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Farmland birds are reported to decrease strongly in numbers throughout Europe over the last 30 years. Agricultural land abandonment is considered amongst the main drivers for the negative population trends. This process has been studied widely in Western Europe but the evidence for Central and Eastern Europe is limited. We examined the differences in the bird community structure among several secondary succession stages after land abandonment (since the 1940s) in central Bulgaria. Our results demonstrated that avian species richness and diversity decreased with the secondary succession, while no significant difference in the overall bird abundance was observed. The shifts in bird community pattern were mainly related to grassland specialists, which decreased in species richness, diversity and abundance along the succession gradient. Birds of European Conservation Concern were also negatively affected by the woody vegetation overgrowth. We think that in order to stop and reverse the loss of farmland bird diversity in the low-productive mountainous regions of Bulgaria, the rural sustainable development should be reinforced by implementation of agri-environmental and other policy measures that encourage effectively smallscale extensive farming.
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Acta zool. bulg., 67 (2), 2015: 223-234
*Corresponding author
Terrestrial Ecology and Behaviour
Research Article
Over the last 30 years, most of the farmland birds
have declined in Europe (PECBMS 2013). Land
abandonment and agricultural intensication are
considered the main drivers for the negative trends
in the farmland bird populations (He n l e et al. 2008,
St o a t e et al. 2009, Bu t l e r et al. 2010). While ag-
ricultural intensication is considered a more seri-
ous problem in Western Europe (Do n a l D et al. 2001,
2006, Be n t o n et al. 2002, Bá l D i , Ba t á r y 2011a),
land abandonment is of main concern in Central
and Eastern Europe (re i f et al. 2008, ni k o l o v
2010, Sa n D e r S o n et al. 2013, Ra d o v i ć et al. 2013,
Za k k a k et al. 2014). After the fall of the communist
regimes in 1990, most of the countries in the region
passed through a period of major market reforms.
In Bulgaria, this process caused economic and ag-
ricultural crisis, which in turn led to high levels of
depopulation and agricultural land abandonment in
the regions, where agriculture was the main occu-
pation. Both livestock breeding and crop production
were affected, especially in the mountain regions,
where the abandonment process locally began even
earlier (in the 1970s). This affected farmland bird
populations, which were reported to decline, even
Farmland Birds and Agricultural Land Abandonment:
Evidences from Bulgaria
Sylvia Dyulgerova1, Mladen Gramatikov2, Hristo Pedashenko1, Kiril Vassilev1, Vassiliki Kati3,
Stoyan C. Nikolov4*
1 Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 2 Gagarin Street, 1113 Soa, Bulgaria
2 GeoMarine Centre Ltd., 45 Solun Street, Soa 1680, Bulgaria
3 Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Patras, Seferi 2, 30100 Agrinio, Greece
4Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds / BirdLife Bulgaria, Yavorov Complex, Bl. 71, Ent. 4, P.O. Box 50, 1111 Soa,
Bulgaria; E-mail:
Abstract: Farmland birds are reported to decrease strongly in numbers throughout Europe over the last 30 years.
Agricultural land abandonment is considered amongst the main drivers for the negative population trends.
This process has been studied widely in Western Europe but the evidence for Central and Eastern Europe
is limited. We examined the differences in the bird community structure among several secondary suc-
cession stages after land abandonment (since the 1940s) in central Bulgaria. Our results demonstrated
that avian species richness and diversity decreased with the secondary succession, while no signicant
difference in the overall bird abundance was observed. The shifts in bird community pattern were mainly
related to grassland specialists, which decreased in species richness, diversity and abundance along the
succession gradient. Birds of European Conservation Concern were also negatively affected by the woody
vegetation overgrowth. We think that in order to stop and reverse the loss of farmland bird diversity in the
low-productive mountainous regions of Bulgaria, the rural sustainable development should be reinforced
by implementation of agri-environmental and other policy measures that encourage effectively small-
scale extensive farming.
Keywords: Agricultural management, common agricultural policy, farmland biodiversity, secondary succession
Dyulgerova S., M. Gramatikov, H. Pedashenko, K. Vassilev, V. Kati, S. C. Nikolov
when some of the Eastern European countries joined
the European Union (EU) and implemented agricul-
tural eco-friendly reforms (re i f et al. 2008, Bá l D i ,
Ba t á r y 2011b, Sa n D e r S o n et al. 2013).
Land abandonment fosters secondary succes-
sion and allows regeneration of the native shrubland
and woodland vegetation, which results in loss and
fragmentation of the open habitats at the landscape
scale (fa r i n a 1997, Si r a m i et al. 2007, 2008). These
changes in vegetation structure lead to alterations
in the availability of breeding sites and food supply
for birds as well as in predation pressure (fu l l e r ,
Go u G H 1999). The mentioned changes are bene-
cial for shrubland and woodland birds but negative
for grassland specialists (Po n S et al. 2003, ve r H u l S t
et al. 2004, re i f et al. 2013). However, there is evi-
dence that the biogeographic origin of the avifauna
may determine whether land abandonment brings
conservation benets or detriments (Su á r e Z –Se o a n e
et al. 2002). Some studies in Central Europe dem-
onstrated higher bird species richness in abandoned
habitats compared to managed habitats (la i o l o et
al. 2004, ve r H u l S t et al. 2004, re i f et al. 2013). In
Eastern Europe the processes that occur in bird as-
semblages along the secondary succession gradient
can initially lead to an increase in the species rich-
ness, when shrubland and ecotone species are added
to the species composition of open habitats (ni k o l o v
et al. 2011, Za k k a k et al. 2013). The woody vegeta-
tion overgrowth at late-succession stages gradually
leads to long-term loss of avian diversity, particularly
affecting the grassland birds (Za k k a k et al. 2013,
Mi k u l i ć et al. 2014). In the Balkan region, many
farmland birds of conservation concern are associat-
ed with low intensity farming in mountainous or low
productivity areas (ka t i , Se k e r c i o G l u 2006, ni k o l o v
2010, ni k o l o v et al. 2011), which, in the last few
decades, have been prone to land abandonment due
to the economic depression and rural depopulation.
Bulgaria is a good example of the above sce-
nario. Since 1989, land abandonment has been ob-
served all over the country and according to the Rural
Development Programme of the country for 2007-
2013, the low productivity mountainous regions have
been mostly affected. This trend remained even after
the massive subsidization of agriculture due to the ac-
cession of Bulgaria to the EU in 2007 (via the Common
Agricultural Policy, CAP): only 58.4% of the arable
land in Bulgaria (concentrated in three main regions)
is cultivated (aG r o S t a t i S t i c S , 2011). The results from
the Common Bird Monitoring in the country showed
that the common bird index has a negative trend since
2005, with the most severe decline reported for farm-
land birds (Hr i S t o v , Pe t k o v 2013).
