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Research Highlights

Individual Highlight

Bird conservation and ecosystem services on small diversified farms

Photo of An image of a small diversified farm in Amherst, Mass., showing a mixture of crops along with fallow areas, hedgerows and trees, habitat features that if maintained and enhanced, will support priority bird species;  An image of a common yellowthroat, a bird that is frequently encountered on small diversified farms. Common yellowthroats are declining in many parts of their range, and are insectivorous on the breeding season. An image of a small diversified farm in Amherst, Mass., showing a mixture of crops along with fallow areas, hedgerows and trees, habitat features that if maintained and enhanced, will support priority bird species; An image of a common yellowthroat, a bird that is frequently encountered on small diversified farms. Common yellowthroats are declining in many parts of their range, and are insectivorous on the breeding season. Snapshot : Small diversified farms in the northeast represent an increasing sector of the nation's agriculture. These farms encompass semi-natural habitats that can contribute to bird conservation. Forest Service scientists are gathering information on bird use of these sites for the benefit of birds and farmers.

Principal Investigators(s) :
King, David 
Research Location : Western Massachusetts
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1266

Summary

People in the northeastern U.S. are increasingly interested in promoting sustainability with respect to their food and lifestyles, and this interest has led to a rapid increase in the number of small diversified farms in the region. These small farms often encompass more natural and semi-natural habitats, in the form of fallow areas, hedgerows, and trees, than do larger intensive farming operations. The habitat these farms provide has the potential to support bird species of concern, including declining shrubland and grassland species that are the object of increasing conservation attention. At the same time, most of these bird species are insectivorous during the nesting season and prey on some of the insect pests that infest vegetable crops. Forest Service researchers are counting birds on farms in the Connecticut River Valley, relating bird abundance to habitat features, to provide farmers with guidelines on how to enhance priority bird species populations on their farms. Future research will investigate the effect birds have on insect pest populations and damage to produce. Knowledge gained from this study will help farmers increase the environmental sustainability of their operations, and since sustainability is of growing interest to the region's population, this will translate to increased sales, market share, and ultimately the economic well-being of the farming sector of the region.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst