A new paper by Julie Jedlicka who received her Ph.D. in Environmental Studies in June 2011, and her co-authors Russell Greenberg from the Smithsonian Institution and her major advisor Deborah Letourneau was accepted this month for publication in PLoS ONE.

"Avian Conservation Practices Strengthen Ecosystem Services in California Vineyards" combines issues of avian conservation for species that nest in oak woodlands and possible ecosystem services through predation on insect pests in agriculture.

California winegrape growers have been using nest boxes in their vineyards to encourage songbird conservation. Jedlicka investigated the effect of nest boxes in northern CA vineyards, with special attention to the insectivorous Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana). There were 50% more species of insectivorous birds and ten times more Western Bluebirds in vineyard areas with nest boxes compared to controls with no nest boxes.

The richness and abundance of omnivorous or granivorous bird species did not increase due to nest boxes, which is an important outcome, since some of these species forage opportunistically on grapes. Insects placed in the vineyard to measure avian foraging pressure were taken more often near nest boxes than in control areas.

Consequently the augmentation of insectivorous birds like the Western Bluebird in vineyards with nest boxes can strengthen ecosystem services to winegrape growers, illustrating a benefit of agroecological conservation practices.

Julie Jedlicka is currently an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at University of California Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.