To improve knowledge about the effects of land
abandonment on farmland birds in Eastern Europe,
where deciency of evidence was reported (Bá l D i ,
Ba t á r y 2011a), we tested a hypothesis that the ag-
ricultural land abandonment in Bulgaria leads to
reduction of avian diversity. We also examined the
differences in bird community structure (species
richness, abundance and Shannon diversity) and
composition among gradient secondary successional
stages over a period of 50 years.
Material and Methods
Study area and sampling plots
The study area is part of the Fore-Balkan region
in Central Bulgaria (Fig. 1), where rural depopula-
tion and resulting land abandonment are widespread
(aG r o S t a t i S t i c S 2011). It is located in the Balkan
mixed forest ecoregion of the temperate deciduous
forest vegetation zone (ol S o n et al. 2001) and rang-
es within an altitude of up to 1000 m.
We used sampling plots of 1 x 1 km squares,
based on the European Environmental Agency
(EEA) grid (
maps/data/ee a-reference- grids-2#tab-gis-dat a).
The sampling plots, which corresponded to the fol-
lowing criteria, were considered suitable for the
study (Zakkak et al. 2013): (i) 100% covered by
agricultural land used in the 1940s; (ii) currently
with less than 30% of urban area and/or water
bodies (to avoid potential bias due to bird species
tied to settlements or wetlands); (iii) the distance
between centres of two adjacent sampling plots
is more than 4 km (to avoid bird data spatial au-
tocorrelation). We compared the land cover from
orthophoto imagery from 2011 with the land cover
from aerial photographs of the same region from
the past (1945-1946). A total of 64 sampling plots
were found to meet the criteria. Out of those, we
randomly selected 18 sampling plots (Fig. 1) dis-
tributed equally in three vegetation structure (VS)
categories according to the degree of woody vege-
tation (both shrubs and forest) overgrowth, indicat-
ing succession rate (Sirami et al. 2007, vallecillo
et al. 2008, Zakkak et al. 2013): VS1: < 60%; VS2:
60-90%; VS3: >90%. There was no signicant dif-
ferences in the mean altitude among the studied
vegetation structure categories (Kruskal-Wallis
ANOVA, H2,15 = 0.42, p = 0.81).
Land cover mapping and interpretation
We used data from the orthophoto imagery
from 2011 (Ministry of Regional Development da-
Farmland Birds and Agricultural Land Abandonment: Evidences from Bulgaria
tabase unpublished), with a grain size of 1 m as
the spatio-thematic source for land cover mapping
and interpretation. Only aerial features limited to a
minimal mapping unit of 100 m² were digitalised as
discrete landscape elements and the maximum width
of linear elements, such as hedgerows, was set to 15
m. By applying a standard scale level of 1:1500 we
could clearly identify and delineate landscape ele-
ments from the image data, which we classied by
22 land cover types (i.e. habitats), displaying the
current state of land use, respectively, agricultural
abandonment (Appendix 1).
The habitat type cover changed signicantly
along the land abandonment gradient, with arable
land, grasslands (pastures and meadows), articial
land and orchards signicantly decreasing (down to
0%), while shrubland and woodland signicantly
increasing (up to 100%) across the vegetation suc-
cession classes. The orchards, which did not present
a signicant differentiation along the gradient, and
the wetlands and bare ground, which were present
in less than ve plots (overall cover < 5%), were not
considered in the analysis (Fig. 2).
Bird sampling
Birds were recorded using the point count meth-
od (Gi B B o n S , Gr e G o r y 2006). Initially, nine point
count stations (PCS) were located systematically
in each sampling plot, placed 300 m apart to avoid
double counting of birds. The following PCS were
excluded from the study: the PCS located closer than
150 meters from rivers, busy roads or settlements;
those that are inaccessible due to physical factors of
relief, fences or others; and those, in which activities
disturbing birds (such as logging, hunting or agricul-
tural activities) were present during the bird counts.
As a result, each sampling plot contained at least six
PCS suitable for the study and the total number of
PCS considered in the analysis was143 for 2011 and
145 for 2012.
The PCS were visited during the greatest bird
activity period: in the morning (05:00 – 11:00 a.m.),
during the height of breeding season (June) in 2011
and in 2012. At each PCS, birds were counted within
a radius of 100 m, based on visual and acoustic reg-
istrations of individuals during two consecutive 5
min sessions (ra l f et al. 1995, Bo n t H o u x , Ba l e n t
Data analyses
We examined the bird communities using the
following parameters (kr e B S 1999): (i) Species
richness calculated from the means of maximum
number of species recorded in all PCS in each sam-
Fig. 1. Distribution of the sampling plots (N = 18) in the studied area
Dyulgerova S., M. Gramatikov, H. Pedashenko, K. Vassilev, V. Kati, S. C. Nikolov
pling plot; (ii) Abundance – calculated from the
means of maximum number of individuals counted in
all PCS in each sampling plot; (iii) Shannon-Wiener
diversity index. For the species richness, data from
10-min count periods were used to avoid overlook-
ing of cryptic and rare species, while for the index
of abundance and Shannon-Wiener diversity index,
data from 5-min intervals were used to avoid double
counting of the same individuals (Gi B B o n S , Gr e G o r y
2006). Raptors, aerial feeders (swallows, swifts and
bee-eaters) and nocturnal species (e.g. Corncrake
Crex crex) were excluded from the analysis because
the point-count method is not appropriate to assess
their abundance (Si r a m i et al. 2007). Moreover,
records of y-overs, as well as data collected in bad
weather conditions (visibility < 200 m; rain; wind >
2 Beaufort) were not considered in the analysis. As
there were no signicant differences of studied bird
community parameters between years (Wilcoxon
Matched Pairs Test: T = 62.5, p = 0.32 and T = 63.0,
p = 0.33, respectively for the species richness and
abundance), data were pooled for the analyses.
Birds were classied in functional groups ac-
cording to their main habitat: grassland, shrubland,
woodland or other type of habitat (ia n k o v 2007),
as well as species from the European Conservation
Concern (SPEC) list (Bi r D li f e in t e r n a t i o n a l 2004;
see Appendix 2). Separately, we analysed the bird-
habitat associations of all the species (n = 21) re-
corded in both years of the study, in more than ve
sampling plots per year and with total abundance of
20 or more individuals.
