Agri-environment schemes do not support Brown Hare populations due to inadequate scheme application

Keywords: agri-environmental schemes, habitat improvement, Brown hare, habitat-use intensity

Abstract

The goal of many agri-environment schemes (AES) is to increase biodiversity in agroecosystems. AES effects are often measured on invertebrates and birds; mammals as indicator species are infrequently targets of such researches. Our goal was to evaluate the local-scale effects of the Hungarian Agri-Environmental Measures (AEM) on the European brown hare (Lepus europaeus), which shows decreasing population trends across Europe. We compared hare abundances and their dropping numbers in AEM and control agricultural arable and grassland fields of 17 game management units in two seasons. We also examined the quality of arable fields based on their margin width and vegetation cover. We found that margin quality was higher in AEM than in the control fields. Control grasslands had higher vegetation quality than the AEM grasslands. We found a significant difference in hare counts between AEM and control arable fields in spring but no difference in autumn. The dropping densities did not differ in any season, treatment category or agroecosystem type. We conclude that the AEM program (2009-2014) in Hungary was not effective for the hare, and this might have been caused by the inadequate or weak application of AEM practices. We provide recommendations for future AEM programs to enhance biodiversity.

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Published
2021-08-16
How to Cite
UjhegyiN., KellerN., PatkóL., BiróZ., TóthB., & SzemethyL. (2021). Agri-environment schemes do not support Brown Hare populations due to inadequate scheme application. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 67(3), 263-288. https://doi.org/10.17109/AZH.67.3.263.2021