Individual habitat use and breeding success of the Eurasian skylark (DBU foundation, 2017-2020)
Throughout Europe, agricultural intensification has led to a severe decline in farmland biodiversity affecting almost all groups of organisms. Especially for birds, decreasing populations are well-documented and strongly associated with changes in agricultural practices.
One of the endangered species is the Eurasian skylark Alauda arvensis, formerly a very common and wide-spread farmland bird. Within only 30 years, the European population has halved due to reduced breeding success. This, in turn, is likely a result of the massive use of pesticides as well as the increasing cultivation of winter wheat, reducing the availability of food and nesting sites, respectively.
In the framework of this PhD project, we focus on the individual habitat use of skylarks during the breeding season. By tracking radio-tagged adult birds and monitoring their nests, we want to analyze how the composition and growth of crop vegetation within skylark home ranges affect e.g. the choice of nesting and foraging sites, chick development as well as the predation risk, altogether influencing the individual breeding success. Additionally, the use of nest cams provides information both on predator identities and feeding frequencies.
The study is being carried out in the district of Göttingen. The information obtained shall enable us to develop new approaches for effective conservation measures, which are urgently needed to stop the pan-European decline.
This study is funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU).
Manuel Püttmanns (PhD student), Dr. Eckhard Gottschalk, PD Dr. Matthias Waltert (supervisors)