Cattle Ranching Supports Greater Bird Diversity than Soybean Farming in Uruguay

(January 14, 2015, The Condor: Ornithological Applications)—Land used for cattle ranching supports larger and more diverse bird communities than soybean fields in the Uruguayan grassland region, according to a new open-access study published this week in The Condor: Ornithological Applications. Thaiane Weinert da Silva, Graziela Dotta, and Carla Suertegaray Fontana of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) in Brazil spent two years surveying and comparing the birds found on soybean and cattle sites in the grasslands of Uruguay and Brazil. Overall, they found that cattle sites had higher species richness than soybean sites and supported more bird species considered representative of southeastern South American grasslands. However, some bird species of conservation interest, such as the Greater Rhea (Rhea americana), were also found in and adjacent to soybean fields, suggesting that more research is necessary to determine exactly how some birds use mixed agricultural landscapes. The message of this study is that when it comes to supporting bird populations, not all types of agriculture are equivalent, and Weinert da Silva and her colleagues recommend that farmers, conservationists, and government agencies in the region come together to discuss how to balance their differing priorities. The full article is available at http://www.aoucospubs.org/doi/full/10.1650/CONDOR-14-85.1.

CONDOR-14-85

A Sedge Wren, one of the grassland birds observed in the study. Photo credit: G. Dotta

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