Aizpurua O., Cantu-Salazar L., San Martin G., Biver G., Brotons L., Titeux N. (2015) Reconciling expert judgement and habitat suitability models as tools for guiding sampling of threatened species. Journal of Applied Ecology. : 0-0.LinkDoi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12515
Up-to-date knowledge on species distribution is needed for efficient biodiversity conservation and management decision-making. Implementing efficient sampling strategies to identify previously unknown locations of species of conservation-concern is therefore a key challenge. Both structured expert judgement and habitat suitability models may help target sampling towards areas where chances to find the species are highest. However, practitioners often object to the use of models and believe they do not result in better decisions than the subjective opinion of experts, thus potentially constraining an optimal use of available methods and information. To illustrate the potential of habitat suitability models for guiding sampling strategies, we evaluated and compared the ability of experts and models to identify important areas for the conservation of a bird species (Lanius collurio) in Luxembourg. We conducted extensive fieldwork to find as many unknown bird territories as possible according to three independent sampling strategies: (i) a sampling strategy based on structured expert judgement, (ii) a sampling strategy based on the predictions of a habitat suitability model and (iii) a general-purpose stratified random sampling strategy used as a baseline reference. Both the expert-based and the model-based sampling strategies substantially outperformed the general-purpose sampling strategy in identifying new species records. In addition, the model-based sampling strategy performed significantly better than the expert-based sampling strategy. Synthesis and applications. This study explicitly shows that habitat suitability models can efficiently guide field data collection towards suitable areas for species of conservation-concern. Results may facilitate the involvement of practitioners in the development of habitat suitability models with the objective of maximizing the robustness of modelling applications in conservation practice and management decision-making. © 2015 British Ecological Society.
Brotons L. (2015) Peer-review warning: System error, reviewers not found. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 13: 241-242.LinkDoi: 10.1890/15.WB.009
[No abstract available]
Caceres M.D., Martinez-Vilalta J., Coll L., Llorens P., Casals P., Poyatos R., Pausas J.G., Brotons L. (2015) Coupling a water balance model with forest inventory data to predict drought stress: The role of forest structural changes vs. climate changes. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. 213: 77-90.LinkDoi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2015.06.012
Mechanistic water balance models can be used to predict soil moisture dynamics and drought stress in individual forest stands. Predicting current and future levels of plant drought stress is important not only at the local scale, but also at larger, landscape to regional, scales, because these are the management scales at which adaptation and mitigation strategies are implemented. To obtain reliable predictions of soil moisture and plant drought stress over large extents, water balance models need to be complemented with detailed information about the spatial variation of vegetation and soil attributes. We designed, calibrated and validated a water balance model that produces annual estimates of drought intensity and duration for all plant cohorts in a forest stand. Taking Catalonia (NE Spain) as a case study, we coupled this model with plot records from two Spanish forest inventories in which species identity, diameter and height of plant cohorts were available. Leaf area index of each plant cohort was estimated from basal area using species-specific relationships. Vertical root distribution for each species in each forest plot was estimated by determining the distribution that maximized transpiration in the model, given average climatic conditions, soil attributes and stand density. We determined recent trends (period 1980-2010) in drought stress for the main tree species in Catalonia; where forest growth and densification occurs in many areas as a result of rural abandonment and decrease of forest management. Regional increases in drought stress were detected for most tree species, although we found high variation in stress changes among individual forest plots. Moreover, predicted trends in tree drought stress were mainly due to changes in leaf area occurred between the two forest inventories rather than to climatic trends. We conclude that forest structure needs to be explicitly considered in assessments of plant drought stress patterns and trends over large geographic areas, and that forest inventories are useful sources of data provided that reasonably good estimates of soil attributes and root distribution are available. Our approach coupled with recent improvements in forest survey technologies may allow obtaining spatially continuous and precise assessments of drought stress. Further efforts are needed to calibrate drought-related demographic processes before water balance and drought stress estimates can be fully used for the accurate prediction of drought impacts. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.
Cardador L., Brotons L., Mougeot F., Giralt D., Bota G., Pomarol M., Arroyo B. (2015) Conservation Traps and Long-Term Species Persistence in Human-Dominated Systems. Conservation Letters. : 0-0.LinkDoi: 10.1111/conl.12160
Major conservation efforts in human-dominated systems, such as farmland, have focused on the establishment of subsidies and compensation promoting low-impact management practices to reverse the impacts of conservation threats in the short term (reactive approaches). In this study, we discuss how a different way of framing conservation policy (proactive approaches) could lead to fundamentally different long-term conservation outcomes. We define proactive approaches as those not necessarily including measures directly addressing the threats affecting biodiversity, but promoting transitions from current scenarios in which species are threatened to new states in which the threat is no longer present. We illustrate reactive and proactive approaches using as a case study two contrasting conservation frameworks for a vulnerable farmland bird, the Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) in northeastern Spain. This example shows that reactive approaches can lead to "conservation traps," which we defined as situations where the application of biologically focused actions in response to conservation problems results in an unsustainable need to perpetuate the implementation of those actions. Our aim is to offer a fresh perspective on biodiversity conservation in human-dominated systems and to stimulate alternative, more holistic approaches in conservation promoting transitions to new states not requiring long-term active and costly conservation action. © 2015 The uthors.