Because data were not normally distributed
and did not approach the normal distribution even
after transformation, non-parametric tests (Kruskal-
Wallis ANOVA and Spearman-Rank Correlation test)
were used. The statistical analysis was conducted
by STATISTICA 7.0 (St a t So f t 2004). The ordina-
tion analysis was applied using CANOCO 4.5 (t e r -
Br a a k , Sm i l a u e r 2002). The length of gradient in a
dataset was checked by Detrended Correspondence
Analysis (DCA). The bird associations along the
studied landscape gradients were determined by
Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA). The
signicance of canonical axes was assessed by the
Monte Carlo Permutation test.
Bird community structure along the secondary
succession gradient
We recorded 61 bird species (3587 individuals), of
which an important proportion of 30% was SPEC
(Appendix 2). The dominant group was woodland
Fig. 2. Habitat cover across the three vegetation succession classes (VS1 : <60%, VS2: 60-90%, VS3: >90% of woody
vegetation cover)
Farmland Birds and Agricultural Land Abandonment: Evidences from Bulgaria
birds (66%), including a small proportion of SPEC
species (23%). Grassland birds accounted for a small
proportion of species richness (11%), but included
the largest proportion of SPEC species (56%).
Shrubland (16%) and other birds (7%) included also
quite an important number of SPEC species (30%
and 50%, respectively).
Bird species richness and Shannon-Wiener di-
versity index signicantly decreased along the veg-
etation succession gradient (VS1 to VS3), when all
bird species were considered; however, the overall
abundance did not differ signicantly among the
vegetation succession classes (Table 1). The diversi-
ty of grassland and SPEC species (species richness,
Shannon-Wiener diversity index, and abundance)
also signicantly and strongly decreased along the
vegetation succession gradient. There were no sig-
nicant differences in the shrubland and woodland
bird diversity among the three vegetation succession
classes (Table 1).
Bird-habitat associations
The main gradients in the landscape, which in-
uenced the bird species composition, were related to
secondary succession (transition from semi-natural
grasslands and arable lands to woody vegetation) and
the structure of farmlands (from arable lands to rural
mosaics; Fig. 3). Accordingly, there were two main
bird assemblages: (i) related to open landscapes (ara-
ble lands and semi-natural grasslands) and (ii) woody
vegetation and rural mosaics. The early-successional
stages were dominated by grassland (Corn Bunting
Emberiza calandra and Skylark Alauda arvensis) and
shrubland specialists (Blackbird Turdus merula, Red-
backed Shrike Lanius collurio, Common Whitethroat
Sylvia communis; Fig. 4a,b), while the latest suc-
cessional stage was dominated by woodland birds
(Common Chafnch Fringilla coelebes, Common
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, Great tit Parus ma-
jor, Robin Erithacus rubecula, etc.; Fig.4c).
Shifts in bird community structure
Our results demonstrated that the overall species rich-
ness and Shannon-Wiener diversity index decreased
along the succession gradient, while the overall bird
abundance remained stable. Similar results were re-
ported for the extensively grazed and abandoned up-
land pastures in Western Bulgaria (ni k o l o v 2010).
These results could be explained with the similarity
in the ecological capacity of the natural habitats to
host as much avian diversity as farmland environ-
ment (na v a r r o , Pe r e i r a 2012, Gu i l H e r m e , mi G u e l
Pe r e i r a 2013). Previous works (e.g. Sa n t o S 2000,
la i o l o et al. 2004, Si r a m i et al. 2008, ni k o l o v et al.,
2011, Za k k a k et al. 2013) reported an increase in spe-
cies richness and diversity in the successional stages
just after abandonment due to an inux of shrubland
and ecotone species to the community, while open
habitat species still persist there. A gradual decrease
in the species richness and Shannon-Wiener diver-
sity index with vegetation succession in this study
could be explained by the fact, that the study did not
include the intensively managed farmland as start-
ing point of the succession. Such intensive agricul-
tural land use (on one extreme end of the gradient) is
considered the main driver of the widespread farm-
land bird declines observed in Europe (Do n a l D et al.
2001, 2006). At the same time, the late-successional
habitats as scrubland and woodland (on the other
extremity of the gradient) were reported to support
high avian species richness in Central and Western
Europe (Gu i l H e r m e , mi G u e l Pe r e i r a 2013, re i f et
al. 2013).
We found that the diversity of grassland birds
and SPEC birds was affected negatively by the post-
abandonment vegetation succession. This result sup-
ports the view that the secondary succession through
the agricultural land abandonment is the reason for
the grassland bird diversity loss, as it is already
Table 1.Differences in bird community structure among three-scale vegetation succession gradient (VS1 : <60%, VS2:
60-90%, VS3: >90% of woody vegetation cover), based on Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA test (K-W), and relation between
studied bird community parameters and woody vegetation cover, based on Spearman correlation coefcient (rho).*:
p<0.05, **:p<0.01, ***:p<0.001, ns: p>0.05.
Bird group Species richness Shannon index Abundance
K-W rho K-W rho K-W rho
All species 6.25* - 0.36* 13.34** - 0.54* 5.71 ns -
SPEC species 18.77*** - 0.77* 16.74*** -0.75* 16.74*** -0.73*
Grassland birds 20.87*** - 0.81* 9.98** - 0.59* 17.87*** - 0.77*
Shrubland birds 3.36 ns - 4.27 ns - 0.36 ns -
Woodland birds 3.38 ns - 1.96 ns - 0.83 ns -
Dyulgerova S., M. Gramatikov, H. Pedashenko, K. Vassilev, V. Kati, S. C. Nikolov
known for the Mediterranean region (Pr e i S S et al.
1997, fa r i n a 1997, Sa n t o S 2000) and recently de-
scribed for the Balkans (ni k o l o v 2010, Za k k a k et
al. 2013, Mi k u l i ć et al. 2014). Actually, the early-
successional stages in the present study, with which
these groups of birds were associated, were similar
to the heterogeneous agricultural landscape under
traditional extensive farming, known to be benecial
for farmland biodiversity (ka t i , Se k e r c i o G l u 2006,
ka t i et al. 2009, ni k o l o v et al. 2011).
Effects of secondary succession at species level
The common bird species composition along
the succession gradient showed the expected initial
prevailing of open habitat species (e.g. Corn Bunting,
Red-backed Shrike and Skylark), displaced at late-
successional stages by shrubland (e.g. Blackbird
and Common Whitethroat) and ecotone species
(e.g. Common Chiffchaff and Robin), and nally,
predominated by woodland species (e.g. Common
Chafnch, Great Tit and Song Thrush).
