Bird Community Response to Field-Level Integration of Prairie Strips

Submitted by barogers on Wed, 07/03/2024 - 12:51

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 374 (2024)



Agribiodiversity, agriculture, agroecosystems, conservation, Corn, farmland birds, Soybean


<p>Grassland birds are under threat worldwide due to loss of habitat to agriculture. Prairie strips are a new agricultural conservation practice composed of linear strips of reconstructed diverse, native, herbaceous, perennial vegetation designed to promote land sharing among agriculture and biodiversity, while also addressing soil and water conservation goals. We evaluated bird community response to establishment of prairie strips on commercial row-crop fields (corn [(<em>Zea mays</em>] and soybean [<em>Glycine max</em>]) in Iowa, USA compared to controls fields without prairie strips, from 2015 to 2020. We found a 2.94-fold higher density of grassland birds on fields with prairie strips compared to control fields, and a 1.87-fold higher density of birds overall. Time since prairie strip establishment was a significant predictor of grassland bird density, with significant increases between years 1 and 2 and years 3 and 4. Species with the strongest positive response to prairie strips were Red-winged Blackbird (<em>Agelaius phoeniceus</em>), Common Yellowthroat (<em>Geothlypis trichas</em>), Western Meadowlark (<em>Sturnella neglecta</em>) and two species of greatest conservation need: Dickcissel (<em>Spiza americana</em>) and Eastern Meadowlark (<em>Sturnella magna</em>). Diversity measures (e.g., Shannon’s and Simpson’s indices) did not differ between fields with prairie strips versus those without. Prairie strips provide quality breeding habitat for a suite of species, including grassland species and those of conservation concern. While improving several bird community measures, prairie strips do not provide habitat for area-sensitive grassland birds. Larger grassland patches are needed, potentially managed as land-sparing reserves, to achieve overall biodiversity goals in agricultural landscapes.</p>