Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture, Zurich-Reckenholz

Ecological measures: Vegetation and breeding birds

In 1993, an agro-environmental programme was incorporated into the Swiss Agricultural legislation. One of the goals of this legislation was to conserve the natural biodiversity of Switzerland as well as to promote and encourage the spread of endangered species. Within the project «Evaluation of the Ecological Measures – Section Biodiversity» we check whether these goals are being reached. During the period 1998 to 2001 we investigated the plant composition of the financially supported «Ecological Compensation Areas» (ECA) within 53 territories of the Swiss Plateau. Breeding birds were also studied in 20 of these areas. The vegetation study provides an indicator of biodiversity at the land parcel level whilst breeding birds are an indicator for biodiversity at the landscape level. In total over 2’700 vegetation analyses within the ECA were undertaken. This enables us to give an informed opinion about the condition of ECA in three biogeographical regions of the Central Swiss Plateau and within two production zones (lowland and hill regions). Meadows and high-stem orchards comprise 93% of the surface area supported by the ecological compensation schemes. The remaining 7 % of the area are covered with litter meadows, hedgerows, wildflower strips, rotational fallow and low-intensity field strips. Inventories specific to breeding birds have found that only 5.7 % of the agricultural landscape is covered by semi-natural biotopes. It is therefore of great importance, for the further promotion of biodiversity, that additional semi-natural biotopes are established on the Swiss Plateau.

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