Species respond in an idiosyncratic way to the
habitat types analysed, given their different degree of
specialisation (fu l l e r et al. 2004). Some open habi-
tat species (e.g. Skylark, Corn and Ortolan Buntings)
respond negatively to land abandonment due to
habitat loss through the turnover in late-successional
stages (va l l e c i l l o et al. 2008), and negative for-
est edge effects (fo n D e r f l i c k et al. 2013). Others
(e.g. Woodlark, Red-backed Shrike and Common
Whitethroat) are more tolerant to secondary suc-
cession due to ‘complementation’ type response,
being favored by the coexistence of both farmland
and shrubland landscapes (ka t i , Se k e r c i o G l u 2006,
tS i a k i r i S et al. 2009, Za k k a k et al. 2013) and should
be expected to persist longer in the changing habitat.
In the present study, most of the predominant
species at late-successional stages (e.g. Blackbird,
Common Chafnch, Great Tit, and Robin) were
generalists (ka t i , Se k e r c i o G l u 2006, ia n k o v 2007),
while relatively more SPEC species were tied to
early-successional stages and responded negatively
to agricultural land abandonment. The results are in
agreement with the work of re i f et al. (2013) and
Za k k a k et al. (2013), showing that early-successional
stages host bird communities with the highest habitat
specialisation and threat level (but see Ra d o v i ć et al.
2013, Mi k u l i ć et al. 2014). Therefore, the popula-
tion declines of the common bird species in Bulgaria
(Hr i S t o v , Pe t k o v 2013) tied to open habitats (arable
lands and grasslands) and found to respond nega-
tively to secondary succession (e.g. Skylark, Red-
backed Shrike, Ortolan and Corn Buntings), should
be further investigated in relation to the nationwide
abandonment of arable lands in the low-productivity
mountainous regions, besides the other operating
Conservation implications
Conservation implications for biodiversity vary
since the arable land abandonment results from mul-
tiple drivers and is not per se a positive or negative
process (Be i l i n et al. 2014). Extensive grazing in the
former hilly and mountainous cultivations has been
proposed by some authors (ni k o l o v 2010, ni k o l o v
et al. 2011, Za k k a k et al. 2013) as an alternative
solution to maintain open landscape structure and
open-land farmland birds. Under appropriate zona-
tion regime, this type of management has been sug-
gested as an efcient measure also for sustaining
vegetation diversity in open-grassland and mid-suc-
cessional grassland communities in the Balkan up-
lands (va S S i l e v et al. 2012). Nevertheless, grazing is
not an adequate solution in all cases, as many of the
farmland bird species are tied to arable land rather
Fig. 3. CCA biplot graph of bird species and main habi-
tat types. Canonical axes were statistically signicant
(Monte Carlo permutation test, F = 1.48, p = 0.03) and the
model explained 89.6% of data variability. Bird species
are indicated as triangles (see Appendix 2 for acronyms).
Habitat variables are indicated as arrows: Woody – forests
and shrubs; Arable – arable lands; HedgeORrural mo-
saics (hedges and orchards); Urban – roads and articial
structures; Grassland – meadows and pastures
Farmland Birds and Agricultural Land Abandonment: Evidences from Bulgaria
than to pastures only (ni k o l o v et al. 2011, Za k k a k
et al. 2013). Shrub-clearing (Bo c c a c c i o et al. 2009)
and logging in former agricultural land (Za k k a k
et al. 2013) have been also promoted to maintain
open spaces in the Balkan context. Based on the as-
sumption that bird communities can adapt to land-
use changes derived from farmland abandonment,
Gu i l H e r m e , mi G u e l Pe r e i r a (2013) argued that rewil-
ding may be a suitable management option for many
European mountain areas. Indeed, at metapopulation
level, an animal species can temporarily persist (i.e.
can have a low local extinction rate) even after se-
vere habitat fragmentation or after a sharp decrease
in habitat quality (Si r a m i et al. 2008). However,
the results from the present study clearly indicated
a decrease in the species richness, abundance and
diversity of grassland birds, while a simultaneous
opposite trend in the shrubland and woodland birds
was not observed. Therefore, at least for the studied
region, rewilding cannot be considered an appropri-
ate compensation method for the farmland bird di-
versity loss. Most of the conservation implications
Fig. 4. Dominant structure of bird communities in the studied successional stages (a) VS1: <60%, (b) VS2: 60-90%,
and (c) VS3: >90% of woody vegetation cover (see Appendix 2 for bird species acronyms)
Dyulgerova S., M. Gramatikov, H. Pedashenko, K. Vassilev, V. Kati, S. C. Nikolov
for reversing the negative effects of agricultural land
abandonment on birds are related to maintenance of
extensive traditional farming and livestock rearing
within rural mosaics (ka t i et al. 2009, ni k o l o v et
al. 2011, Za k k a k et al. 2013, He r Z o n et al. 2014),
which fully corresponds to the agricultural manage-
ment and habitat conguration of the studied area
in the past (unpublished data from questionnaires of
old people and aerial photographs from 1945-1946,
collected during the present study).
Land abandonment is more strongly inuenced
by socio-economic factors, such as farming subsi-
dies and land reforms, than the characteristics of
the land itself (al c a n t a r a et al. 2013). Therefore,
the low productive mountainous regions in Bulgaria
need appropriate management, not only for the ben-
et of biological diversity, but also for the sake of
quality of life of the rural communities. The latter
is particularly important, as the rural poverty and
low standard of living tied to small scale extensive
farming cannot be promoted only on the grounds of
their association with high nature conservation-val-
ue farmland (mccr a c k e n et al. 1997). An integrated
approach to agricultural, environmental and social
policies for such areas is, therefore, highly recom-
mended (la i o l o et al. 2004). Similarly to the results
from Greece (Za k k a k et al. 2013) and from Croatia
(Mi k u l i ć et al. 2014), this study suggests that these
policies could be developed and implemented at
the Balkan rather than national level, at least for
the EU member states or candidate member states.
They may include promotion of extensive farming,
establishment of an adequate market system for lo-
cal products, and subsidies for both extensive culti-
vation and grazing in order to enhance the income
of agricultural activities in remote mountain areas
(Za k k a k et al. 2013).
