A bird's eye view of farm size and biodiversity: The ecological legacy of the iron curtain

Frederik Noack*, Ashley Larsen, Johannes Kamp, Christian Levers

*Corresponding author for this work

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Agriculture is a major threat to global biodiversity. A common claim is that large-scale agro-industrial farming is mainly responsible for the biodiversity decline, while smaller family farms are more wildlife friendly. Here we leverage a natural experiment along the former inner German border to estimate the causal impact of farm size on biodiversity. We combine land cover data with bird diversity data to establish the mechanisms through which farm size affects bird diversity. Our main results show that the increase in farm size at the former inner German border reduces bird diversity by 15%. The results suggest further that the decline is the result of land cover simplification rather than land use intensification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1460-1484
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Journal of Agricultural Economics
Issue number4
Early online date16 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
For their helpful comments and discussion, we thank Amy Ando, Patrick Baylis, Julia Brewer, Olivier Deschenes, Eyal Frank, Sumeet Gulati, Claire Kremen, Tobias Kuemmerle, Anouch Missirian, Navin Ramankutty, and three anonymous reviewers. We further thank the thousands of volunteers of the German Common Bird Monitoring (CBBS) program as well as all eBird participants, without whom this project would not be possible. CL gratefully acknowledges support by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska‐Curie Grant Agreement No 796451 (FFSize). AL acknowledges the US National Science Foundation (DEB 2042526). The German Common Bird Monitoring (CBBS) is financially supported by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Agricultural & Applied Economics Association.


  • biodiversity
  • farm size
  • iron curtain


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