A cross-regional analysis of red-backed shrike responses to agri-environmental schemes in Europe

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Agri-environmental schemes (AES) are the main policy tool to counteract farmland biodiversity declines in Europe, but their biodiversity benefit varies across sites and is likely moderated by landscape context. Systematic monitoring of AES outcomes is lacking, and AES assessments are often based on field experiments encompassing one or few study sites. Spatial analysis methods encompassing broader areas are therefore crucial to better understand the context dependency of species’ responses to AES. Here, we quantified red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) occurrences in relation to AES adoption in three agricultural regions: Catalonia in Spain, the Mulde River Basin in Germany, and South Moravia in the Czech Republic. We used pre-collected biodiversity datasets, comprising structured and unstructured monitoring data, to compare empirical evidence across regions. Specifically, in each region we tested whether occurrence probability was positively related with the proportion of grassland-based AES, and whether this effect was stronger in simple compared to complex landscapes. We built species distribution models using existing field observations of the red-backed shrike, which we related to topographic, climatic, and field-level land-use information complemented with remote sensing-derived land-cover data to map habitats outside agricultural fields. We found a positive relationship between AES area and occurrence probability of the red-backed shrike in all regions. In Catalonia, the relationship was stronger in structurally simpler landscapes, but we found little empirical support for similar landscape-moderated effects in South Moravia and the Mulde River Basin. Our results highlight the complexity of species’ responses to management across different regional and landscape contexts, which needs to be considered in the design and spatial implementation of future conservation measures.


Original languageEnglish
Article number034004
JournalEnvironmental research letters
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2024

External IDs

Scopus 85185440495
Mendeley 505374c3-87fc-3b50-8eeb-2e151382c6af



  • context dependency, farmland birds, landscape structure, semi-structured data, spatial analysis, species distribution models