Acknowledgements: This study was conducted under the
AGRALE project (Sub-project ERA 164/04) funded by SEE-
ERA.NET PLUS scheme. We would like to thank Thomas Wrb-
ka, Andreja Radović, Spase Shumka, Michael Kuttner, Stefan
Schindler, and Mirjan Topi, for their expertise and fruitful dis-
cussions, as well as Dimitar Zarev and Vladimir Petrov for their
assistance in bird data collection. Irina Herzon, Riho Marja and
Pavel Zehtindzhiev provided valuable comments on an earlier
draft of the manuscript. Penka Tzekova proofread the paper and
improved the English.
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Appendix 1. Land cover types (i.e. habitats) description
Land Cover Type Description
Arable Land (AL) Grain, forage crops, root crops
Meadow (ME) No bare soil, uniform texture, traces of mowing
Pasture (PA) Obvious signs of pastoral use like trampling
Orchard (OR) Fruit tree plantation
Vineyard (VY) Vineyards
Coarse grassland (CGR) Extensively used grasslands (including fallow lands), showing a coarse texture
Heterogeneous grassland (HGR) Extensively used grasslands (including fallow lands), showing a heterogeneous structure
Shrublands (SHR) Shrubby vegetation (> 75 % shrub cover)
Broad-leaved forest (BLFO) Forest with < 20 % coniferous trees
Coniferous forest (CFO) Forest with < 20 % broad-leaved trees
Mixed forest (MFO) Forest with > 20 % broad-leaved and coniferous trees
Open forest (OFO) 30 - 50 % tree cover
Farmland Birds and Agricultural Land Abandonment: Evidences from Bulgaria
Land Cover Type Description
Small woodlot (WL) All forest types < 1,500 m²
Articial surface (AS) Built up areas, incl. settlements, parking spaces, extraction sites, etc.
Bare surface (BAR) Bare rock or soil, eroded areas
Baulk (BA) Field margins, ridges, embankments
Burnt surface (BUR) Burnt areas, especially forests and shrublands
Hedge (HD) Hedgerows of shrubs and/or trees
Road (RO) Sealed, gravel or dirt roads
Sparsely vegetated areas (SVA) < 50 % vegetation cover (all types)
Standing waterbody (WBSN) Lakes, ponds, water reservoirs
Streaming waterbody (WBSR) Rivers, streams, channels
Appendix 2. Bird species, overall abundance, habitat preference, and conservation status.
G: Grassland birds, S: Shrubland birds, W: Woodland birds, O: Other birds (ia n k o v 2007). SPEC 1: Species in Europe
of global conservation concern, SPEC2: Species, whose global population is concentrated in Europe, with unfavour-
able conservation status in Europe, SPEC3: Species, whose population is not concentrated in Europe, with unfavour-
able conservation status in Europe (Bi r D l i f e in t e r n a t i o n a l 2004)
Bird species Code Abundance Habitat Conservation status
Aegithalos caudatus Aegcau 7 W -
Alauda arvensis Alaarv 134 G SPEC 3
Anthus trivialis Anttri 19 W -
Carduelis cannabina Carcan 3 G SPEC 2
Carduelis carduelis Carcar 4 W -
Carduelis chloris Carchl 10 W -
Certhia brachydactyla Cerbra 8 W -
Coccothraustes coccothraustes Coccoc 40 W -
Columba palumbus Colpal 17 W -
Corvus corone Corcor 2 W -
Coturnix coturnix Cotcot 13 G -
Crex crex Crecre 5 G SPEC 1
Cuculus canorus Cuccan 59 W -
Cyanistes caeruleus Cyacae 40 W -
Dendrocopos major Denmaj 28 W -
Dendrocopos minor Denmin 5 W -
Dendrocopos syriacus Densyr 1 W -
Dryocopus martius Drymar 7 W -
Emberiza calandra Embcal 376 G -
Emberiza citrinella Embcit 125 W -
Emberiza hortulana Embhor 115 S -
Emberiza melanocephala Embmel 2 S -
Erithacus rubecula Erirub 173 W -
Ficedula semitorquata Ficsem 1 W SPEC 2
Fringilla coelebs Fricoe 293 W -
Garrulus glandarius Gargla 78 W -
Hippolais pallida Hippal 4 S SPEC 3
Jynx torquilla Jyntor 10 W SPEC 3
Appendix 1. Continued
Dyulgerova S., M. Gramatikov, H. Pedashenko, K. Vassilev, V. Kati, S. C. Nikolov
Bird species Code Abundance Habitat Conservation status
Lanius collurio Lancol 209 S SPEC 3
Lanius senator Lansen 1 S SPEC 2
Lullula arborea Lularb 24 G SPEC 2
Luscinia megarhynchos Lusmeg 117 W -
Motacilla ava Mota 9 G -
Muscicapa striata Musstr 3 W SPEC 3
Oriolus oriolus Oriori 28 W -
Parus lugubris Parlug 4 W -
Parus major Parmaj 187 W -
Parus montanus Parmon 3 O -
Passer domesticus Pasdom 42 O SPEC 3
Passer montanus Pasmon 2 O SPEC 3
Phasianus colchicus Phacol 5 O -
Phoenicurus ochruros Phooch 1 S -
Phylloscopus collybita Phycol 283 W -
Phylloscopus sibilatrix Physib 12 W SPEC 2
Phylloscopus trochilus Phytro 5 W -
Picus canus Piccan 3 W SPEC 3
Picus viridis Picvir 18 W SPEC 2
Poecile palustris Poepal 9 W -
Sitta europaea Siteur 30 W -
Streptopelia turtur Strtur 21 W SPEC 3
Sturnus vulgaris Stuvul 18 W SPEC 3
Sylvia atricapilla Sylatr 124 W -
Sylvia borin Sylbor 2 W -
Sylvia communis Sylcom 140 S -
Sylvia curruca Sylcur 3 S -
Sylvia nisoria Sylnis 16 S -
Troglodytes troglodytes Trotro 9 W -
Tudus merula Turmer 498 S -
Turdus philomelos Turphi 158 W -
Turdus viscivorus Turvis 12 W -
Upupa epops Upuepo 12 W SPEC 3
Total 61 3587
Appendix 2. Continued
... Conversely, birds more closely associated with open and semi-open land-use types such as agricultural land and abandoned fields, despite significantly contributing to fine-scale species richness, were those experiencing the most evident declines, and consequently were more likely to go locally extinct. Such negative trends are probably linked to the fast replacement of these land-use types with urban areas due to human demographic expansion (i.e., infilling), as well as to the development of wooded areas that follow land abandonment, as also evident at broader scales (Suárez-Seoane et al. 2002;Dyulgerova et al. 2015). Similarly, the range expansion of forest birds seems to be a widespread phenomenon in urban areas (Malher and Lesaffre 2007;Evans et al. 2009;Murgui 2014). ...
