Opposing effects of agricultural intensification on two ecologically similar species

Lush, Lucy; Ward, Alastair I. and Wheeler, Philip (2014). Opposing effects of agricultural intensification on two ecologically similar species. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 192 pp. 61–66.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2014.03.048


Brown hares and rabbits are widely distributed in agricultural landscapes across the UK, occupy similar habitats and have considerable dietary overlap. However, as agriculture in the UK has intensified, hares have declined and become a species of conservation concern while rabbits have become an increasing pest. An intensive study of hares, rabbits and the dynamics of pastures over two grazing seasons was undertaken, in order to understand the environmental factors associated with hare and rabbit abundance at field level. Linear mixed models were used to assess the environmental variables, in terms of the structure, nutritional components and effects of livestock grazing that are associated with the abundance of the two species. The models revealed that hares were negatively associated with grazing intensity and plant diversity, whereas rabbits showed the strongest associations with nutritional content of pastures, in particular fat, nitrogen and fibre content in forage, as well as a positive association with short grass swards. The data suggest that, at the field-scale intensification of pasture use may have contributed to declines in hares and increases in rabbits.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions