Increasing the proportion and quality of land under agri-environment schemes promotes birds and butterflies at the landscape scale

Zingg, Silvia; Ritschard, Eva; Arlettaz, Raphaël; Humbert, Jean-Yves (2019). Increasing the proportion and quality of land under agri-environment schemes promotes birds and butterflies at the landscape scale Biological Conservation, 231, pp. 39-48. Elsevier 10.1016/j.biocon.2018.12.022

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The intensification of agricultural practices that Western nations have experienced after World War II has led to an alarming decline in farmland biodiversity. With the aim of stopping and even reversing this decline, agri-environment schemes (AES) have been implemented in many European countries since the 1990s. In Switzerland, farmers are required to manage at least 7% of their land in the form of biodiversity promotion areas (BPA), which are extensively managed, wildlife-friendly farmland habitats such as hay meadows and traditional orchards. We investigated how the occurrence and characteristics of these BPA influence birds and butterflies in the Swiss lowlands. Butterfly species richness and abundance increased by 22% and 60%, respectively, when the proportion of BPA in the landscape increased from 5% to 15%. Likewise, bird species richness increased, but to a lesser extent, with the proportion of BPA in the landscape. For birds, the proportion of BPA characterized by a high ecological quality played a role in promoting both priority-farmland and red-listed species. For both taxonomic groups, the amount and quality of BPA habitats contributed more to species richness than their spatial configuration, connectivity included. This study shows that AES measures implemented at the field scale have positive effects on mobile species that are noticeable at the landscape scale, and that the fraction of AES in the cultivated landscape matters more than their spatial configuration, which has strong implications for designing multi-functional agro-ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Knowledge Systems and Knowledge Sharing


Zingg, Silvia;
Ritschard, Eva;
Arlettaz, Raphaël and
Humbert, Jean-Yves


G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
Q Science > QK Botany
Q Science > QL Zoology
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)








Simon Lutz

Date Deposited:

23 Sep 2019 14:22

Last Modified:

23 Sep 2019 14:22

Publisher DOI:





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