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New Study Reveals Birds Flock To Green Lanes


Green lanes(1) are significantly more attractive to birds than your average hedgerow, according to the findings of new research from Staffordshire University.

The study was conducted by PhD student Mike Walker who carried out the research in Cheshire over three years.

Mike found green lanes had almost treble the number of bird species as hedgerows. As green lanes are made of two parallel hedges he compared the abundance of birds in 50 metres of green lane with 100 metres of hedgerow; amazingly there were almost double the number of birds in green lanes.

For the purpose of the study a green lane was defined as an unmetalled(2) track bordered on each side by a hedgerow running through farmland and used by farm vehicles, livestock or horses and measuring between two and 15 metres in width.

During the sampling period 39 species of bird were recorded on green lanes and 27 species were recorded on single hedgerows. There were also significantly greater numbers of all birds recorded in green lanes than single hedgerows.

Mike, who was supported by the University’s Institute for Environment and Sustainability Research, said: “Perhaps the most striking finding is the massive increase in both the numbers and kind of birds we have seen on green lanes.

“Common birds have been declining on farmland so it is really good news to have found that such a simple structure as a green lane can have such a benefit. Many of the birds we have been seeing are typical of woodland edge and green lanes may resemble this habitat more closely than single hedgerows.”

The findings re-enforce the case to protect green lanes, which are not yet recognised as special landscape features and which are only afforded loose protection under current hedgerow regulations.

In his paper entitled ‘Birds and green lanes: Breeding season bird abundance, territories and species richness’ Mike talks of the need to preserve the “unsealed nature” of green lanes while at the same time maintaining usage to prevent “scrubbing up and the eventual formation of linear woodland.”

Senior lecturer in Ecology, Dr John Dover, who has lead much of the research carried out on green lanes, said: “We know from earlier studies that vegetation is better in green lanes and that butterflies and bumble bees are more abundant.”

“However the findings of this latest research are so significant I’m tempted to use the word stonking. It makes it very clear that we should retain green lanes and manage them sympathetically. There is also a case for creating new ones.”

John said that as well as the obvious benefit to wildlife, there might be implications for the farming community as green lanes, like beetle banks(3), might act as reservoirs or havens for natural biological control agents such as predatory beetles, bugs and hoverflies helping to reduce the reliance on insecticides.

He added: “In order to uncover their role as promoters of green pest control we need to do more research.”

Mike’s paper is published in the journal Biological Conservation volume 126, pages 540-547 available online at

Maria Scrivens | alfa
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