Reduced biodiversity in modernized villages: a conflict between sustainable development goals.

Published online
28 Jul 2020
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Rosin, Z. M. & Hiron, M. & Żmihorski, M. & Szymański, P. & Tobolka, M. & Pärt, T.
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Despite large conservation efforts to halt the loss of farmland biodiversity in Europe, negative population trends are still observed, especially for common species. Old villages and human settlements are biodiversity hotspots and important breeding habitats for farmland birds, but recent requirements for energy saving measures and improved living comfort have changed their architecture and habitats. Consequently, modernization of villages may negatively affect bird diversity due to the loss of nesting and foraging sites. We investigated how the abundance and diversity of birds breeding in 104 Polish villages varied in relation to the degree of modernization as estimated by the proportion of new and renovated homesteads. Abundance of building-nesting species, but not tree-nesting species, declined by 50% across a gradient of old to highly modernized villages. The contribution of new versus renovated houses to the observed decline was similar. Synthesis and applications. Rural modernization may have a dramatic effect on abundance of birds nesting on buildings, thus may be an important and overlooked contributor to farmland bird population declines in Europe. Villages and rural properties fall outside of current conservation policy as they are neither protected areas nor agricultural lands (where agri-environmental schemes can be applied). The observed conflict between sustainability goals such as increased building energy efficiency and biodiversity conservation suggests that sustainable rural development should better link modernization with conservation measures, for example, by constructing nesting sites when renovating and building new houses. The challenge is to design modern buildings that are both energy-efficient and biodiversity-friendly to generally improve quality of life for rural communities and to halt or reduce farmland bird declines in rural landscapes. Designers and architects can find inspiration from traditional architecture and add a variety of nest-box types.

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