The effect of agri-environment schemes on amphibian diversity and abundance
Faculty of Sciences. Biology
Biological conservation. - Liverpool
, p. 635-645
The Western Peat District of The Netherlands has a characteristic Dutch landscape. It consists mainly of meadows for dairy farming, crisscrossed by a dense network of ditches. Its biodiversity is regarded as of high national and international importance, but is declining as a result of intensive farming. Besides the establishment of reserves, measures to conserve and restore biological diversity have been implemented in the form of agri-environment schemes (AES). The aim of this research is to investigate, first, whether the reserves, assuming these provide source populations, affect the distribution of amphibians and, second, whether AES in the form of nature-friendly ditch bank management benefits amphibian diversity and abundance and enhances distribution across the agricultural landscape. In total, 42 ditches (24 control ditches and 18 AES ditches) were studied. Each ditch was perpendicular to the boundary of one of the reserves and was divided into five ditch sections of 100 m spread over 800 m, starting in the reserve and proceeding into the farmland. Generalized Linear Modelling was used to quantify the effect of nature-friendly ditch bank management (AES) and distance to the nature reserve on amphibian diversity and abundance. Species richness was high in AES ditches as compared to control ditches. The number of observed green frog (Rana esculenta synkl.) seemed to decline in the control ditches at large distances from the reserve. The other species, although their abundances were higher in the reserves, did not show a declining trend across the farmland. However, all adult amphibians except green frogs together had significantly higher abundances in the AES ditches compared to the control ditches. These results illustrate the potential role of agricultural ditches, combined with reserves and nature-friendly ditch bank management, in the conservation of amphibian populations.