Assessing the regional impacts of increased energy maize cultivation on farmland birds
The increasing cultivation of energy crops in Germany substantially affects the habitat function of agricultural landscapes. Precise ex ante evaluations regarding the impacts of this cultivation on farmland bird populations are rare. The objective of this paper was to implement a methodology to assess the regional impacts of increasing energy maize cultivation on the habitat quality of agricultural lands for farmland birds. We selected five farmland bird indicator species with varying habitat demands. Using a crop suitability modelling approach, we analysed the availability of potential habitat areas according to different land use scenarios for a real landscape in Northeast Germany. The model was based on crop architecture, cultivation period, and landscape preconditions. Our results showed that the habitat suitability of different crops varied between bird species, and scenario calculations revealed an increase and a decrease in the size of the potential breeding and feeding habitats, respectively. The effects observed in scenario 1 (increased energy maize by 15 %) were not reproduced in all cases in scenario 2 (increased energy maize by 30 %). Spatial aggregation of energy maize resulted in a negative effect for some species. Changes in the composition of the farmland bird communities, the negative effects on farmland bird species limited in distribution and spread and the relevance of the type of agricultural land use being replaced by energy crops are also discussed. In conclusion, we suggest a trade-off between biodiversity and energy targets by identifying biodiversity-friendly energy cropping systems.