Silke Boldt / Anke Steinmann
Institute of Biodiversity

Bundesallee 65
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 2502
Phone: +49 531 596 2503
Fax: +49 531 596 2599

Farmland birds and land use in Lower Saxony


Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) (c) Alexander Mitschke
Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) (© Alexander Mitschke)

Farmland birds and land use in Lower Saxony - a cooperation project between scientists and volunteers

The populations of farmland birds declined over the last decades. In our project we relate changes in agricultural land-use to population trends of common breeding farmland birds. The results contribute to develop targeted and regionally differentiated conservation actions to counteract negative farmland bird population trends.

Background and Objective

Farmland birds depend on agricultural fields, grassland or landscape elements like hedges either for foraging or nesting activities. Over the last few decades particularly common farmland birds have undergone population declines. These declines were mainly attributed to changes in farming practices and a decrease in landscape features such as hedgerows. However, the strength of the link between changes in both agricultural land-use and populations of farmland birds is relatively unknown. In order to gain a deeper understanding of population trends and their causes, detailed spatial and temporal data on agricultural land-use and landscape structure is needed. Our project aims at analysing changes in farmland bird populations and their drivers using detailed spatial information on agricultural land-use (IACS data) and monitoring data of common breeding birds in Lower Saxony, Germany. Moreover, we aim to investigate whether population trends of farmland birds differ between agricultural regions in Lower Saxony.

Target Group

Policy, science, ornithologists


As a first step we analyze temporal trends of parameters that describe the type and intensity of agricultural land-use and are supposed to affect farmland birds. Based on the results we identify regions in Lower Saxony  that can be characterized by the chosen variables of land-use change. In parallel, we calculate temporal trends of farmland birds on the monitoring sites. Finally, we link farmland bird population trends to agricultural changes and regions.

Data and Methods

  • IACS data of Lower Saxony (2005-2015/2016)
  • monitoring data of common breeding birds in Lower Saxony (MhB) covering the same period of time
  • consideration of other spatially explicit data sets (ATKIS etc.)
  • calculation of landscape metrics
  • investigation of farmland birds as well as other indicator groups
  • application of statistical methods to analyze spatial and temporal patterns

Our Research Questions

  • Can we find relations between farmland bird population trends and recent land-use changes?
  • Do farmland bird trends differ between regions characterized by different land-use changes dynamics?
  • Do particular species sets of farmland birds differ in their reaction on land-use changes?


Involved Thünen-Partners

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • German Federal Environmental Foundation (DBU)
    (national, öffentlich)


8.2017 - 7.2019

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: finished