Despite two decades of agri-environment schemes (AESs) aimed at mitigating farmland biodiversity losses, the evidence that such programmes actually benefit biodiversity remains limited. Using field-level surveys, we assess the effectiveness of AESs in enhancing bird abundances in an upland area of England, where schemes have been operating for over 20 years. In such a region, the effects of AESs should be readily apparent, and we predict that bird abundances will co-vary with both field- and landscape-scale measures of implementation. Using an information theoretic approach, we found that, for abundances of species of conservation concern and upland specialists, measures of AES implementation and habitat type at both scales appear in the most parsimonious models. Field-level bird abundances are higher where more of the surrounding landscape is included in an AES. While habitat remains a more influential predictor, we suggest that landscape-scale implementation results in enhanced bird abundances. Hence, measures of the success of AESs should consider landscape-wide benefits as well as localized impacts.
Keywords: landscape-scale conservation, peak district, environmentally sensitive area