Bird services and disservices to strawberry farming in Californian agricultural landscapes

David J. Gonthier, Amber R. Sciligo, Daniel S. Karp, Adrian Lu, Karina Garcia, Gila Juarez, Taiki Chiba, Sasha Gennet, Claire Kremen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Bird conservation in agricultural settings can be controversial. While some bird species damage some crops, others suppress insect pests. Few studies have simultaneously compared bird services and disservices to assess their net impact. Using an exclusion experiment in six California strawberry farms, we show that bird suppression of berry damage by insect pests (about 3.8% of berries) is similar in magnitude to the damage birds inflict on strawberries (about 3.2% of berries). Across 27 farms, we found that bird species richness and the relative abundance of insectivorous birds increased, while the relative abundance of strawberry-eating birds and bird damage decreased on farms with more semi-natural land cover in the surrounding landscapes (1000 m radius). Relative to homogeneous farms, those that implemented diversification practices, such as hedgerows, flower strips or increased crop diversity, had greater bird species richness, total relative abundance, insectivore abundance and strawberry-eating bird abundance. Synthesis and applications. Conserving semi-natural land cover in the surrounding landscape benefits bird species richness locally and aids farmers through reduced abundance of strawberry-eating birds and bird damage. These results highlight the need to consider both the services and disservices of birds when making management decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1948-1959
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank our farmer partners for their time and access to their farms. We thank B. Burgoa, S. Lozano, K. De Master, J. Broom, M. Seagraves, E. Brennan, S. Joseph, M. Bolda, A. Iles, C. Pallud, M. Los Huertos, N. Harkleroad for help in designing our study, recruiting farmers, coordinating with industry stakeholders or discussing our findings. We thank H. Kifle, R. Quistberg, N. Vaingankar, I. Medina and C. Zamora for aid in field work. Driscoll's Strawberry Associates, Inc., Wild Farm Alliance, Organic Farming Research Foundation, California Certified Organic Farmers, Resource Conservation District of Monterey and Santa Cruz, Agriculture & Land-Based Training Association, University of California Cooperative Extension, United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services and Nature Conservancy aided or collaborated with our research. This research was funded by the CS Fund, the Berkeley Food Institute, USDA NIFA Project #2015-67019-23147/1005662 to C.K., USDA NIFA Project #2017-67019-26293/1012253 to D.S.K., NSF Biology Postdoctoral Fellowship (#1401874) to D.J.G. and a University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship to D.J.G. This work is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch KY008079 and Hatch CA-B-INS-0169-H.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. Journal of Applied Ecology © 2019 British Ecological Society


  • agriculture
  • agroecology
  • bird
  • diversified farming systems
  • ecosystem services
  • human-wildlife conflict
  • pest suppression
  • strawberry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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