Floristic diversity of shelterbelts: enhancing wildlife conservation and pest suppression
This will be presented as a simulated postgraduate supervision discussion between Dr. Kinross and two post-graduate students (underlined) to discuss the progress in their research into shelterbelt ecology. The audience will be welcome to join-in and ask questions as well.
The aims of the investigation are to test whether floristic diversity of shelterbelts affects the number and diversity of birds and bats utilising them and to assess the role of these vertebrates in arthropod pest suppression. Methods include observation of birds, detection of bat calls using ANABAT and exclusion experiments. Bird and bat faecal matter has also been examined to identify the contribution to diet of pest or beneficial invertebrates.
Results to date indicate that shelterbelts are providing foraging habitat for 13 species of bats and 50 species of birds. Floristic diversity of shelterbelts has a positive relationship with bird diversity and the number of bat calls, but not with bat diversity at this stage.
Native bird and microbat faeces contain larger numbers of prey fragments of arthropods from several taxonomic orders of pest significance. Preliminary data from the faeces of the introduced house sparrow Passer domesticus suggest that Neuroptera (beneficial predators of insects) feature significantly in the diet.
The results of this study will provide farmers with useful information for optimising windbreak design that go beyond consideration of the simple effects of shelter to enhance habitat for native birds and bats. This will not only contribute to the biodiversity of agricultural landscapes, but provide the important ecosystem service of controlling pests in crops, pasture and tree plantations.