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      Identifying effective actions to guide volunteer-based and nationwide conservation efforts for a ground-nesting farmland bird

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          1. Modern farming practices threaten wildlife in different ways, and failure to identify the complexity of multiple threats acting in synergy may result in ineffective management. To protect ground-nesting birds in farmland, monitoring and mitigating impacts of mechanical harvesting is crucial.

          2. Here, we use 6 years of data from a nationwide volunteer-based monitoring scheme of the Montagu's harrier, a ground-nesting raptor, in French farmlands. We assess the effectiveness of alternative nest protection measures and map their potential benefit to the species.

          3. We show that unprotected nests in cultivated land are strongly negatively affected by harvesting and thus require active management. Further, we show that protection from harvesting alone (e.g. by leaving a small unharvested buffer around the nest) is impaired by post-harvest predation at nests that become highly conspicuous after harvest. Measures that simultaneously protect from harvesting and predation (by adding a fence around the nest) significantly enhance nest productivity.

          4. The map of expected gain from nest protection in relation to available volunteers' workforce pinpoints large areas of high expected gain from nest protection that are not matched by equally high workforce availability. This mismatch suggests that the impact of nest protection can be further improved by increasing volunteer efforts in key areas where they are low relative to the expected gain they could have.

          5. Synthesis and applications. This study shows that synergistic interplay of multiple factors (e.g. mechanical harvesting and predation) may completely undermine the success of well-intentioned conservation efforts. However, identifying areas where the greatest expected gains can be achieved relative to effort expended can minimize the risk of wasted volunteer actions. Overall, this study underscores the importance of citizen science for collecting large-scale data useful for producing science and ultimately informs large-scale evidence-based conservation actions within an adaptive management framework.

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          Most cited references 38

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          The need for evidence-based conservation.

          Much of current conservation practice is based upon anecdote and myth rather than upon the systematic appraisal of the evidence, including experience of others who have tackled the same problem. We suggest that this is a major problem for conservationists and requires a rethinking of the manner in which conservation operates. There is an urgent need for mechanisms that review available information and make recommendations to practitioners. We suggest a format for web-based databases that could provide the required information in accessible form.
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            Money for Nothing? A Call for Empirical Evaluation of Biodiversity Conservation Investments

            The field of conservation policy must adopt state-of-the-art program evaluation methods to determine what works, and when, if we are to stem the global decline of biodiversity and improve the effectiveness of conservation investments.
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              The recent declines of farmland bird populations in Britain: an appraisal of causal factors and conservation actions

               Ian Newton (2004)

                Author and article information

                Role: Handling Editor
                J Appl Ecol
                J Appl Ecol
                The Journal of Applied Ecology
                Blackwell Publishing Ltd (Oxford, UK )
                August 2015
                29 May 2015
                : 52
                : 4
                : 1082-1091
                [1 ]Department of Biosciences, Finnish Centre of Excellence in Metapopulation Biology, University of Helsinki PO Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1), Helsinki, FI-00014, Finland
                [2 ]Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki Helsinki, FI-00014, Finland
                [3 ]Section of Ecology, Department of Biology, University of Turku FI-20014, Turku, Finland
                [4 ]Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC), CSIC-UCLM-JCCM Ronda de Toledo, s/n, E-13005, Ciudad Real, Spain
                [5 ]Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d'Ecologie marine et continentale (IMBE), Aix-Marseille Université, UMR CNRS IRD Avignon Université, Technopôle Arbois-Méditerranée Bât. Villemin – BP 80, F-13545, Aix-en-Provence, France
                [6 ]CEBC-CNRS, UMR CNRS & Université de La Rochelle Beauvoir-sur-Niort, 79360, France
                Author notes
                *Correspondence author. E-mail: andrea.santangeli@

                The copyright line for this article was changed on 26th August, 2015 after original online publication.

                © 2015 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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