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Context Urbanization and its associated impacts on biodiversity are increasing globally. There is a need to enhance our understanding of species responses to inform strategies for sustainable urbanization. Objectives Three extensive bird monitoring campaigns took place over the last three decades in the city of Naples, Italy, providing a comprehensive longitudinal dataset to analyse occurrence trends of urban birds. We aimed to assess both species-specific and assemblage-level changes in urban birds according to land cover dynamics. Methods We extracted bird data for the periods 1990–95, 2000–05, and 2014–18, and explored the spatial and temporal relationships between bird presence/avian assemblage composition, and land cover variation. Results The species richness of breeding birds remained stable over time, despite a notable species turnover, influenced by changes in the species’ key land cover classes. Species associated with forest and urban land cover tended to colonise the area, while those dependent on abandoned and cultivated areas decreased or went locally extinct. Birds changed their degree of dependence upon their key habitat type over time, as species from marginal and open habitat types needed larger amounts of habitat to persist within the area, while forest species showed an opposite trend. Conclusions Habitat-driven changes in avian assemblages within the urban landscape led to an increase in forest-associated species, and a decrease in birds associated with declining habitat types. Our findings may inform urban planning to promote more wildlife-friendly cities, which for our study area should prioritise open and marginal habitats.
... No significant differences in the overall species richness and evenness of bird communities were shown along the land abandonment gradient, but there were differences in the abundances of particular bird guilds, such as farmland, forest and "other" birds (Mikulic et al., 2014). The general trend was towards an increase of forest-dwelling bird species at the expense of farmland birds (Dyulgerova et al., 2015;Verhulst et al., 2004). The densities of rare and threatened birds were usually lower on abandoned land compared to managed farmland (Kamp et al., 2018;Verhulst et al., 2004). ...
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Vineyards are semi-natural, human-modified ecosystems where the extent of natural elements is determined primarily by the type of management and by the abandonment rate. In this study, we analyzed bird assemblages in 40 vineyard plots in six wine-growing regions of Slovakia. We examined bird communities on managed and abandoned vineyards to identify possible patterns. Environmental and spatial predictors of species richness and abundance were analyzed using partial redundancy analysis (pRDA) and a generalized additive model (GAM). Bird communities were influenced by both environmental and spatial factors. As expected, elevation explained most of the variation in bird assemblages. Tree coverage was found to be more important than the vineyard abandonment rate in explaining the observed variability. Only a portion of the variance in the species data reported by pRDA was accounted for by the difference in vineyard abandonment degree. Our results show that the species richness of all birds was positively correlated to vegetation density (captured by NDVI). Herb and shrub cover had less effect on bird species richness than tree cover and the presence of traditional agricultural vineyard landscapes. However, shrub density emerged as a key explanatory factor for the abundance of habitat specialists. Our study shows that, depending on whether the goal is to promote the diversity and abundance of farmland or non-farmland bird species, different conservation biology approaches should be used. Increasing the landscape diversity and avoiding large vineyard abandonment are necessary if we are to stem the decline of valuable farmland species. Keywords
... The few studies that focused on bird functional group-level abundance or species richness in abandoned farmlands mainly dealt with two groups: forest and open-land species (Sirami et al. 2008;Zakkak et al. 2015; but see Katayama et al. 2015). It is widely acknowledged that abandoned areas may be preferable for forest species (Dyulgerova et al. 2015;Regos et al. 2016) if tree regeneration follows farmland abandonment. However, the responses of open-land species may be more accurately understood if divided into two groups: bare-ground species and grassland species. ...
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Abandoned farmland area has been expanding globally for decades. Studies showed that conservation value of abandoned farmland has differed among studies and regions, and thus is difficult to predict. However, predicting the effects of farmland abandonment on biodiversity remains vital to the development of appropriate conservation strategies. Here, we compared the species-, community-, and functional group-level habitat suitability of abandoned farmland for birds by comparison with active farmland (pasture, cropland, and rice paddy) and natural wetland on Hokkaido, Japan, over a study area of 400 km × 500 km. Results differed markedly between functional groups. The abundance and species richness of grassland species in abandoned farmland were higher than that in active farmland, and comparable to that in wetland. In contrast, abundance and richness of bare-ground species was highest in active farmland. For most species, interactive effects between climate variables and abandoned farmland were not significant, suggesting a consistent habitat suitability of abandoned farmland irrespective of varied climatic conditions. Our results suggest that abandoned farmland plays an important role as habitat for grassland and forest species at large scales; farmland abandonment provides a valuable alternative habitat for species whose primary habitats have been lost to agricultural expansion. Especially, abandoned farmland in warmer areas in Hokkaido would represent a potential mitigation to the negative effects of wetland loss. A functional group approach synthesizes varied species-level responses and allows for a comprehensive understanding of the habitat suitability of abandoned farmland. Adopting this approach will contribute to establishing appropriate conservation strategies.
... Il fenomeno di ricolonizzazione di aree aperte disboscate in passato, detta "successione secondaria", non è mai un ritorno all'effettivo ambiente forestale primario, sia in termini vegetazionali che in composizione di specie (Amici et al. 2013;Assini et al. 2014;De Frenne et al. 2011;Koch & Jurasinski 2015;Lundberg et al. 2017) Questa ulteriore trasformazione del territorio, all'apparenza naturale e favorevole alla biodiversità, è però una grave minaccia per ecosistemi di cui l'uomo è stato fautore e che ospitano un gran numero di specie, animali e vegetali, specializzate e incapaci di vivere in ambiente di bosco chiuso (De Frenne et al. 2011). In letteratura ci sono molti esempi che descrivono l'impatto negativo delle successioni secondarie su specie animali (Coturnice nel appennino settentrionale (Rippa et al. 2011), altri uccelli in zone rurali abbandonate della Bulgaria (Dyulgerova et al. 2015), insetti ortotteri (Gröning et al. 2007) e piante (Dachtylorhiza incarnata (Schrautzer et al. 2011). Nell'allegato I della direttiva Habitat (EUROPEE 1992), che elenca gli "habitat naturali di interesse comunitario la cui conservazione richiede la designazione di aree speciali di conservazione" sono riportati anche diversi ambienti detti "seminaturali" che necessitano dell'azione umana per essere mantenuti (e.g. ...
