Publications for Dr Will Peach

Evaluating spatially explicit sharing‐sparing scenarios for multiple environmental outcomes

Understanding how to allocate land for the sustainable delivery of multiple, competing objectives is a major societal challenge. The land sharing-sparing framework presents a heuristic for understanding the trade-off between food production and biodiversity conservation by comparing region-wide land-use scenarios which are equivalent in terms of overall food production.
Here, for two contrasting regions of lowland England (The Fens and Salisbury Plain), we use empirical data and predictive models to compare a suite of spatially explicit scenarios reflecting the full range of the sharing-sparing continuum, including mixed scenarios which combine elements of both sharing and sparing. We evaluate a range of outcomes (bird populations, global warming potential (GWP), nitrogen and phosphorus pollution and outdoor recreation), to identify approaches to regional land-use planning with the potential to deliver multiple societal benefits.

Land-sharing scenarios (which reduce the dominance of productive agricultural land in farmed areas and the area of larger unfarmed areas) result in negative outcomes, particularly for birds and GWP. In contrast, many land-sparing scenarios (including mixed scenarios which increase the area of lower-yield farmland alongside larger unfarmed areas) resulted in improvements in all or most outcomes, although for recreation and nutrient export differences between scenarios were modest.

Importantly, environmental outcomes also depended on the spatial arrangement of spared land, the types of natural or semi-natural habitat promoted on spared land, whether some lower-yield farmland is delivered alongside larger unfarmed areas, and the overall region-wide food production target.

Policy implications. Our study suggests that land-sparing strategies which increase the area of natural and semi-natural areas can improve environmental outcomes, despite the costs associated with high-yield agriculture. However, high-yield agriculture should not compromise future production or the conservation value of spared land, and explicit policies such as certification or payments for ecosystem services are required to link sustainable high-yield production to habitat conservation.
Our study also highlights the importance of mitigating projected increases in food demand.

Date
01 January 2021
RSPB Authors
Dr Tom Finch, Dr Rob Field, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Finch, Tom Day, Brett H Massimino, Dario Redhead, John W Field, Rob H Balmford, Andrew Green, Rhys E Peach, Will J
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology
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The impacts of non-native gamebird release in the UK: an updated evidence review

Recreational shooting of non-native gamebirds (pheasants and red-legged partridges) in the UK is
underpinned by a suite of management practices. A major aspect is the annual large-scale release
of birds to be shot, which is steadily increasing with an estimated 57 million birds released in 2016;
this scale of non-native gamebird release exceeds any similar activity in Europe or North America.

Approximately one third of released birds are shot, while the majority of the remaining birds die
from other causes during the year of release or survive in very low numbers to join the population
of pheasants and partridges now residing in the wild in the UK.

The number of gamebirds released has increased since the 1990s, while the number shot has
remained relatively stable, and this reduction in releasing-efficiency is potentially driven by a
reduction in gamebird survival and an increase in late winter shooting, meaning that more birds
must be released during autumn to ensure enough survive to be shot in January.
There is concern that this large and increasing release of gamebirds and associated shooting practices may be having negative impacts on the UK’s native wildlife. However, there may also be positive ecological, economic and social impacts of gamebird release activities.

Date
12 October 2020
RSPB Authors
Dr Lucy Mason, Dr Jen Smart, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Lucy R. Mason, Jake E. Bicknell, Jennifer Smart, Will J. Peach
Published in
RSPB Research Report No. 66
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Optimising nature conservation outcomes for a given region‐wide level of food production

The land sharing-sparing framework aims to quantify the trade-off between food production and biodiversity conservation, but it has been criticized for offering, for reasons of simplicity, an unrealistically limited set of different land uses.

Here, we develop the framework to evaluate a much larger suite of land-use strategies in which the areas and yields of three land-use compartments - natural habitat, high-yield farmland, and lower-yield farmland - are varied simultaneously. For two regions of England, we use functions that relate the local population density of breeding bird species to farm yield to simulate species-specific region-wide population sizes under each strategy.

We find that geometric mean population size, averaged across all species, is maximized when farmland yields are higher than the current average yield, and when spared land combines both natural habitat and low-yield farmland. This conclusion is relatively insensitive to the maximum yield considered feasible under extreme land sparing, and holds across a range of region-wide food production targets.

