Review: Wildlife Conservation in Farm Landscapes

The quintessential farm usually consists of large expanses of cleared land, primarily dominated by exotic crop species or pastoral grass for livestock. The clearing of land for agricultural practices is often accompanied by a reduction in biodiversity, and consequently a decrease in the ecological processes that a healthy ecosystem performs.

Ecologically sustainable farming practices can help mitigate some of the impacts on biodiversity due to agriculture. Wildlife Conservation in Farm Landscapes is a guide to these practices, discussing which are the most effective in restoring ecological processes on farmland. Across six main chapters, the authors ask ‘how can we maintain or even increase food production without undermining the productive capability of farms and without significantly eroding biodiversity?’

Birds, the most diverse group of vertebrates found on farmland, can be beneficial to farmers, as they contribute to natural pest control, plant pollination and even seed dispersal. The chapter dedicated to birds discusses whether implementing nestboxes really affects the number of bird species at a location, as well as the importance of paddock trees and remnant vegetation. Native mammals are discussed in a similar fashion, although invasive species such as the red fox, European rabbit and black rat are also examined.

One great aspect of this book is the way that the authors explain the processes behind the science. For example, the chapter on reptiles includes topics such as ‘How are reptiles surveyed in agricultural landscapes?’, ‘A way of categorising reptiles’ and ‘How are lizards measured?’. These insights allow the reader to better understand each topic, and the practices they are discussing.

The text also discusses the important role that invertebrates play in agricultural landscapes, as they contribute to many crucial ecological processes, including pollination, seed dispersal, and the recycling of organic matter, as well as being food source for other animals. The role of ants on farms is a particular focus of this section, as is the effect that plantations have on butterfly species.

Farmland vegetation is also covered, including how vegetation cover and attributes change with time, and how this change can affect the animal species found at planting sites. The effect of livestock on vegetation cover and condition is also discussed, and the importance of large logs and native grasses for biodiversity touched on.

Of particular interest to me was Chapter Seven: ‘Managing wildlife friendly farms’. This chapter ties together the previous topics, and explains the do’s and don’ts of managing an ecologically sustainable farm. Habitat protection and restoration is discussed, as is the importance of evidence-based farm planning.

Wildlife Conservation in Farm Landscapes explores ecologically sustainable farming in short and concise chapters, but manages to do so without sparing the science or importance of each topic. The authors explain the science behind the findings, allowing the reader to better understand the text, and also manage to slip small snippets of interest into each chapter. This book will prove valuable to anyone managing agricultural land, but is also an excellent read just for interest’s sake. The authors’ book dedication to ‘the many farmers…doing outstanding restoration and management’ also highlights some of the important work being done by farmers in the fight to protect and enhance our nation’s biodiversity.

 This book belongs on your bookshelf if... You’re interested in agricultural ecology, you manage a rural or agricultural property or you want to learn more about the biodiversity found on farms.

Head to the CSIRO Publishing website to purchase your copy. 

Emma Walsh

Emma Walsh is a science graduate who enjoys sharing her love of nature with others. In the past, she has worked as a wildlife presenter, and enjoys teaching children about our native wildlife and its conservation. Her other interests include gardening and bushwalking.

Cover image via Wiki Commons/Nick Pitsas (CSIRO).