The value of ten per cent

A 10-year study led by the RSPB has revealed that farms that have devoted at least 10 per cent of their land to nature-friendly farming practices have seen a significant rise in bird numbers on their land.

The study compared farms that were managed under bird-focused lower and higher-tier agri-environment schemes with farms that had no bird-friendly practices in place. Among the measures used in nature-friendly farming were: seed-rich habitat for winter feeding, insect-rich habitat for feeding chicks and nesting habitat for ground nesting species.

Although lower-tier provision generally failed to increase bird numbers, it helped sustain some species. On the higher-tier schemes, there was a substantial increase in bird numbers and species.

The second part of the study investigated what per centre of farmland would need to be placed into higher-tier agreements to recover farmland birds by 10 per cent over the next decade. In East Anglia this was 31 per cent, compared with 26 per cent in West Midlands. However, where farms already had a high number of priority species birds, the requirement drops to 21 per cent in East Anglia and 17 per cent in the West Midlands.