Cardador L., Caceres M.D., Giralt D., Bota G., Aquilue N., Arroyo B., Mougeot F., Cantero-Martinez C., Viladomiu L., Rosell J., Casas F., Estrada A., Alvaro-Fuentes J., Brotons L. (2015) Tools for exploring habitat suitability for steppe birds under land use change scenarios. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 200: 119-125.LinkDoi: 10.1016/j.agee.2014.11.013
In this study, scenario development based on changes in key socioeconomic drivers (namely, the prices of conventional food products, rural development policies and agro-environmental regulations) was used together with resource-based habitat suitability models to develop plausible visions of future pathways of agricultural land use and evaluate their potential consequences on conservation of target species. Analyses focused on three steppe bird species in a protected Natura 2000 area, located in the Iberian Peninsula. Our results showed that changes in land use composition under different scenarios can have important effects on habitat suitability, but that the size of those effects would vary depending on species-specific requirements and spatial distribution of land use changes. Positive effects of some new crops in the study area (grain legumes and aromatic plants) on studied species were suggested by our analyses. A positive effect of aggregation of land use changes was also found for two of the studied species. Scenario building and forecasting using transferable inter-disciplinary knowledge can therefore improve our capability to anticipate future changes and provide timely advice towards long-term conservation planning in agricultural systems. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
Ceauşu S., Carver S., Verburg P.H., Kuechly H.U., Hölker F., Brotons L., Pereira H.M. (2015) European wilderness in a time of farmland abandonment. Rewilding European Landscapes. : 25-46.LinkDoi: 10.1007/978-3-319-12039-3_2
Wilderness is a multidimensional concept that has evolved from an aesthetic idea to a science-based conservation approach. We analyze here several subjective and ecological dimensions of wilderness in Europe: Human access from roads and settlements, impact of artificial night light, deviation from potential natural vegetation and proportion of harvested primary productivity. As expected, high wilderness in Europe is concentrated mainly in low primary productivity areas at high latitudes and in mountainous regions. The use of various wilderness metrics also reveals additional aspects, allowing the identification of regional differences in the types of human impact and a better understanding of future modifications of wilderness values in the context of land-use change. This is because farmland abandonment in the next decades is projected to occur especially at intermediate wilderness values in marginal agricultural landscapes, and thus can release additional areas for wild ecosystems. Although the subjective wilderness experience will likely improve at a slower pace due to the long-term persistence of infrastructures, the ecological effects of higher resource availability and landscape connectivity will have direct positive impacts on wildlife. Positive correlation between megafauna species richness and wilderness indicate that they spatially coincide and for abandoned areas close to high wilderness areas, these species can provide source populations for the recovery of the European biota. Challenges remain in bringing together different views on rewilding and in deciding the best management approach for expanding wilderness on the continent. However the prospects are positive for the growth of self-regulating ecosystems, natural ecological processes and the wilderness experience in Europe. © The Author(s) 2015.
Duane A., Pique M., Castellnou M., Brotons L. (2015) Predictive modelling of fire occurrences from different fire spread patterns in Mediterranean landscapes. International Journal of Wildland Fire. 24: 407-418.LinkDoi: 10.1071/WF14040
Fire regimes are shifting worldwide because of global changes. The relative contribution of climate, topography and vegetation greatly determines spatial and temporal variations in fire regimes, but the interplay of these factors is not yet well understood. We introduce here a novel classification of fires according to dominant fire spread pattern, an approach considered in operational firefighting, to help understand regional-scale spatial variability in fire regimes. Here, we studied whether climate, topography and fuel variables allowed the prediction of occurrences from different fire spread patterns in Catalonia, NE Spain. We used a correlative modelling approach based on maximum entropy methods, and examined, through variation partitioning, the relative contribution of different factors on determining their occurrence. Our results accurately predicted the occurrence of different fire spread patterns, and the results were consistent when temporal validation was conducted. Although forest fuel factors made a higher contribution to the occurrence of convective fires, wind-driven fires were strongly related to topographic and climate factors. These findings may have a strong impact on investigations into how fire regimes may be projected into the future under forecast global change as they suggest that future environmental changes may affect different fire spread patterns in an idiosyncratic manner. © IAWF 2015.
