Biodiversity and agriculture

In Europe most of the terrestrial biodiversity lives in agricultural areas. Therefore, a correct management of these areas is fundamental to conserve nature. Since a few decades, the intensification of the agricultural practice and the abandonment of marginal areas are undermining the fragile balance between agricultural practice and biodiversity reached after millennia. Biodiversity provides fundamental ecosystem services to the human society, in particular food production for a growing human population worldwide. That is why our Department carries out researches on biodiversity in agricultural context  with the aim of directing the management of our territory towards sustainable practice and biodiversity conservation.

Our methodological approach is based on a wide collection of environmental and faunal data (presence, abundance and reproductive success), combined with statistical models used to investigate ecological needs of target species and factors that determine the community composition. So far, our results have allowed us to get solid knowledge on the ecology of the target species and to evaluate the effects of agriculture on the environment. For the future we aim at using these data to powerfully direct the agri-environment measures in Rural Development Programs and in other contexts towards sustainability.

The avifauna in mountain rural environments

Hay meadows and pastures characterise mountain habitats at low and medium altitude and are particularly important given their ecological, economic, landscape and conservation value. That is why they are a privileged focus of the research in our Department. The mountain agricultural habitats are highly threatened in terms of loss of biodiversity: on one side the abandonment and on the other the over-exploitation and intensification (especially in the bottom valleys) or conversion into more profitable crops. Moreover, these habitats are highly affected by the urbanisation, even in mountain areas. Target species of these habitats are: the Corncrake, the Red-backed Shrike and the Barred warbler, considered priority species by the European Community and in permanent decline both at national and international level. Also the Eurasian Scops Owl is included in specific research, being a great ‘umbrella’ species.

What biodiversity in intensively farmed lands?

Our Department has recently broadened the research field to permanent and intensive agri-ecosystems, in particular apple orchards and vineyards, which are among the most evident landscapes at the bottom valleys of Trentino.

In permanent crops the bird diversity and the abundance of many species depend on many factors related to the landscape, management and topographic/climatic context. The conservation status of biodiversity in these systems is determined by the heterogeneity of the landscape in which natural, semi-natural and traditional habitats are included and by the management choices made by the farmers, which have variable and scale-dependent effects. Although these habitats are primarily voted to production, they can host a good number of animal and plant species, even of high conservation value, assuming that some minor biodiversity-friendly measures are adopted.

Our Department coordinates together with BirdLife Italy (LIPU) the Farmland Bird Index project in the Trento province, aimed at defining the national Farmland Bird Index, an indicator used by the European Union to monitor the efficiency of the Birds Directive and of the provincial monitoring of the birds in farmlands within the PSR 2014-2020 (Plan of Rural Development) in collaboration with the Servizio Politiche e Sviluppo Rurale of the autonomous province of Trento.


The research is carried out in collaboration with many companies, associations, stakeholders and Universities, in particular: the Servizio politiche e Sviluppo Rurale e Sviluppo Sostenibile e Aree protette of the autonomous province of Trento, the LIPU/Birdlife Italia, the APOT-Associazione Produttori Ortofrutticoli Trentini, the Centro di trasferimento Tecnologico of the ‘Edmund Mach’ Foundation, the University of Pavia (laboratory of Eco-ethology, prof. Giuseppe Bogliani), the University of Padova (dott. Matteo Griggio), he the University of Bologna (dott. Juri Nascimbene) and the INRA-Equipe Ecologie des Communates (dott. Luc Barbaro).


  1. Brambilla M, Pedrini P. Modelling at the edge: habitat types driving the occurrence of common forest bird species at the altitudinal margin of their range. Ornis Fenn. 2016;93: 88–99.
  2. Assandri G, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. Land-use and bird occurrence at the urban margins in the Italian Alps: Implications for planning and conservation. North West J Zool. 2017;13: 77–84.
  3. Brambilla M, Pedrini P. Intra-seasonal changes in local pattern of Corncrake Crex crex occurrence require adaptive conservation strategies in Alpine meadows. Bird Conserv Int. 2011;21: 388–393.
  4. Brambilla M, Pedrini P. The introduction of subsidies for grassland conservation in the Italian Alps coincided with population decline in a threatened grassland species , the Corncrake Crex crex. Bird Study. 2013;60: 404–408.
  5. Pedrini P, Rizzolli F, Rossi F, Brambilla M. Population trend and breeding density of corncrake Crex crex (Aves : Rallidae) in the Alps: monitoring and conservation implications of a 15-year survey in Trentino, Italy. Ital J Zool. 2012;79: 377–384.
  6. Ceresa F, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. The importance of key marginal habitat features for birds in farmland: an assessment of habitat preferences of Red-backed Shrikes Lanius collurio in the Italian Alps. Bird Study. 2012;59: 327–334.
  7. Brambilla M, Pedrini P. Linee guida per la conservazione di specie focali di interesse comunitario ‐ Specie ornitiche degli ambienti prativi. LIFE+T.E.N ‐ Azione A8. 2014.
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  10. Brambilla M, Martino G, Pedrini P. Changes in Song thrush Turdus philomelos density and habitat association in apple orchards during the breeding season. Ardeola. 2013;60: 73–83.
  11. Brambilla M, Assandri G, Martino G, Bogliani G, Pedrini P. The importance of residual habitats and crop management for the conservation of birds breeding in intensive orchards. Ecol Res. 2015;30: 597–604. doi:10.1007/s11284-015-1260-8
  12. Assandri G, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. Diversity in the monotony? Habitat traits and management practices shape avian communities in intensive vineyards. Agric Ecosyst Environ. Elsevier B.V.; 2016;223: 250–260. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2016.03.014
  13. Assandri G, Giacomazzo M, Brambilla M, Griggio M, Pedrini P. Nest density, nest-site selection, and breeding success of birds in vineyards: Management implication for conservation in a highly intensive farming system. Biol Conserv. 2017;205: 23–33. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.11.020
  14. Assandri G, Brambilla M, Pedrini P. Uccelli come indicatori di biodiversità nei vigneti. Terra Trent. 2016;61: 54–55.
  15. Assandri G, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. Assessing common birds’ ecological requirements to address nature conservation in permanent crops: Lessons from Italian vineyards. J Environ Manage. 2017;191: 145–154. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.12.071
  16. Assandri G, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. Insectivorous birds as “non-traditional” flagship species in vineyards: Applying a neglected conservation paradigm to agricultural systems. Ecol Indic. Elsevier; 2017;80: 275–285. doi:10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.05.012
  17. Assandri G, Bernardi A, Schmoliner A, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. A matter of pipes: Wryneck Jynx torquilla habitat selection and breeding performance in an intensive agroecosystem. J Ornithol. Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 2018;159: 103–114. doi:10.1007/s10336-017-1479-y
  18. Assandri G, Ghidoni F, Penner F, Bottura M, Brambilla M, Bogliani G, et al. Importanza degli uccelli per la biodiversità del vigneto. Viti e Vino, Suppl a L’Informatore Agrar. 2017;27: 19–22.
  19. Assandri G, Bogliani G, Pedrini P, Brambilla M. Beautiful agricultural landscapes promote cultural ecosystem services and biodiversity conservation. Agric Ecosyst Environ. Elsevier; 2018;256: 200–210. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2018.01.012
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