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Natural Awakenings Twin Cities

Industrial Farming is Bad for Birds

Canadian goose flying

vector mine/AdobeStock.com

Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that increased farm sizes resulted in a 15 percent decline in bird diversity. Frederik Noack, assistant professor in the Food and Resource Economics Group, part of their faculty of land and food systems, says, “Wildlife is a good indicator of a healthy agroecosystem, and one thing we wanted to understand was the link between farm size and biodiversity in surrounding areas.” A diverse bird population provides natural pest control and maintenance of an overall healthy ecosystem.

They studied how various farming indicators impacted the diversity of local birds in the farmland bordering the former “Iron Curtain” in Germany. On the Western side of the former political border, farms are five times larger than on the Eastern side, a legacy of Communist farm collectivization. Although farms in East Germany have been privatized for 30 years, sharp differences in farm size remain along the former border, providing an opportunity to study the impact on biodiversity in an ecologically similar environment. Noack says, “Our results show that the negative impact of increased farm size can be mitigated by conserving land cover diversity within the agricultural landscape. In practice, this could mean incentivizing riparian buffer strips, forest patches, hedgerows or agroforestry.”

Read the full June 2022 Magazine