Spatial ecology in a changing world

New article: Large scale forest change and bird dynamics

In this new article, Assu Gil and coworkers have been analysing bird change data and forest dynamics estimated from forest inventory data and conclude that forest maturation is currently driving forest bird distribution changes at the regional scale in Catalonia.

Processes derived from global change such as land-use changes, climate warming or modifications in the perturbation regime may have opposite effects on forest extent and structure with still unknown consequences on forest biodiversity at large spatial scales. In the present study, we aimed at determining forest dynamics associated with global change processes (forest spread, maturation and fire) that have driven the variation in forest bird distributions in Mediterranean forest ecosystems in recent years.

Forest bird distribution changes showed strong spatial patterns and appeared to be related to population processes occurring beyond sampling units. Forest maturation appeared as the most important driver of such changes because most of the studied species have a non-Mediterranean origin and are associated with more mature forests. Our results indicate that large-scale forest maturation and spread mainly due to land abandonment in Catalonia has overridden the potentially negative effects of fires on forest bird distributions and are currently driving changes in forest biodiversity patterns across the region.

Gil-Tena, A., Brotons, L. & Saura, S. 2009. Mediterranean forest dynamics and forest bird distribution changes in the late 20th century. Global Change Biology, 15:474-485