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... Likewise, Cluster 7, exhibits special interest in the relation between land abandonment and some bird communities in Eastern Europe. Some conclusions indicated that new land use management and conservation policies needed to be developed which focused on land abandonment areas (Mikulić et al., 2014) and rural sustainable development should be supported to encourage effective small scale extensive farming (Dyulgerova et al., 2015). ...
The scientific production on rural depopulation has grown in recent years. However, a global picture of the research carried out on this topic does not exist. The aim of this study is to identify the worldwide trends in rural depopulation scientific production over time in the main levels of analysis: sources, authors and documents. A bibliometric analysis was developed to analyse a final sample of 1150 articles published between 1979 and 2018. In order to develop the analysis, bibliometrix R-Tool was used and the metadata of two databases (WoS and Scopus) was retrieved and merged. Results show two major areas of co-citation networks; a poor network of collaboration between countries with some highlighted interaction; an author collaboration network with close groups of knowledge and two main themes resulting from a co-word analysis. The main conclusion is that rural depopulation is not yet a solid field of research and the most important themes identified are related to specific geographical areas. However, international collaborations are growing, new trends appearing, and other related fields are expressing greater interest in rural depopulation, which could indicate the preceding stage to an eventual consolidation of the theme. This finding can assist future research in this or related fields by providing a worldwide overview of rural depopulation research over time.
... Woodland species increased in all landscape types, whereas shrubland species increased only in mixed landscapes. In the eastern Mediterranean, forest encroachment following land Mediterranean Forests · 337 abandonment at local scales did not strongly influence bird community structure (Mikulić et al. 2014;Dulgerova et al. 2015), although increases in diversity and abundance of forest-dwelling species have been reported (Zakkak et al. 2014). When examined at a regional cross-national scale, such as in the Balkan Peninsula, agricultural land abandonment has a negative effect on overall bird diversity, but it significantly increases forest bird abundance (Zakkak et al. 2015). ...
... et al., 2013; Benayas et al., 2007;Dyulgerova et al., 2015) and climate conditions into account (e.g.,Jiguet et al., 2010). We use the following land uses according to the CORINE land cover nomenclature as priority farmland habitats for birds: grassland, forest edge, and heterogeneous agricultural areas (agricultural land with areas of natural vegetation -trees, shrubs, and hedgerows) (Table 1). ...
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This paper assesses the effects of agricultural payments on changes in farmland bird diversity in Slovenia. Diversity was measured by Shannon index, while the impacts were estimated with the first-difference estimator on panel data for municipalities with and without special protection areas for birds. The effects of agricultural payments on farmland biodiversity require that the balance of financial instruments be taken into account when the agricultural policy is being drafted. The effects of payments in municipalities with and without special protection areas indicate the need to consider the landscape perspective and adapt schemes to landscape type while preparing the national agricultural policy.
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The recession of agriculture in Russia from approximately the mid-2000s changed to an increase, which was accompanied by a reversion to intensive technologies; market transition to cultivation of quick payback crops (potatoes, rapeseed, sunflower) and raising pigs and poultry instead of cattle and the transition from grazing of cattle to an indoor keeping system. The rates of this increase are not equal in different economic sectors and regions of European Russia. It is more pronounced in the Black Soil zone and in the southern part of European Russia, as well as in some of regions in the southern Non-Black Soil zone. These changes have been particularly evident during the past decade and entail changes in the crop structure and development of new areas of agriculture in some regions and are determined both by socio-economic factors and current climate changes. In general, the present-day trend in the development of agriculture is that pastures and most hayfields are becoming unnecessary, whereas the demand for arable fields is increasing. Modern agriculture intensification is different from the intensification of the mid-20th century, since it takes place under conditions when large areas are still abandoned and therefore becoming more overgrown. As a result a considerable polarization of bird habitats has formed in European Russia with vast perennial abandoned lands that are already unsuitable for breeding of typical grassland species alternating with increasingly intensively cultivated fields.
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The study analyzes the effectiveness of protected areas in Serbia presently as well as in the future, based on the representation of suitable habitats and centers of diversity for 116 common species of birds, selected on the basis of 11 criteria. Nationally protected areas, Important Bird and Biodiversity areas (IBAs) and networks formed by overlapping these two types of protected areas have been evaluated separately. Suitable habitats of the species in the study were determined by species distribution modeling using the MaxEnt approach, and the distribution models were projected to four different climate change scenarios in future (year 2050). The IBA network proved to be significantly more effective for the protection of habitats of studied species and centers of their diversity, compared to the network of nationally protected areas, and a similar situation is projected for the future. Both types of protected areas on average covered a relatively small percentage of suitable habitats for most species (10.4% in nationaly protected areas, 21.9% in IBA) and meet conservation goals only for a small number of species (11 for nationaly protected areas, 37 for IBA). Diversity centers for species in the study are relatively poorly represented within all three networks (9.8% for nationaly protected areas and 25.4% for IBA). Protected areas did not show significantly higher effectiveness for the conservation of priority species and their diversity. Nationaly protected areas and the IBA network in Serbia have a significantly better coverage of habitats and centers of diversity for forest species and species of rocky habitats, cliffs and gorges, while suitable habitats and centers of diversity for breeding birds of farmlands, settlements and aquatic habitats are very poorly represented. Habitats of breeding birds of lowland farmlands are particularly poorly represented within protected natural assets and the IBA network, and this measure does not meet the conservation goals for this group of birds. Differences in the effectiveness of protected areas for breeding birds of various habitat types will generally increase in the future, due to the anticipated range decrease for most forest species that will withdraw to the better conserved mountainous areas, whereas range of the majority of breeding birds of farmland and aquatic habitats will be expanded to unprotected lowland areas. For some of the species, mostly birds of hill and mountain forests and other natural habitats, the main conservation strategy implies precise boundaries extension of the current protected areas with management directed towards preserving natural habitats and reducing the utilization of resources. On the other hand, for most of the farmland and grassland species, especially in the lowlands, an effective strategy would be to define completely new and spacious protected areas oriented towards maintaining a favorable regime for management and landuse. The study demonstrates that there are great possibilities of using non-systematically collected data from professional and amateur ornithologists, for application in species distribution modeling, but also emphasizes the need to launch extensive programs for systematic inventory, mapping and monitoring of common bird species.