To some extent, our conclusion depends on which species groups were included in the assessment. Considered alone, farmland birds preferred a strategy with little or no natural habitat. Nonetheless, the optimal strategy was broadly consistent across all widely recognized listings of species of conservation concern.

Synthesis and applications. Our study looks at landscapes with a long history of agricultural use, and which have little remaining natural habitat, such as those found in lowland England. In these landscapes, conservation outcomes are likely to be maximized by mixed strategies in which high-yield production enables an increase in area of both natural habitat and low-yield farmland elsewhere in the region.

Date
22 February 2020
RSPB Authors
Dr Tom Finch, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Finch, Tom Green, Rhys E Massimino, Dario Peach, Will J Balmford, Andrew
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology
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Avian malaria-mediated population decline of a widespread iconic bird species

Parasites have the capacity to affect animal populations by modifying host survival, and it is increasingly recognized that infectious disease can negatively impact biodiversity. Populations of the house sparrow (Passer domesticus) have declined in many European towns and cities, but the causes of these declines...

Date
17 July 2019
RSPB Authors
Dr Will Peach
Authors
Dadam, D., Robinson, R.A., Clements, A., Peach, W.J., Bennett, M., Rowcliffe, J.M. & Cunningham, A.A.
Published in
Royal Society Open Science 6 (7)
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Bird conservation and the land sharing-sparing continuum in farmland-dominated landscapes of lowland England

Empirical evidence from many regions suggests that most species would be least negatively affected if human food demand were met through high-yield agricultural production and conservation of nonfarm ecosystems (land sparing), rather than through wildlife-friendly farming over...

Date
21 March 2019
RSPB Authors
Dr Tom Finch, Prof Rhys Green, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Finch, T., Gillings, S., Green, R.E., Massimino, D., Peach, W.J. & Balmford, A.
Published in
Conservation Biology
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Depleted suburban house sparrow Passer domesticus population not limited by food availability

Little is known about the environmental factors that limit the demography and abundance of wild vertebrates in highly modified urban environments. The House Sparrow Passer domesticus is a globally widespread species whose urban populations have recently undergone substantial declines particularly in Europe. The environmental drivers of these declines...

Date
03 December 2018
RSPB Authors
Dr Will Peach, Dr John Mallord, Chris Orsman
Authors
Peach, W.J., Mallord, J.W., Ockendon, N., Orsman, C.J. & Haines, W.G.
Published in
Urban Ecosystems 21 (6): 1053-1065
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Higher-tier agri-environment schemes: do they work and how much do we need to recover farmland birds?

Our study assessed the impact of higher‐tier agri‐environment scheme (AES) land management on the abundance of bird species associated with farmed landscapes...

Date
01 June 2018
RSPB Authors
Dr Tony Morris, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Morris, A.J., Grice, P.V., Walker, L.K., Cristinacce, A., Dadam, D. & Peach, W.J.
Published in
Animal Conservation 21 (3): 199-200
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Effects of higher-tier agri-environment scheme on the abundance of priority farmland birds

Agri-environment schemes (AES) are the main policy mechanism available for reversing the widespread declines of European farmland biodiversity. We assessed the impact of AES land...

Date
01 June 2018
RSPB Authors
Dr Tony Morris, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Walker, L.K., Morris, A.J., Cristinacce, A., Dadam, D., Grice, P.V. & Peach, W.J.
Published in
Animal Conservation 21 (3): 183-192
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Can hedgerow management mitigate the impacts of predation on songbird nest survival?

Nest predators can have significant impacts on songbird reproductive success. These impacts may be amplified by habitat simplification and here we test whether sympathetic management of farmland hedgerows can reduce nest...

Date
01 December 2016
RSPB Authors
Dr Jenny Dunn, Derek Gruar, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Dunn, J.C., Gruar, D., Stoate, C., Szczur, J. & Peach, W.J.
Published in
Journal of Environmental Management 184: 535-544.
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The impacts of crop tiller density on the breeding performance of a cereal-nesting specialist: ecological trap and potential management tool

In the pursuit of maximizing agricultural yields and profits, crop management under intensive agriculture has reduced the heterogeneity of crop sward structure within fields. Several farmland bird specialists ...

Date
18 July 2016
RSPB Authors
Dr Rosemary Setchfield, Dr Will Peach
Authors
Setchfield, R.P. & Peach, W.J.
Published in
Journal of Applied Ecology
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