A resource-based modelling framework to assess habitat suitability for steppe birds in semiarid Mediterranean agricultural systems

Cardador L., De Caceres M., Bota G., Giralt D., Casas F., Arroyo B., Mougeot F., Cantero-Martiez C., Moncunill J., Butler S.J., Brotons L. (2014) A resource-based modelling framework to assess habitat suitability for steppe birds in semiarid Mediterranean agricultural systems. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
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Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092790

Abstract:

European agriculture is undergoing widespread changes that are likely to have profound impacts on farmland biodiversity. The development of tools that allow an assessment of the potential biodiversity effects of different land-use alternatives before changes occur is fundamental to guiding management decisions. In this study, we develop a resource-based model framework to estimate habitat suitability for target species, according to simple information on species' key resource requirements (diet, foraging habitat and nesting site), and examine whether it can be used to link land-use and local species' distribution. We take as a study case four steppe bird species in a lowland area of the north-eastern Iberian Peninsula. We also compare the performance of our resource-based approach to that obtained through habitat-based models relating species' occurrence and land-cover variables. Further, we use our resource-based approach to predict the effects that change in farming systems can have on farmland bird habitat suitability and compare these predictions with those obtained using the habitat-based models. Habitat suitability estimates generated by our resource-based models performed similarly (and better for one study species) than habitat based-models when predicting current species distribution. Moderate prediction success was achieved for three out of four species considered by resource-based models and for two of four by habitat-based models. Although, there is potential for improving the performance of resource-based models, they provide a structure for using available knowledge of the functional links between agricultural practices, provision of key resources and the response of organisms to predict potential effects of changing land-uses in a variety of context or the impacts of changes such as altered management practices that are not easily incorporated into habitat-based models. © 2014 Cardador et al.

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Using unplanned fires to help suppressing future large fires in mediterranean forests

Regos A., Aquilue N., Retana J., De Caceres M., Brotons L. (2014) Using unplanned fires to help suppressing future large fires in mediterranean forests. PLoS ONE. 9: 0-0.
Link
Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094906

Abstract:

Despite the huge resources invested in fire suppression, the impact of wildfires has considerably increased across the Mediterranean region since the second half of the 20th century. Modulating fire suppression efforts in mild weather conditions is an appealing but hotly-debated strategy to use unplanned fires and associated fuel reduction to create opportunities for suppression of large fires in future adverse weather conditions. Using a spatially-explicit fire-succession model developed for Catalonia (Spain), we assessed this opportunistic policy by using two fire suppression strategies that reproduce how firefighters in extreme weather conditions exploit previous fire scars as firefighting opportunities. We designed scenarios by combining different levels of fire suppression efficiency and climatic severity for a 50-year period (2000-2050). An opportunistic fire suppression policy induced large-scale changes in fire regimes and decreased the area burnt under extreme climate conditions, but only accounted for up to 18-22% of the area to be burnt in reference scenarios. The area suppressed in adverse years tended to increase in scenarios with increasing amounts of area burnt during years dominated by mild weather. Climate change had counterintuitive effects on opportunistic fire suppression strategies. Climate warming increased the incidence of large fires under uncontrolled conditions but also indirectly increased opportunities for enhanced fire suppression. Therefore, to shift fire suppression opportunities from adverse to mild years, we would require a disproportionately large amount of area burnt in mild years. We conclude that the strategic planning of fire suppression resources has the potential to become an important cost-effective fuel-reduction strategy at large spatial scale. We do however suggest that this strategy should probably be accompanied by other fuel-reduction treatments applied at broad scales if large-scale changes in fire regimes are to be achieved, especially in the wider context of climate change. © 2014 Regos et al.

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