Research, protection and management of birds in farming ecosystems

Research, protection and management of birds in farming ecosystems
Black-tailed Godwit Photo by A. Mischenko

One of the most important environmental objectives of BirdsRussia is the conservation and sustainable maintenance of bird populations in agricultural landscapes. This is due to the modern changes in land use in Russia. In the forest zone, a huge area of farmland (more than 70%) has ceased to be used, overgrown with bushes and young forest and loses its importance for open-landscape birds. At the same time, in the south of the country there has been an increase in the intensification and chemicalization of agriculture which is also detrimental to birds.

For several years, BirdsRussia has been implementing programs aimed at the study, protection and management of birds in farming ecosystems.

From 2006 to 2009 with the support of ONCFS BirdsRussia fulfilled the project aimed to determine the status of meadow passerine birds population and to inventory valuable for birds meadow areas in seven regions of European Russia. The project identified the features of bird population in used and temporarily unused in agriculture meadow areas which formed the base of management plans for meadow bird populations.

Скошенный луг.JPG

Since 2002 we have been monitoring and implementing evidence-based methods of bird protection in the key ornithological area of international importance (IBA)  Vinogradovskaya floodplain. In different years these works were carried out with the support of Administration of Voskresensky district of Moscow region, Russian program Wetland International, ONCFS. Successful results were achieved thanks to cooperation with the local organization concerned — the regional society of hunters and fishermen. Experimental haymaking, controlled autumn burning of dry grass, as well as watering of individual areas were successfully tested in Vinogrdavskaya flodplain. In 2010-2013 with the support of the French national agency for wildlife (ONCFS), the project "Meadow birds in European Russia: data collection in the perspective of future agro-ecological schemes" was implemented in the floodplain. Its main tasks were as follows:

1. Selection of 8 experimental sites at the territory of abandoned meadows, losing their value for the nesting of meadow birds as the result of termination of hayfields and grazing and overgrowing with weeds and shrubs.

2. The organization of haymaking and harvesting at the experimental sites. 

3. Determination of the number of nesting birds on the sites by conducting annual multiple counts by mapping nesting sites.

4. Determination of passerine nesting success 

5. Identification of specific features of species composition, number and nesting success in different schemes of hayfields (annual and non-annual).

Through the implementation of environmental management in the floodplain there are steady, with a stable number nesting populations of shorebirds (double snipe, jacksnipe, lapwing, marsh sandpiper, redshank), and several species of ducks, rails, and passerines.

BirdsRussia pays great attention to maintaining key species population inhabiting farmland, one of which is the corncrake. More than 85% of world population of this species nests in Russia. Largely due to the regular immigration of Russian corncrakes, small populations of this species are maintained in the countries of Western Europe. Research conducted in 1995-2005 showed that population of this species in European Russia is in good condition, a small increase is observed. However, the continuing large-scale overgrowth of abandoned farmland in the forest zone, where the majority of the population lives, leads to deterioration and loss of breeding biotopes of the corncrake. In the last decade the growth of this species has ceased, and sometimes there is a decrease in the number but lack of data does not allow to assess the overall trend in Russia. BirdsRussia plans to resume projects to monitor corncrake and is interested in cooperation in this important area.  

Project manager is a vice-president of BirdsRussia, candidate of biological sciences  Alexander Leonidovich Mishchenko. 

E-mail - almovs

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