Suarez-Seoane, S., Osborne, P. E. and Baudry, J.
Responses of birds of different biogeographic origins and habitats to agricultural land abandonment in northern Spain.
Biological Conservation, 105, (3), . (doi:10.1016/S0006-3207(01)00213-0).
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Agricultural land-use changes in Europe have taken two opposing directions: towards agricultural intensification or land abandonment. While in the Mediterranean region land abandonment is a main cause of avian diversity decline, in northern Europe species diversity often increases with successional age. We examined the hypothesis that the biogeographic origin of the avifauna determines whether abandonment brings conservation benefits or detriment by studying the bird community of agricultural land in northern Spain, at the boundary of the Mediterranean and Eurosiberian regions. Using a successional gradient, we examined landscape-scale effects of agricultural abandonment on birds during the breeding and non-breeding seasons.The trend in avian diversity with successional stage differed little between Mediterranean and Eurosiberian species in winter. In the spring, however, there was an increase in diversity with stage in abandonment for Eurosiberian birds but not for Mediterranean species. Analysis of individual species showed a preference among Eurosiberian birds for more wooded habitats whereas Mediterranean birds preferred open areas and shrubland.The introduction of agricultural policies to geo-political units that do not coincide with eco-regions cannot be assumed to bring uniform conservation benefits. In the Mediterranean region, agricultural mosaics of low intensity cultivation maintain the highest diversity of priority bird species. Agricultural land abandonment should not be assumed to benefit conservation.
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