Landscape context of habitat use by predators of the Grey partridge

Covering about 50% of Europe, farmland is important habitat for biodiversity but agricultural intensification has led to serious wildlife declines.

Once a widespread, typical farmland bird, the Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) has declined by about 96% in Europe since 1914. The main reasons for this are the widespread use of pesticides which reduces the availability of insect food for its chicks, and a high predation rate, especially during the breeding season. If intensive predator control is not possible, habitat management should consider spatial patterns of predation across the landscape.

In this PhD project, we address spatial patterns of predation across the landscape. Using camera traps to record predator activity, we want to know how predator activity, and therefore predation risk, is affected by field/vegetation type and landscape composition, e.g. distance to nearest forest or settlement, habitat diversity or permanent vegetation structures. The goal is to create a ‘map of risk’ to depict predation risk across the landscape and help plan partridge conservation.
The information obtained will enable us to develop conservation measures within the landscape context to reduce predation risk. Results will potentially also be for the benefit of other ground-breeding bird species. The study is being carried out in the district of Göttingen.

Funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU).

Involved researchers:
Amelie Laux (PhD student), Dr. Eckhard Gottschalk, Prof. Dr. Cristoph Leuschner, Prof. Dr. Matthias Waltert (supervisors)