Spatial ecology in a changing world

New article: Fires and changes in bird distribution of an open habitat bird

Wildfires and the expansion of threatened farmland birds
In a new article in the Journal of Applied Ecology we show that the recent impact of wildfires in the Mediterranean is starting to have major effects on the distribution of open habitat birds decreasing elsewhere in Europe.

It has been argued that wildfires are one of the major agents involved in landscape transformation in many European regions and their impact is expected to increase in the near future. Despite the recognized impact of fire on wildlife at a local scale, we lack information on the species responses to fire at larger spatial scales.
In this study, we used the ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana to evaluate the potential effects of wildfires on open-habitat species distribution. In contrast to most European countries, this farmland species has experienced a consistent range expansion during the last decades in Catalonia (northeast Iberian peninsula). Distribution data of the species collected at different time periods allowed us to test the role of fires in determining range expansions at a regional scale, and to evaluate the importance of dispersal constraints on distribution changes. Analyses of distribution data from 1975–1983 and 1999–2002 showed a consistent expansion of the ortolan bunting in Catalonia.
Overall, our results support the hypothesis that wildfires, especially those affecting open woodlands or shrubby areas, play a critical role in the ecology of the ortolan bunting and have contributed to the recent expansion of the species in Catalonia. Furthermore, we have shown that colonization appears to be limited, not only by the availability of new burnt habitat but also by specific dispersal constraints. We suggest that, for several European threatened species associated with open habitats, burnt areas may partially compensate for the widespread loss and deterioration of farmland habitat, opening new management opportunities for their conservation.
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Incendis forestals i l’expansió dels ocells agrícoles amenaçats
En aquest nou article a la revista anglesa Journal of Applied Ecology es mostra com el recent impacte dels incendis en una zona Mediterrània com Catalunya està començant a tenir efectes major sobre la distribució d’espècies d’ocells d’hàbitats oberts que estan veient com les seves poblacions disminueixen a d’altres indrets d’Europa.
Més info en aquest video.


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