Is the loss of mixed farming related to the decline in lapwing numbers in the UK?

Whalley, Nicola Anne (2014) Is the loss of mixed farming related to the decline in lapwing numbers in the UK? [Dissertation]

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Since the mid 1980s lapwing numbers have continually been in decline, with several reasons for this decline. Factors included that of post-war intensification, land drainage, increased use of pesticides, climate change, and predation, however the biggest factor is thought to be that of the loss of mixed farming across the UK. Traditionally many farms in England had a mixture of both crops and livestock but as technology and machinery evolved so did farming. This technology and machinery has allowed farming to become more intensified. In order to maximise their financial income, farmers in England now, in general opt, either to stock farm or to grow crops. This has created a loss of mixed farming and has had a detrimental effect upon lapwing population numbers and breeding success across the UK. The intension of this research was to monitor two farms in Lancashire, one of which is purely a dairy farm the other is a mixed farm. The two farms were monitored over a six month period to assess lapwing chick success rate on the two farms. The farms chosen were both known to have lapwing present on them at the time of the research. The findings of the research were apparent. Cobble Hey farm has been entered into a countryside stewardship scheme since 2006 and manages a previous hay meadow in an environmentally sensitive way to provide a natural habitat favoured by lapwings. The RSPB have monitored this field through volunteers since the scheme began and data has been collected, however there are gaps in this data as some years no data has been collected due to the lack of volunteers. Park Lane farm is not entered into any scheme although through discussion the farmers at Park Lane farm tried to and remain sensitive to lapwings and their nests were possible. The main focus for both farmers is to make a sustainable living from their land. More studies across the two sites over a greater period of time would need to be conducted to see if the data collected shows the same trends over time. The longer the sites are study the more reliable the data collected would be. This research discovered that there is still a decline in lapwing population numbers and suggested that there is no real impact in terms of whether the farm is entered into a stewardship scheme or not. There could be several reasons for the lack of improvement in numbers such as not enough farmers and landowners partaking in these schemes in order to encourage a growth in lapwing numbers, or other factors as previously mentioned are causing the lapwings a real issue in their recovery. From interviews with the owners of both farms, it became apparent that both farmers ideally would be keen to farm in such a manner that would assist in the recovery of lapwing population numbers. However in the current tough economic climate the financial rewards offered through agri-environmental schemes are just not big enough to compensate them, in terms of managing their land in a different way in order to create ideal habitats for lapwing to breed.

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