Christian Pedersen

Research Scientist

(+47) 974 34 123

Ås R9

Visiting address
Raveien 9, 1430 Ås


The decline in farmland birds observed throughout Europe during recent decades has attracted much attention. Agricultural intensification or land abandonment are commonly forwarded as key drivers. Several countries have established agri-environmental schemes (AES) to counter these negative trends among farmland birds. This paper reports a study of the relationship between land use and bird species in the agricultural landscape of Norway. The main objective was to investigate the effect of spatial heterogeneity and diversity of land use on total richness and abundance of farmland birds at a national level. Monitoring the distribution and abundance of birds is part of the Norwegian monitoring programme for agricultural landscapes. The monitoring programme is based on mapping of 1 × 1 km squares distributed across the entire agricultural landscape. Within these squares permanent observation points are established for bird monitoring. Detailed interpretation of aerial photographs provides the land classification. We tested the relationship between landscape metrics at different levels of land type detail and species richness and abundance of farmland and non-farmland birds. There was a positive relationship between species richness and abundance of farmland birds and agricultural area. For non-farmland birds the relationship was negative. Spatial heterogeneity of land use was a significant positive factor for both farmland and non-farmland species. High land type diversity was positive for farmland bird richness, but negative for abundance. Non-farmland bird richness was not affected by land type diversity, but abundance had a negative response. The results presented in this paper highlight the importance of a spatial heterogeneous landscape. However, we also found that land type diversity could negatively affect the abundance of both farmland and non-farmland birds. Our findings suggest a need for different management approaches depending on whether the aim is increased species richness or abundance. Achieving both aims with the same means might be difficult. We thus suggest a need for land use analyses before proper management strategies can be implemented.


Background & Aim: Land-use regimes and their changes, as well as landscape heterogeneity are key determinants of the distribution and composition of species in cultural landscapes. In European agricultural landscapes, habitat loss due to both abandonment and intensification of agriculture fields are major causes for the decline of species diversity. Landscapes that are diverse in habitats and species are important to maintain basic ecosystem functions and services as, for instance, pollination or habitat preservation. In Norway, semi-natural species-rich habitats, such as agricultural grasslands, often occur in mosaics with forests and crop fields. This research studies key information for design of conservation plans focused on these habitats, addressing how landscape structure and land-use history affect the distribution, richness and composition of species in species-rich grasslands across geographical regions. Material & Methods: We recorded vegetation (species occurrence and cover) in agricultural grasslands with varying intensity and type of use from 569 plots of 8 x 8 m size systematically distributed throughout Norway (from 64 to 78 °N latitude). To identify the most important driving factors of species diversity and composition we explored the combined effects of historic and current land-use and the spatial landscape configuration of nearby land cover types (e.g. minimum distance to or area of neighbouring wetland, forest, cultivated land) taking into account the effects of grazing, elevation, and moisture conditions. Non-metrical multidimensional scaling (NMDS) was applied to identify the most important drivers of species composition. We used Generalized Additive Mixed Models to test the relationship of these drivers with patterns in species richness. Main results & Interpretations: NMDS revealed species composition to be explained most by the distance to surface cultivated land and transportation corridors (r=0.905, p<0.001 and r=-0.982, p<0.001; 1. NMDS axis) as well as shape of the patch in which the vegetation plot is embedded (patch shape) and grazing intensity (r=0.988, p<0.001 and r=-0.952, p<0.001; 2. NMDS axis). Observed patterns in species richness were statistically significantly linked to the combined effects of elevation, grazing intensity, historical land-use, patch shape, distance to transportation corridors and forest, and area of nearest wetland. Our results demonstrate the importance of a variety of factors influencing the species composition and richness in Norwegian grasslands. We found that both the landscape element harbouring the observed plot and also the surrounding landscape structure and intensity of land-use are important determinants of species diversity. The fact that distance to more intensively managed agricultural land is one of the strongest explanatory facts signals how effects of agricultural management practices reaches outside the field itself and into adjacent landscape elements. This suggests that the entire landscape needs to be taken into consideration when management of a particular habitat patch is planned.

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Interspecific interaction among sympatric ungulates is important in management and conservation. We investigated behavioral interference between sympatric wild or semidomestic reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) and sheep (Ovis aries) in two field studies and one enclosure experiment. For free-ranging wild and semidomestic reindeer, interference between the two species increased with decreasing distances, occurring only at less than 200 m and 30 m, for wild and semidomestic reindeer, respectively, and neither species consistently dominated the other. In a controlled, duplicated experiment we tested interference and confrontations at the feeding patch level among semidomestic reindeer and sheep within 40 × 50 m enclosures. When new reindeer or sheep were introduced into enclosures already occupied by reindeer, new reindeer resulted in significantly more interference and confrontations among individuals compared to new sheep; i.e., intraspecific interference was more prevalent than interspecific interference at equal densities. For all study areas, confrontations decreased with time after “first encounter,” indicating cohabituation. A sympatric use of pastures was not visually disruptive for recorded grazing behavior for either species.