83 research outputs found

    Bird taxonomic and functional responses to land abandonment in wood-pastures

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    Wood-pastures are socio-ecological systems covering vast areas in Europe. Although used for grazing and production of various forest goods, wood-pastures harbour a rich biodiversity and are usually considered as High Nature Value Farmlands. However, socio-economic pressures are driving the transformation of these valuable landscapes from multi-functional, heterogeneous habitats to homogeneous areas through either intensification or land abandonment. We investigated how changes in management intensity influence the taxonomic diversity, functional diversity and functional composition of birds in these landscapes using generalized linear models. In contrast to taxonomic diversity, functional diversity decreased significantly towards shrub-dominated and less heterogeneous areas related to the abandonment of grazing and/or understory management practices. Grassland and generalist species, and associated guilds such as granivores, ground-nesters and ground-foragers are almost absent less managed areas. On the other hand, shrub-dominated areas favour forest species, particularly understory/canopy foragers and arboreal nesters, although the forest guild is still well-represented in actively managed, heterogeneous areas. Our results indicate the abandonment of wood-pasture management affects the prevalence of grassland and generalist species, leading to functional diversity loss and potentially reduced ecosystem functioning. We suggest non-intensive, active management is needed to maintain habitat heterogeneity and canopy openness, enhancing trait diversity in wood-pastures.Peer reviewe

    Small shrubby patches increase bird taxonomic and functional richness of wood-pastures

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    Wood-pastures are semi-natural systems that combine a grazed grassland with a tree layer. Shrubs are often controlled, mostly to improve grazing potential, resulting in a reduction of the available ecological niches. From a conservation perspective, it is thus important to identify management practices that counter this reduction. Our overall objective was to determine the value of small shrubby patches to increase the richness of wood-pasture bird communities. As study model we used Mediterranean oak wood-pastures in southern Portugal, locally known as montados. Birds and environmental variables were sampled in 50 m radius plots of wood-pasture with and without small shrubby patches (128‚Äď3748 m2, covering less than 0.5% of the study area), in winter (n‚ÄČ=‚ÄČ54) and spring (n‚ÄČ=‚ÄČ65). Species assemblages‚Äô composition changed between seasons, but in both seasons the assemblages in plots with and without patches were statistically different. Seven species were statistically associated to the presence of patches, in winter and spring, increasing the richness of the respective assemblages. A comparison of the functional composition of communities of patches and matrix revealed that patches increased richness of landscapes by boosting the presence of species with functional traits uncommon in the ecologically simplified matrix. Their presence is promoted by resources added by the patches (e.g. nesting sites, protection, food), but the ranges of individual birds in general extended well beyond the patches. This study demonstrated that the presence of few and small shrubby patches can significantly enrich the bird communities of wood-pastures, both taxonomically and functionally, indicating that promoting them is a cost-effective management measure for these valuable systems.info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersio

    Niche differences may reduce susceptibility to competition between native and non‚Äźnative birds in oceanic islands

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    Aim Few bird extinctions on oceanic island have been attributed to competition with non-native species, even though it might be an overlooked driver of biodiversity loss. We evaluate the potential competition between native and non-native island bird species, identifying species and island characteristics that enhance it and may promote future extinctions. Location Seventy-three (>100 km2) oceanic islands worldwide. Methods We compiled a species list for each island and used single-trait meta-analyses to assess differences between native and non-native species. Then, we used single-trait beta regression models to identify species traits linked to potential competition. Finally, we used a trait-based approach to calculate the potential competition between native and non-native species on each island and identify island characteristics linked to potential competition. Results Native bird species tended to be smaller forest dwellers, that were either carnivore, frugivore or insectivore, and that foraged in flight, in the canopy or at mid-height. In contrast, non-native birds tended to be open habitat granivores, that were either ground or unspecialized foragers. Potential competition tended to be higher for native species with typical non-native traits and forest-dwelling unspecialized non-native species. Potential competition between native and non-native birds was consistently higher in islands that were larger, had more non-native birds or were drier. Main conclusions Niche differentiation of native and non-native species may explain the scarcity of reported competition-driven extinctions since non-natives clearly tend to favour and are better adapted to anthropogenic environments. However, the few non-native birds that occur in native ecosystems may be problematic. The loss of native ecosystems coupled with the introduction of species that might outcompete native species may enhance the relevance of competition in future island extinctions.info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersio

    Current Knowledge and Conservation of the Wild Mammals of the Gulf of Guinea Oceanic Islands

