Monitoring of farming landscapes

NIBIO uses systematic, repeat surveys to monitor farming landscapes.




Over the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in recording landscape change. Monitoring programmes have been established to measure the scope, direction and rate of change, and assess the consequences of changes for multiple interests, such as biodiversity, cultural heritage and recreation. The results can provide feedback for multiple sectors and policy domains. Political interests may change over time, but long-term monitoring demands long-term funding. This requires that monitoring programmes remain relevant and cost-efficient. In this paper, we document experiences from 20 years of the Norwegian Monitoring Programme for Agricultural Landscapes—the ‘3Q Programme’. We explain how data availability and demands for information have changed over time, and how the monitoring programme has been adapted to remain relevant. We also discuss how methods of presentation influence the degree of knowledge transfer to stakeholders, in particular to policy makers.


The decline in farmland birds observed throughout Europe during recent decades has attracted much attention. Agricultural intensification or land abandonment are commonly forwarded as key drivers. Several countries have established agri-environmental schemes (AES) to counter these negative trends among farmland birds. This paper reports a study of the relationship between land use and bird species in the agricultural landscape of Norway. The main objective was to investigate the effect of spatial heterogeneity and diversity of land use on total richness and abundance of farmland birds at a national level. Monitoring the distribution and abundance of birds is part of the Norwegian monitoring programme for agricultural landscapes. The monitoring programme is based on mapping of 1 × 1 km squares distributed across the entire agricultural landscape. Within these squares permanent observation points are established for bird monitoring. Detailed interpretation of aerial photographs provides the land classification. We tested the relationship between landscape metrics at different levels of land type detail and species richness and abundance of farmland and non-farmland birds. There was a positive relationship between species richness and abundance of farmland birds and agricultural area. For non-farmland birds the relationship was negative. Spatial heterogeneity of land use was a significant positive factor for both farmland and non-farmland species. High land type diversity was positive for farmland bird richness, but negative for abundance. Non-farmland bird richness was not affected by land type diversity, but abundance had a negative response. The results presented in this paper highlight the importance of a spatial heterogeneous landscape. However, we also found that land type diversity could negatively affect the abundance of both farmland and non-farmland birds. Our findings suggest a need for different management approaches depending on whether the aim is increased species richness or abundance. Achieving both aims with the same means might be difficult. We thus suggest a need for land use analyses before proper management strategies can be implemented.


Agricultural landscapes are products of farming activity in the past and present. They are everyday landscapes for many people and are important for outdoor recreation. Many plant and animal species find their habitat in these landscapes, and a high number of cultural heritage sites can also be found there. At the same time, agricultural landscapes are continuously subject to change. To ensure sufficient information on how these landscapes change, a national monitoring programme with the acronym “3Q” was initiated in 1998, to document status, continuity and change in agricultural landscapes in Norway. The Division of Survey and Statistics at NIBIO is responsible for the programme.