Diurnal habitat suitability for a Mediterranean steppeland bird,identified by Ecological Niche Factor Analysis

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Context. The negative effects of agricultural intensification and policies, use of pesticides, fertilisers and mechanisedharvesting on several populations of pseudo-steppe birds have increasingly required more detailed and effective habitatsuitability models. Distribution models of farmland species are prone to incur recordings of false absence data. EcologicalNiche Factor Analysis (ENFA) allows identification of environmental predictors of species distribution by using presencedata only.Aims. We quantified the diurnal habitat preferences and niche width of one steppe species, the stone curlew (Burhinusoedicnemus), with unfavourable conservations status in a Mediterranean area and reclassified a map with respect to habitatsuitability classes according to the resulting distribution model.Methods. Ecological Niche Factor Analysis was used with GIS cartography customised with habitat and anthropogenicvariables recorded during field surveys carried out in four study plots (~500 ha) and at different spatial scales.Key results. The stone curlew selected areas with low vegetation cover, such as fields following artichoke harvesting andtillage, close to rural buildings and unpaved roads. In contrast, the stone curlew avoided areas with high vegetation cover andareas highly disturbed by human-induced fires. The occurrence of natural vegetation was neither preferred nor avoided. Themost robust model was based on a large-scale analysis (200mfrom the bird location points), according to which the optimalarea for stone curlew distribution during its breeding season was restricted to 1% of the entire study area.Conclusions. Two uncorrelated factors, ‘marginality’ and ‘tolerance’, described the stone curlew’s niche in the area. Thefirst index indicated selection for habitats that were marginal with respect to those available in the area, whereas the secondindicated a species with a medium–wide environmental niche. In particular, the stone curlew occupied a much more restrictedniche (low tolerance) in relation to individual variables. The use of customised databases at a large scale of analysis was foundto more effectively reveal ecological requirements of this marginal and specialised species.Implications. Our results allowed us to indicate practical land management actions for the stone curlew, such asprevention of human-induced fires and increase of pastoral activities. Our results indicated a potentially positive role of littledisturbedservice roads along rural buildings in stone curlew distribution, which warrants further research. In addition, studiesare needed to verify the presence of an ecological trap in artichoke fields, their preferred habitat. As we showed for the stonecurlew, niche analyses conducted at a large scale using customised databases could greatly improve habitat suitabilitymodels of farmland species.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)152-162
Numero di pagine11
RivistaWildlife Research
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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  • ???subjectarea.asjc.2300.2308???


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