Pasture area and landscape heterogeneity are key determinants of bird diversity in intensively managed farmland
Agriculture intensification has drastically altered farmland mosaics, while semi-natural grasslands have been considerably reduced and fragmented. Bird declines in northern temperate latitudes are attributed to habitat loss and degradation in farmed landscapes. Conversely, landscape-modification effects on grassland/farmland bird communities are less studied in the South American temperate grasslands. We investigated how bird communities were influenced by landscape characteristics in the Rolling Pampa [Argentina]. We sampled bird communities in 356 landscapes of 1-km radius that varied in cover and configuration of pastureland, flooding grassland and cropland. Using generalized linear models, we explored the relationship between both bird species richness and abundance, and landscape structure. Analyses were carried out for all species, and open-habitat, grassland and aquatic species. Pasture area was far the most important factor, followed by landscape composition, in predicting species richness and abundance, irrespective of specific habitat preferences, followed by partially-flooded grassland cover and its mean shape index. Grassland fragmentation did not affect species richness or abundance. When comparing the effects of landscape variables on bird richness and abundance [using mean model coefficients], pasture and grassland area effects were on average more than four times greater than those of compositional heterogeneity, and about ten times greater than shape effects. To conserve species-rich bird communities persisting in Rolling Pampa farmland, we recommend the preservation of pasture and grassland habitats, irrespective of their fragmentation level, in intensively managed farmland mosaics.
AGRICULTURAL INTENSIFICATION AGRO-ECOSYSTEMS BIODIVERSITY LAND-USE PATTERNS LANDSCAPE MODIFICATION PAMPAS ABUNDANCE AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEM AGRICULTURAL LAND BIRD ECOLOGICAL IMPACT FRAGMENTATION GRASSLAND HABITAT FRAGMENTATION HETEROGENEITY LAND USE CHANGE LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY LANDSCAPE STRUCTURE NATURE-SOCIETY RELATIONS PASTURE POPULATION DECLINE PRESERVATION SPECIES DIVERSITY SPECIES RICHNESS ARGENTINA PAMPAS AVES