Restoring Farm Wildlife Habitat

Years ago, farmland around the country was teaming with wildlife including birds, butterflies, and mammals because diversified crops and production practices allowed for healthy habitats. Today, the wildlife is disappearing due to factors such as intensive farming practices and homogenization. However, coupling habitat conservation with efforts to improve water and soil health shows promise in restoring farmland wildlife.

Adam Janke is an extension wildlife specialist at Iowa State University. He says there is a lot of potential in native plants and natural features.

"Things like wetlands, grasslands, strategic integration of perennials or pasture and other natural features are the areas where we stand to make real gains for wildlife habitat," says Janke. "More engineered solutions or solutions related to application of nutrients or the management of nutrients in-field, although very important, are not the areas where we see a lot of potential for secondary wildlife impacts."

Riparian buffers which are natural vegetation along the edge of a stream bank, help control erosion and prevent pollutants from getting into the water. Wildlife like these areas for moving from one place to another.

"Wildlife as a general rule like to be able to move through different environments throughout their life history, so connections between different parcels can be important. And also, diversity tends to increase with the size of a patch," he says. "So, we find that larger, more continuous patches like riparian systems could be an area to make real, meaningful gains for farmland wildlife."