Ornis Hungarica. vol.12-13. (2003) p.41-51.
Bird population changes in Latvian farmland, 1995- 2000: responses to different scenarios of rural development
After the collapse of the collective farm-based agricultural production system in Latvia during the early 90s, the agricultural sector reached its lowest point in the mid-90s. After 1995, some regions were showing various signs of agricultural recovery while others were experiencing further abandonment. A point count-based system for monitoring bird populations in an agricultural landscape was established in 4 geographically, structurally and economically different regions of Latvia in 1995, as was a scheme for mapping land use changes. Each of the 4 study areas has followed a different scenario of rural development during the study period. Our study analyses the changes of the species populations and land use during the last 6 years revealing patterns common to all areas as well as prominent differences between them. Populations of several bird species changed considerably during the study period, as did the composition and area of most habitats. There was a general tendency for arable lands to increase whereas grasslands (especially meadows) and cattle enclosures decreased. The increase in abandoned land area peaked in 1997 but stabilised or started to decrease afterwards. However, the initial habitat distribution and the degree of the above changes varied between the areas, thus differently affecting bird populations within the study plots. The diverse patterns and sources of development and of bush clearance made these differences even more prominent.