Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 28, Number 3, July-September 2008
Page(s) 379 - 387
Published online 07 June 2008
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28 (2008) 379-387
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2008011

Crop patterns and habitat preferences of the grey partridge farmland bird

A. Joannon1, E. Bro2, C. Thenail1 and J. Baudry1

1  INRA SAD Paysage, 65 rue de Saint-Brieuc, CS 84215, 35042 Rennes Cedex, France
2  ONCFS, Direction des Études et de la Recherche, Saint-Benoist, BP 20, 78612 Le Perray-en-Yvelines Cedex, France

Accepted 11 February 2008; published online 7 June 2008

Abstract - Agricultural changes such as intensification and specialization are thought to be the major source of the severe decline of farmland bird populations observed on large spatial scales and over long time spans in Europe. We studied farmers' practices at a local level on 22 farms from the Beauce area, France, with regard to habitat preferences of grey partridge, Perdix perdix L. We focused on the study of vegetation cover because it influences grey partridge's reproduction and survival. The results revealed a high diversity of vegetation cover over the municipal territory. This high diversity can be explained by (1) the difference in the crops cultivated by the farmers, only wheat being cultivated by all the farmers; (2) the diversity of elementary crop sequences implemented, as many as 51 having been identified; and (3) the field size, which varies from 0.5 ha to 57 ha, with 54% of fields smaller than 10 ha. Altogether, this potentially creates six different habitat types, 32% of the arable land surveyed being a likely suitable habitat for the grey partridge. We found that irrigation was the main driving factor of vegetation cover diversity. Indeed irrigation controls the farms' crop acreage, the crop sequences and their spatial pattern and field size. Nonetheless, irrigation practices show both positive, e.g. crop diversity, and negative aspects, e.g. large fields and clutch failure, for ground-nesting birds such as the grey partridge. Based on these results, a GIS modeling of the municipal landscape related to grey partridge's habitat requirements is possible and would allow a deeper analysis of the impact of crop diversity on grey partridge populations.

Key words: cash crop ecosystems / crop sequences / farmland bird biodiversity / grey partridge / technical farm management

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008