Linking socio-economy to biodiversity in farmland (NCN, 2020/38/E/NZ8/00548)
Project duration: 2021-2025
Project status: Active
Project leader: Michał Żmihorski

Open fields and cropland are increasingly often managed in a very intensive way, with the help of new machinery, fertilizers, high pesticide use and landscape homogenization. Thus, in these modern landscapes, areas of farmsteads and villages, with orchards, old trees, heterogenous vegetation and old buildings, remains relatively unchanged and thus may act as refugia for farmland biodiversity. While substantial proportion of farmland biodiversity is now aggregated in human settlements in Europe, it is important to understand how characteristics of local human societies (e.g. their sociological and economical dimensions) may influence this village-associated biodiversity. The primary goal of the proposed project is to link farmland biodiversity to socio-economy of local human societies living in farmland. More specifically, I aim to investigate correlations between diversity of birds, bats, rodents, shrews and mustelids (their abundance, species richness and species composition) occurring in Polish farmland, and social characteristics and economic status of human societies living in this farmland. In the proposed project I plan to both re-use existing data on animal populations and communities (large databases on birds, bats and small mammals collected during monitoring program and inventories), as well as to collect additional data on birds, bats and small mammals (during both warm and cold season) in the certain number of farmsteads in Eastern and Western Poland.

I aim to investigate how farmland biodiversity (i.e. local species richness and abundance of the studied birds and mammals) correlate with poverty, as poverty may both positively and negatively affect wildlife, and preliminary study show that this economic feature strongly correlates with barn owl occurrence in Poland. Second, I plan to search for biological indicators (e.g. occurrence or abundance of certain bird or mammal species) of health status in local human societies (e.g. occurrence of a certain disease type). Former studies show that biodiversity strongly correlate with allergies and autoimmune diseases in people. Next, I plan to check if environmental awareness of citizens correlates with local level of biodiversity within farmsteads. Fourth, I will check interactions between socio-economy characteristics for birds and mammals and landscape structure and composition. Here I assume that variation in landscape heterogeneity can affect bird’s and mammal’s occurrence in farmsteads in two different ways. Finally, on the basis of intensive sampling in farmsteads of different socio-economic profiles it will be possible to indicate winners and losers of the ongoing farmsteads transformations, from old and poor to new and well-maintained.

The project will be realised with the help of Autonomous Recording Units, i.e. device that automatically record voices of birds and bats. Small mammals will be sampled with the help of combination of live-trapping and camera-trapping. Also, bird feeding experiments, searching for bats’ hibernation sites and citizen science are planned to be used. Results of the project will substantially increase our understanding of main drivers of spatial biodiversity patterns in farmland and will be important for designing more effective conservation measures.