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    Oceanic islands are usually difficult for mammals to colonize; consequently, the native mammal fauna is typically species-poor, often consisting of just a few species of bats. The oceanic islands of the Gulf of Guinea are no exception to this pattern. Still, the known mammal richness is relatively high for the small size of the islands. Out of a total of 13 native species, including 11 bats and 2 shrews, at least 7 species and 3 subspecies are single-island endemics. In addition to native species, at least 6 other wild mammals have been introduced to the islands purposely or accidentally by humans. Some of these are among the world’s most notorious invasive species and cause damage to native species, ecosystems, and humans. Predation by exotic species can threaten native island mammals, which are especially sensitive due to their small populations and limited ranges. These impacts are likely worsened by other threats, such as forest degradation and climate change, and a general lack of knowledge about the natural history of most species also hampers the implementation of conservation measures. Therefore, fostering further research on the endemic-rich mammal fauna of these islands is vital to ensure their persistence.info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersio

    Effectiveness of the European Natura 2000 network at protecting Western Europe’s agro-steppes

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    Assessing progress towards achieving conservation targets is a requirement for all countries committed to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Natura 2000 network is the largest protected area network in the world and was created to protect Europe‚Äôs threatened species and habitats, often requiring active management. This study assesses the effectiveness of areas classified under the EU Birds Directive at protecting Western Europe‚Äôs agro-steppes, the last remnants of suitable habitat for several endangered bird species. We quantify agro-steppe habitat change in the last 10 years using high-resolution aerial images of 21 Special Protection Areas and surrounding areas. The selected SPAs hold one third of the global population of great bustards Otis tarda , a flagship conservation species. Agro-steppe area losses occurred across all sites surveyed but were 45% lower inside Natura 2000 compared to non-protected areas. Natura 2000 sites still lost over 35 000 ha of agro-steppe habitat in 10 years, an area that could hold approximately 500 great bustards. These low yield farmlands are being converted predominately to permanent and irrigated crops. At the current rate of habitat conversion, agro-steppes could be reduced to 50% of the present area during the next century. Moreover, the greater conversions outside protected sites may transform the remaining agro-steppes into isolated ‚Äúislands‚ÄĚ with low population connectivity. Our study on agro-steppes illustrates the relevant contribution of Natura 2000 at protecting Europe‚Äôs key habitats, but also highlights crucial insufficiencies that still need to be addressed to achieve the CBD conservation targets and halt biodiversity loss

    An endemic‚Äźrich island through the eyes of children: Wildlife identification and conservation preferences in S√£o Tom√© (Gulf of Guinea)

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    Species that the public knows and is willing to protect often do not align with international conservation priorities. Assessing perceptions on wildlife is thus essential to guide conservation initiatives, especially in island developing states where native and introduced species often have contrasting values for biodiversity. We used a game to assess the ability of third class students in São Tomé Island (São Tomé and Príncipe, central Africa) to identify wildlife and their conservation preferences. Students correctly identified 28% of the animals shown. Children who were poorer, male or from rural schools were more likely to correctly identify species. Urban children were less successful identifying species endemic to São Tomé and Príncipe than rural children. Conservation preferences were not associated with species identification and instead were justified by subjective species-specific traits, such as attractiveness or profitability. Despite the low identification rates for endemic (10% correct identifications) and threatened birds (2%), children were keen on preserving endemic species, indicating that these might become effective flagships for the unique biodiversity of the island. These results illustrate the need to consider separately the attributes that affect knowledge and willingness to protect, and how both can be used to guide conservation strategies.info:eu-repo/semantics/publishedVersio

    Bird extinctions and introductions are causing taxonomic and functional homogenization in oceanic islands

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    Humans are quickly reshaping species assemblages through the loss and gain of species at multiple scales. Extinctions and introductions are non-random events known to be contributing to taxonomic homogenization. However, it is not yet clear if they also promote functional homogenization. Here, we assess whether extinctions and introductions are leading to taxonomic and functional homogenization of 64 oceanic island bird assemblages, belonging to 11 archipelagos. Based on island lists of extinct and extant, native and introduced species and on species traits, we use probabilistic hypervolumes in trait space to calculate functional beta-diversity before and after extinctions and introductions. Bird extinctions and introductions promoted taxonomic and functional homogenization on most oceanic islands. These results follow our expectations, considering previous studies on taxonomic homogenization, the predictable link between taxonomic and functional diversity, and the trait similarity of many introduced species, often adapted to anthropogenic habitats, linked to the non-randomness of bird introductions on islands. Taxonomic homogenization was more common across than within archipelagos, also corroborating previous studies describing stronger homogenization on islands that are further apart and thus had distinctive native assemblages. Surprisingly, the widespread loss of species with similar traits, namely large flightless birds, often led to functional differentiation across archipelagos. However, this differentiation effect tended to be offset by the homogenizing effect of introductions. Functional homogenization increases the vulnerability to global changes, by reducing the variability of responses to disturbance and thus the resilience of ecosystem services, posing a threat to human societies on islands. Our results highlight subtle variations in taxonomic and functional beta-diversity of bird assemblages in oceanic islands, providing important insights to allow a better assessment of how anthropogenic changes might alter ecosystem functioning, which is vital to develop effective long-term conservation strategies. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.Peer reviewe
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