Swiss ornithological station, 6204 Sempach

The ecological quality of meadows is important for the Brown Hare

The population of Brown Hares in the Swiss lowland has been declining for years. In the St. Galler Rhine valley farmland has been ecologically improved with biodiversity promoting areas (BFF) since 1994 with the aim to promote the Brown Hare amongst other species. In this study, we compared the population trend of the Brown Hare with the increase of the BFFs, and also analysed the correlation of Brown Hare density with the proportions of BFF-types and semi-natural areas by means of a habitat model. Therefore a raster with 65 cells was laid over the study site. Since 1998, mainly extensively used meadows showing high ecological quality or including structures (bushes, uncut grass) were implemented and their percentage increased from 1,9 % in 2003 to 5,6 % in 2012. At the same time the Brown Hare population has grown significantly. The habitat model showed that the Brown Hare density in early spring nights was significantly positively correlated with the proportion of extensively used meadows with high ecological quality per cell. The improvement of meadows in the Swiss lowland towards high ecological quality and structural richness is thus a valuable startingpoint when promoting the Brown Hare.

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