Increase Biodiversity on Farms

Populations of wild birds have fallen significantly since 1970 with farmland birds being particularly affected.
There are currently 59 species of birds that are classified as priority species and have Biodiversity Action Plans (BAPs) in place.
At least 12 priority bird species are covered by BAPs are frequently found in and around energy crop plantations.
Surveys suggest there are significantly more birds in SRC compared to improved grassland and arable controls.
Field margins around SRC coppice energy crops encourage butterfly and other invertebrates.
25 species of butterflies have been identified in and around SRC Willow plantations and numbers were found to increase by up to 130% on land previously used for arable crops.


Since the 1970s there has been an alarming reduction in the population of wild birds in the UK. Farmland birds have been some of the hardest hit with tree sparrows declining by 95% and Corn Buntings by 85%. There are several reasons attributed to this such as:
• Loss of wild food-plants as a result of herbicide use.
• Change from spring-sown to autumn-sown cereals and the subsequent loss of winter stubble.
• Insecticide use reducing invertebrate populations
• Conversion of pasture to arable land and the resultant decline in soil invertebrate numbers.
• Land drainage making soil dwelling invertebrates less accessible.
• Availability of nest sites due to removal of hedgerows.

A growing body of evidence suggests that energy crops and SRC willow in particular can boost biodiversity by increasing the numbers of birds and insects in the vicinity of the crop. The Game Conservancy Trust recommends growing several SRC plantations in a staggered fashion so that they are harvested in different years. This ensures that the maximum number of species are supported and reduces the risk of displacement. For instance, freshly harvested SRC leaves and area of open land each spring.

This attracts birds which forage and nest in open fields such as the skylark and meadow pipit. Surveys suggest that there are significantly more birds in SRC compared to the grassland and arable controls. The crop tends to accommodate an under storey of perennial weeds which provides food for over 50 insect species which in turn encourages birdlife especially migrant and resident species whose numbers have been failing in recent years.

Headlands around SRC Willow provide and important habitat for butterflies with their numbers increasing by up to 130% on land previously used for arable crops. The four year study carried out by the Game Conservancy Trust identified a total of 10’180 butterflies comprising 25 species. In each year, in virtually all of the plots surveyed, significantly more individuals and species were seen on the SRC than grass controls.