Spatial ecology in a changing world

New article: Threatened bird species booms in burnt areas

Many farmland species are having bad times in Europe…but some are boosting in burnt areas. In this study with Swiss Colleagues from the University of Bern we analyse the habitat selection patterns of one of these species the Ortolan bunting in a recently burnt area in Catalonia.

The Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana is a long-distance migrant that has suffered major population declines across much of its European breeding range. In contrast to northern populations, which are bound to farmland, Mediterranean populations are largely confined to habitats subject to recurrent wildfires. Habitat selection of the Ortolan Bunting was assessed in a recently burnt area in Catalonia at two spatial scales: landscape and meso-scale.

Zero-inflated Poisson procedure was used to model the abundance of birds in relation to habitat variables. The most parsimonious landscape-scale models predicted the highest abundance on south-facing slopes, with a gradient above 10°. The most parsimonious meso-scale habitat model showed a positive effect of bare ground and regenerating oak (Quercus spp.), with predicted optima for abundance around 20-30% and 20% cover, respectively. There was a clear relationship between predicted abundance of the Ortolan Bunting and post-fire regenerating oak shrubs. South-facing, moderately sloping areas were favoured and bare ground was a key feature of species’ habitat.

A matrix combining patches of sparse oak shrubs and patches of bare ground appears to be the optimal breeding habitat in the Mediterranean. The maintenance or provision of similar habitat features, especially patches of bare ground, may prove crucial for the conservation of rapidly declining Ortolan Bunting populations on farmland across temperate Europe.

Espècies amenaçades en hàbitats agrícoles progressen adequadament en zones cremades

Moltes espècies de zones agrícoles estan experimental problemes en tota Europa…però algunes d’aquestes espècies estan augmentant les seves poblacions en zones afectades per grans incendis forestals. En aquest estudi amb col.legues suïssos de la University of Bern s’analitzen els patrons de selecció de l’hàbitat per una d’aquestes espècies, l’Ortolà en un incendi de la Catalunya central.

Menz, M.H., Brotons, L. & Arlettaz, R. 2009. Habitat selection by Ortolan Buntings Emberiza hortulana in post-fire succession in Catalonia: implications for the conservation of farmland populations. Ibis, 151:752-761.

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