Declining birds in Australian agricultural landscapes may benefit from aspects of the European agri-environment model

Simon J. Attwood, Sarah E. Park, Martine Maron, Stuart J. Collard, Doug Robinson, Kathryn M. Reardon-Smith, Geoff Cockfield

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Temperate Australia's wheat/sheep zone and much of Western Europe have both experienced dramatic declines in native bird populations associated with agricultural landscapes. We compare recent conservation strategies on private land in the context of each region's historical agricultural development and the ecology of its bird fauna. Specifically, we consider which aspects of the conservation instruments and practices employed in European agricultural landscapes might be used to augment and inform approaches to private-land biodiversity conservation in Australia. Australian biodiversity conservation activities have focussed predominantly on remnant native vegetation and rarely target the agricultural matrix (i.e. land that is primarily used for agricultural production). However, declining species include those that not only primarily inhabit woodland, but also species for which components of the agricultural matrix are important, or even their main, habitat. In contrast, in Europe a range of conservation activities undertaken through agri-environment schemes focus explicitly on the management of the agricultural matrix. Whilst the different approaches to conservation on private land in Australia and Europe reflect the two continents' different ecologies, land-use histories and political economies of agriculture, there are a number of parallels between bird population declines in the two regions, and an opportunity may exist to incorporate some of the successful aspects of the European agri-environment approach into emerging stewardship schemes in Australia. We suggest that the long-term nature of European agri-environment agreements, the principle of landholder payments more commensurate with reduced production opportunity and management actions specifically targeted at the agricultural matrix, are features of the European scheme that could benefit both woodland- and matrix-inhabiting bird species in Australian agricultural landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1981-1991
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number10
Early online date17 May 2009
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009


  • Agri-environment schemes
  • Agricultural intensification
  • Agricultural matrix
  • Conservation
  • Farmland birds
  • Land stewardship
  • Woodland birds

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