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Farming and Birds

£64.99 £52.99

Given the underlying topography, the scenery over most of Britain has been created largely by human activities. Over the centuries, landscapes have been continually modified as human needs and desires have changed. Each major change in land use has brought changes to the native plants and animals, continually altering the distribution and abundance of species. This is apparent from the changes in vegetation and animal populations that were documented in historical times, but even more so in those that have occurred since the Second World War.


ISBN: 9780008147891

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More than seventy per cent of Britain’s land surface is currently used for crop or livestock production, and in recent decades farming has experienced a major revolution. Not only has it become more thoroughly mechanised, it has also become heavily dependent on synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, and increasingly large-scale in its operation. These changes have brought crop yields and livestock production to levels previously considered unattainable. However, such high yields have been achieved only at huge financial and environmental costs. One of the most conspicuous, and best documented, consequences of modern agriculture has been a massive loss of wildlife, including birds.

In this timely addition to the New Naturalist Series, Ian Newton discusses the changes that have occurred in British agriculture over the past seventy years, and the effects they have had on bird populations. He explains how different farming procedures have affected birds and other wildlife, and how an understanding of the processes involved could help in future conservation.

Please note that this book was originally announced with the title Farmland Birds.

“[…] It is a superb distillation of a huge, diverse and complex body of science and it is hard to see how it could have been improved.”
– Ian Carter, British Birds, Volume 110, November 2017

“The collapse of farmland wildlife is one of the defning conservation stories of our time. […] The reasons for the desperate state of farmland wildlife are now well understood, and are brilliantly explained in this monumental book written by one of our most distinguished ornithologists. […] At more than 600 pages Newton’s latest offering is not for the faint-hearted, but the writing whisks you along and oozes clarity and insight.”
– Will Peach, British Wildlife 29(1), October 2017

“[…] This book should become a classic account of how land-use policy can have profound and rapid effects on the other species with which we share the land. It deserves to be widely read, including, one hopes, by the policy makers of the future.”
– Rob Fuller, BTO book reviews


Editor’s preface   vii
Author’s Foreword and Acknowledgements   ix

1. Introduction   1
2. Population Trends in Farmland Birds   27
3. Farming Through Time   47
4. Post-War Farming: the New Revolution   73
5. Soils, Invertebrates and Birds   99
6. Crops, Livestock and Birds   127
7. Weeds, Pests, Diseases and Birds   169
8. Pesticides and Birds   193
9. Arable Land: Management and Birds   225
10. Arable Land: Crop Growth, Harvest and Birds   245
11. Traditional Lowland Grasslands   277
12. Modem Grassland Management and Birds   297
13. Wet Grasassland,Waders and Waterfowl   323
14. Insect Declines   359
15. Marshes and Land Drainage   373
16. Open Waters   393
17. Woods, Heaths and Farmsteads   413
18. Hedges and Other Field Boundaries    439
19. Hill Farming   465
20. Agri-Environment Schemes   511
21. Agri-Environment Successes   541
22. Conclusions   563

References   574
Species Index   611
General Index   622


Ian Newton is an English ornithologists, now retired, who, amongst others, has been Senior Ornithologist at the United Kingdom’s Natural Environment Research Council, Chairman of the Council of the RSPB and visiting professor of ornithology at the University of Oxford. Newton has also held the positions of President of the British Ornithologists’ Union and the British Ecological Society (1994–1995). He has author several New Naturalists, including Finches (1985), Bird Migration (2010), Bird Populations (2013) and Farming and Birds (2017). He has also written two Poyser Monographs: Population Ecology of Raptors (1979) and The Sparrowhawk (1986) and several major academic titles with Academic Press, including Population Limitation in Birds (1998), Speciation and Biogeography of Birds (2003), and The Migration Ecology of Birds (2007).


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