Is Organic Farming a Viable Means in Reversing the Downward Trend of Small Game Populations?
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AbstractThis thesis investigates whether organic farming has a positive effect on small game populations. Europe has experienced a strong decline in European brown hare, common pheasant, and grey partridge densities. Current scientific literature suggests that the simplification of agricultural systems is the main driver. However, to what degree conventional farming methods such as the application of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers contribute to this decline is unknown. My research addresses this question about the impact of conventional farming practices on small game species and hypothesizes that over the last decade in Lower Austria, hunting yields increased as the organic farming increased. In addition, I evaluate if European brown hare, grey partridge and common pheasant densities have changed similarly.
Evidence-based knowledge could help decision makers provide the right policies to benefit small game species important to the environment, economy, and culture of Europe.
I used a large dataset of conventional and organic agriculture and hunting for around 570 different municipalities in the state of Lower Austria. With the help of GIS technology, I increased comparability between municipalities to adjust for differences in habitat structure and geographic boundaries. Statistical tests then searched for correlations between hunting and farming patterns.
Simple linear regression analyses showed that organic farming is a weak but significant predictor of brown hare and common pheasant hunting yields. Results from the Welch’s t-test confirm the positive influence from this farming practice but a deviation of residuals from normal distribution warrants caution when interpreting this test’s results. I conclude that the avoidance of using synthetic materials in agriculture indeed benefits small game. However, steadily decreasing adj. R² values over the years of the study suggest that benefits from organic farming are disappearing. Other land management trends seem to be more decisive factors. While organic farming is a tool that positively contributes to small game abundance, data suggest that this factor is too small as a viable means for reversing the downward trend in small game populations.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37945142