Gil-Tena A., De Caceres M., Ernoult A., Butet A., Brotons L., Burel F. (2015) Agricultural landscape composition as a driver of farmland bird diversity in Brittany (NW France). Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 205: 79-89.LinkDoi: 10.1016/j.agee.2015.03.013
In agriculture-dominated landscapes, agricultural intensification and associated landscape homogenization have caused large declines in farmland biodiversity. This study was aimed at determining how agricultural landscape composition drives community diversity and composition of farmland birds in the characteristic bocage landscape in Brittany (NW France) on a broad scale. Using bird atlas data from the region (2004-2008; 10. ×. 10. km), we analyzed the importance of different components of agricultural landscape composition (types of crops, amount of semi-natural covers and elements, and artificial lands) on the alpha diversity and beta diversity of farmland birds of different functional groups, defined depending on the degree of farmland specialization and ecological requirements.Agricultural landscape composition features explained a small amount of variation in alpha and beta diversity, particularly for specialists and residents. Cereal crops were negatively correlated with alpha diversity of all the functional groups considered whereas rotational grasslands were negatively associated with migrant and insectivorous alpha diversity. Although shrublands are not common in Brittany, they were positively associated with the occurrence of some species and particularly with alpha diversity of all the functional groups but specialists and residents. At the spatial grain of analysis, community composition was mainly driven by a gradient of alteration of the bocage.To conclude, we claim for the consideration of regional idiosyncrasies in far-reaching planning schemes to prevent future biodiversity loss in agriculture-dominated landscapes due to agricultural intensification. In view of the observed large-scale trends gathered from atlas data analysis and the small amount of explained variation, we also advocate for subsequent finer scale bespoke surveys to determine the biodiversity status associated with the valuable bocage agricultural landscape. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.
HERRANDO S., BROTONS L., ANTON M., PARAMO F., VILLERO D., TITEUX N., QUESADA J., STEFANESCU C. (2015) Assessing impacts of land abandonment on Mediterranean biodiversity using indicators based on bird and butterfly monitoring data. Environmental Conservation. : 0-0.LinkDoi: 10.1017/S0376892915000260
In Europe, and particularly in the Mediterranean Basin, the abandonment of traditional land-use practices has been reported as one of the main causes of decline for open-habitat species. Data from large-scale bird and butterfly monitoring schemes in the north-east Iberian Peninsula were used to evaluate the impact that land abandonment has had on local biodiversity. Species’ habitat preferences, along a gradient from open to forest habitats, were significantly related to population trends: for both birds and butterflies, open-habitat species showed the most marked declines while forest species increased moderately. Multi-species indicators for tracking the impact of land abandonment on bird and butterfly populations were developed using habitat preference estimates and population trend indices. The patterns shown by these indicators were in line with the changes occurring in forest cover in the monitoring sites. This study reveals that multi-species indicators based on monitoring data from different taxonomic groups (here, birds and butterflies) may usefully be employed to track impacts of environmental change on biodiversity. Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2015
Regos A., D'Amen M., Titeux N., Herrando S., Guisan A., Brotons L. (2015) Predicting the future effectiveness of protected areas for bird conservation in Mediterranean ecosystems under climate change and novel fire regime scenarios. Diversity and Distributions. : 0-0.LinkDoi: 10.1111/ddi.12375
Aim: Global environmental changes challenge traditional conservation approaches based on the selection of static protected areas due to their limited ability to deal with the dynamic nature of driving forces relevant to biodiversity. The Natura 2000 network (N2000) constitutes a major milestone in biodiversity conservation in Europe, but the degree to which this static network will be able to reach its long-term conservation objectives raises concern. We assessed the changes in the effectiveness of N2000 in a Mediterranean ecosystem between 2000 and 2050 under different combinations of climate and land cover change scenarios. Location: Catalonia, Spain. Methods: Potential distribution changes of several terrestrial bird species of conservation interest included in the European Union's Birds Directive were predicted within an ensemble-forecasting framework that hierarchically integrated climate change and land cover change scenarios. Land cover changes were simulated using a spatially explicit fire-succession model that integrates fire management strategies and vegetation encroachment after the abandonment of cultivated areas as the main drivers of landscape dynamics in Mediterranean ecosystems. Results: Our results suggest that the amount of suitable habitats for the target species will strongly decrease both inside and outside N2000. However, the effectiveness of N2000 is expected to increase in the next decades because the amount of suitable habitats is predicted to decrease less inside than outside this network. Main conclusions: Such predictions shed light on the key role that the current N2000 may play in the near future and emphasize the need for an integrative conservation perspective wherein agricultural, forest and fire management policies should be considered to effectively preserve key habitats for threatened birds in fire-prone, highly dynamic Mediterranean ecosystems. Results also show the importance of considering landscape dynamics and the synergies between different driving forces when assessing the long-term effectiveness of protected areas for biodiversity conservation. © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
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