Effects of grazing intensity on bird assemblages and populations of Hungarian grasslands

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Agricultural intensification is responsible for the dramatic decline of farmland bird populations in the European Union (EU). The joining of eight Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries to the EU will re-structure agriculture there. One of the main threats is the intensification of farmland management. Can agri-environmental programs balance the expected decline in bird assemblages of the CEE countries if farming will be intensified? We studied this question by comparing bird assemblages of 42 extensively and intensively grazed paired fields in three regions of Hungary (alkali steppes and meadows in Central Hungary and alkali steppes in Eastern Hungary). Bird assemblages varied significantly across regions and grazing intensity. Intensively grazed sites showed a higher species number and diversity, but lower densities than the extensive sites. This is probably the consequence of higher landscape diversity of intensive sites, which included farm buildings, shelters, wells and other structures. Several bird species, mainly with European conservation concern, showed contrasting responses to grazing intensity in the three regions, including key grassland species (black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa, redshank Tringa totanus, skylark Alauda arvensis and corn bunting Emberiza calandra). Therefore, threat and sensitivity to grassland characteristics are correlating. Although many of the declining species of Western Europe are still abundant in Hungarian grasslands, our results project the threat of the expected intensification. This study showed that it is not possible to provide a general grassland management scheme that will favour all bird species in all regions of Hungary. In the process of integrating to the EU and re-structuring agriculture, the establishment of scientifically sound schemes is urgent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 30 2005


  • Agri-environmental scheme
  • Agriculture
  • Corn bunting
  • Farming
  • Pannon biogeographic region
  • Redshank
  • Skylark
  • Yellow wagtail

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

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