs of the species concerned, when deciding where best to target agrienvironmental actions aimed at farmland bird conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)355 - 363
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Volume41
Issue number2
Publication statusFirst published - 2012

Fingerprint

riparian buffers
agricultural land
invertebrates
biodiversity
livestock
pollution
birds
lowlands
grazing intensity
pollution control
vegetation structure
sward
agricultural colleges
grasslands
grazing
foraging
autumn
species diversity
vegetation
winter

Bibliographical note

1023317
65800023
65800024

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Buffer strips
  • Conflict
  • Farmland
  • Riparian buffer strips
  • Value

Cite this

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abstract = "Th e intensity of management of lowland grassland fi elds in the United Kingdom, coupled with the fact that such grasslands dominate much of the lowland landscape, means that there are now few opportunities for many plants, invertebrates, birds, or mammals to survive. Th e Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) has investigated whether fencing off the margins of such fi elds next to watercourses to control diff use pollution has any positive impacts on biodiversity, based on assessments of vegetation composition and condition and structure of assemblages of invertebrates of importance as foodstuff s to farmland birds. Fencing watercourses increased the abundance of key groups of invertebrates. However, the invertebrate species diversity was not increased unless the margins were ≥5.4 m in width. Margins established in the study area to prevent access by livestock to watercourses or to enhance biodiversity are generally ≤2.6 m wide and are therefore unlikely to provide conditions for additional invertebrate species to use. Th e dense, tall swards within such margins are also unlikely to provide foraging opportunities for farmland birds. Management (such as low-intensity grazing by livestock in the margins) is essential to provide the conditions required for these groups, but this could confl ict with the diff use pollution mitigation aims. A compromise is proposed whereby limited autumn/winter grazing by livestock could be used to open the vegetation structure in the margins. Grazing by livestock at that time may be acceptable since it is not occurring in the period of main diff use pollution concern (i.e., the fecal contamination of watercourses and bathing waters in the spring and summer). It is also essential that a landscapescale approach is taken, driven by knowledge of the full needs of the species concerned, when deciding where best to target agrienvironmental actions aimed at farmland bird conservation.",
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Improving the farmland biodiversity value of riparian buffer strips: conflicts and compromises. / McCracken, DI; Cole, LJ; Harrison, W; Robertson, D.

In: Journal of Environmental Quality, Vol. 41, No. 2, 2012, p. 355 - 363.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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T1 - Improving the farmland biodiversity value of riparian buffer strips: conflicts and compromises

AU - McCracken, DI

AU - Cole, LJ

AU - Harrison, W

AU - Robertson, D

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PY - 2012

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N2 - Th e intensity of management of lowland grassland fi elds in the United Kingdom, coupled with the fact that such grasslands dominate much of the lowland landscape, means that there are now few opportunities for many plants, invertebrates, birds, or mammals to survive. Th e Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) has investigated whether fencing off the margins of such fi elds next to watercourses to control diff use pollution has any positive impacts on biodiversity, based on assessments of vegetation composition and condition and structure of assemblages of invertebrates of importance as foodstuff s to farmland birds. Fencing watercourses increased the abundance of key groups of invertebrates. However, the invertebrate species diversity was not increased unless the margins were ≥5.4 m in width. Margins established in the study area to prevent access by livestock to watercourses or to enhance biodiversity are generally ≤2.6 m wide and are therefore unlikely to provide conditions for additional invertebrate species to use. Th e dense, tall swards within such margins are also unlikely to provide foraging opportunities for farmland birds. Management (such as low-intensity grazing by livestock in the margins) is essential to provide the conditions required for these groups, but this could confl ict with the diff use pollution mitigation aims. A compromise is proposed whereby limited autumn/winter grazing by livestock could be used to open the vegetation structure in the margins. Grazing by livestock at that time may be acceptable since it is not occurring in the period of main diff use pollution concern (i.e., the fecal contamination of watercourses and bathing waters in the spring and summer). It is also essential that a landscapescale approach is taken, driven by knowledge of the full needs of the species concerned, when deciding where best to target agrienvironmental actions aimed at farmland bird conservation.

AB - Th e intensity of management of lowland grassland fi elds in the United Kingdom, coupled with the fact that such grasslands dominate much of the lowland landscape, means that there are now few opportunities for many plants, invertebrates, birds, or mammals to survive. Th e Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) has investigated whether fencing off the margins of such fi elds next to watercourses to control diff use pollution has any positive impacts on biodiversity, based on assessments of vegetation composition and condition and structure of assemblages of invertebrates of importance as foodstuff s to farmland birds. Fencing watercourses increased the abundance of key groups of invertebrates. However, the invertebrate species diversity was not increased unless the margins were ≥5.4 m in width. Margins established in the study area to prevent access by livestock to watercourses or to enhance biodiversity are generally ≤2.6 m wide and are therefore unlikely to provide conditions for additional invertebrate species to use. Th e dense, tall swards within such margins are also unlikely to provide foraging opportunities for farmland birds. Management (such as low-intensity grazing by livestock in the margins) is essential to provide the conditions required for these groups, but this could confl ict with the diff use pollution mitigation aims. A compromise is proposed whereby limited autumn/winter grazing by livestock could be used to open the vegetation structure in the margins. Grazing by livestock at that time may be acceptable since it is not occurring in the period of main diff use pollution concern (i.e., the fecal contamination of watercourses and bathing waters in the spring and summer). It is also essential that a landscapescale approach is taken, driven by knowledge of the full needs of the species concerned, when deciding where best to target agrienvironmental actions aimed at farmland bird conservation.

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KW - Buffer strips

KW - Conflict

KW - Farmland

KW - Riparian buffer strips

KW - Value

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VL - 41

SP - 355

EP - 363

JO - Journal of Environmental Quality

JF - Journal of Environmental Quality

SN - 0047-2425

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ER -