Considerable work has been done to investigate linkages between the production of rice (Oiyza sativa) and bird ecology and conservation. Rice is an extremely important crop globally and affects waterbirds in diverse ways. Rice fields are not substitutes for natural wetlands but are used by many species and can help mitigate the loss of natural habitats in areas where agriculture dominates. Most birds use rice fields primarily for foraging, but some—including rare species—also nest in rice. Field management affects birds in numerous ways, some of which have been studied in detail, but most of which have not. Increasing collaboration between researchers, farmers and agronomists provides opportunities to better understand how field management can be modified to increase the conservation value of fields without compromising the economic viability of farming. Such research would facilitate the development of well-designed agri-environment schemes and provide a solid basis for marketing “wildlife-friendly” rice products. Other major topics where future research is needed include: nesting and post-fledging success; availability and value of foods other than rice grain that are found in fields; importance of field edges and water delivery infrastructure; influence of landscape features; effects of rice farming on population dynamics; experimental studies of management activities, especially at large spatial scales, in tropical regions, and during the breeding season; and an improved understanding of how socio-economic factors influence the ecology and conservation of the wetland birds that use rice fields.
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Vol. 33 • No. sp1