Agricultural Landscapes as Habitat

Agricultural land management and wildlife capacity

Management practices also influence the ability of the land to support wildlife and sound stewardship through best management practices has had positive results in some regions. The dynamic nature of agricultural landscapes results in beneficial and detrimental land-cover changes happening concurrently.

Northern pintail population, southern Canada

Millions, 1955 to 2007
Graph: northern pintail population, southern Canada. Click for graphic description (new window). Photo: Northern pintail © iStock.com/LUGO.
Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 20076

Intensification of agriculture in the Prairies over the last 40 years, including the decline of fallow land in summer and increased conversion to cropland, has impacted nest success of some species of breeding waterfowl.7, 8 For example, a primary cause of the decline of northern pintail is their tendency to nest in standing stubble, mulched stubble, or fallow fields early in the season, often prior to seeding. The reduction of summerfallow and increase of spring-seeding since the 1970s3 has been linked to reduced nest success and a decline in the Prairie northern pintail population.9

Application of zero-till seeding practices in Saskatchewan
Percent of total hectares seeded, 1991 to 2006
Graph: application of zero-till seeding practices in Saskatchewan. Click for graphic description (new window). Photo: Northern pintail nest in farmer's field © iStock.com/nlimmen.

Source: Prairie Habitat Joint Venture, 200612.

Farmers have been working with conservation agencies to reduce the impact of agricultural practices on waterfowl. The planting of winter wheat in the fall in a zero-till seeding practice eliminates the need for spring tillage, thereby reducing disruption to nesting ducks. Application of these practices has increased since the early 1990s10, 11 (see Stewardship).

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