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The recession of agriculture in Russia approximately from mid 2000s changed to an increase, accompanied by the reversion to intensive technologies, market transition to cultivation of quick payback crops (potatoes, rapeseed, sunflower) and raising pigs and poultry instead of the cattle; transition from grazing of cattle to indoor keeping system. The rates of this increase are not equal in different economic sectors and regions of European Russia. It is more pronounced in the Black Soil zone and in the south of European Russia as well as in some of regions in the south of Non-Black Soil zone. These changes have been particularly evident during the last decade and resulted in changes of the crop structure and development in some regions new for them directions of agriculture. They are determined both by socio-economic factors and current climate changes. In general, the nowaday trend of agriculture development is that pastures and most hayfields are becoming irrelevant, whereas the demand for arable fields is increasing. Modern agriculture intensification is different from the intensification of the mid 20th century, as large areas are still abandoned and therefore getting more overgrown. As a result the considerable polarization of bird habitats formed in European Russia exhibited splitting into extensive abandoned lands, of low suitability for nesting by typical grassland species, and into increasingly intensively cultivated fields.
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Land abandonment is a widespread phenomenon in agricultural systems, especially in former communist countries of Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Moreover, Croatia was affected by acts of war which enhanced the depopulation of marginal areas impelling further land abandonment. Agricultural landscapes in Croatia are highly parcelled with various proportions of forest habitats due to traditional smallholder farming systems. Secondary successions as a consequence of land abandonment affect farmland birds that are among the most endangered bird species in Europe. We examined bird communities along a habitat gradient in heterogeneous agricultural landscapes. We used the share of woody vegetation cover as a proxy measure for land abandonment that we classified in four classes. Our results showed no significant Shannon Wiener Index differences of bird communities along the land abandonment gradient. However, there were differences in abundances when we examined bird guilds such as farmland, forest and "other" birds separately. However, the conservation value of each of the four land abandonment classes did not show significant differences. We extracted single bird species such as the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) as potential indicator species for the four examined land abandonment levels. With these four species we successfully modelled the distribution of the recorded bird assemblages at the plot level along the four vegetation succession stages. We emphasized the need to develop new and integrative land use management concepts for areas affected by land abandonment in order to formulate sound conservation policy.
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The abandonment of less productive agricultural land on the one hand and intensification and concentration of parcels on the other are the main characteristics of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that Croatia is going to enforce when entering the EU. Due to demographic changes and the economic transition in Croatia as a consequence of war activities in 1990es, abandonment of substantial parts of the agricultural lands occurred. We investigated two habitat types in a protected area (50, 650 ha) in the continental part of the country: arable land and pastures. Both habitat types were formed and maintained by the agricultural activities and suffered from partial abandonment of production and maintenance. Data on bird communities were obtained during the breeding season in 2010, by a standard point count method designed in the way to avoid autocorrelation in data. Data was collected at 63 point-count stations and a total of 1447 individuals from 70 species were recorded during the study. Habitat characteristics were gathered through geographic information system (GIS) on the basis of CORINE Land cover for the country from several layers like database of habitat types and derivates of digital elevation model. We found that bird community structure was primarily associated with presence/abandonment of agricultural land use (traditional low intensity management, i.e. grazing and crops, vs. abandonment of these types of management) and habitat type, and that structure of bird communities of the same habitat type differs due to different management intensity. Land abandonment mostly influenced specialist bird species tied to pastures with significantly higher abundance in grazed pastures than in abandoned ones. However, the conservation value (detected according SPEC value of the species) of pastures still was not significantly different due to suitability of overgrown pastures on extremely wet year as 2010 for Acrocephalus species. Changes in bird community structure in arable lands had different pattern from those in pastures showing more rapid changes in structures of the pastoral communities after abandonment that is the. Finally, we emphasise on the urgent need for a national wide monitoring program for farmland birds in the whole country.
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Agricultural land abandonment is one of the main drivers of land use change, leading to various responses of farmland ecological communities. In an effort to better understand the effect of agricultural land abandonment on passerine bird communities, we sampled 20 randomly selected sites [1 km x 1 km] in remote Greek mountains, reflecting an abandonment gradient, in terms of forest encroachment. We sampled 169 plots using the point count method of fixed distance (47 passerine species), and we investigated bird diversity and community structure turnover along the gradient. We found that grazing intensity has a beneficial effect hampering forest encroachment that follows progressively land abandonment. Habitat composition changes gradually with forests developing at the expense of open meadows and heterogeneous grasslands. Forest encroachment has a significant negative effect on bird diversity and species richness, affecting in particular typical farmland and Mediterranean shrubland species. Birds form five distinct ecological clusters after land abandonment: species mostly found in pinewoods and cavity-dwelling species, species that prefer open forests forest edges or ecotones, species that prefer shrubland or open habitats with scattered woody vegetation, Mediterranean farmland birds that prefer semi-open habitats with hedges and/or woodlots and generalist forest-dwelling or shrubland species. We extracted a set of 22 species well representing the above ecological communities, as a new monitoring tool for agricultural land use change and conservation. We suggest that the maintenance of rural mosaics should be included in the priorities of agricultural policy for farmland bird diversity conservation.
The populations of farmland birds in Europe declined markedly during the last quarter of the 20th century, representing a severe threat to biodiversity. Here, we assess whether declines in the populations and ranges of farmland birds across Europe reflect differences in agricultural intensity, which arise largely through differences in political history. Population and range changes were modelled in terms of a number of indices of agricultural intensity. Population declines and range contractions were significantly greater in countries with more intensive agriculture, and significantly higher in the European Union (EU) than in former communist countries. Cereal yield alone explained over 30% of the variation in population trends. The results suggest that recent trends in agriculture have had deleterious and measurable effects on bird populations on a continental scale. We predict that the introduction of EU agricultural policies into former communist countries hoping to accede to the EU in the near future will result in significant declines in the important bird populations there.
Die lange Geschichte des menschlichen Einflusses auf die nördlich-gemäßigten Landschaften hat ein Mosaik von Sukzessionsstadien geschaffen, das von geschlossenen Wäldern bis zu offenen Grünländern reicht. Verschiedene Arten haben sich demzufolge an verschiedene Habitate angepasst, und es ist interessant herauszufinden, wie sich diese Unterschiede in der Artenzusammensetzung zwischen verschiedenen Sukzessionsstadien auf Unterschiede hinsichtlich der Lebensgemeinschaften übertragen. Zu diesem Zwecke untersuchten wird die Brutvögel in 233 Probeflächen von fünf verschiedenen Habitattypen, die einen Gradienten von offenem Boden bis hin zu Wald auf 29 aufgegebenen militärischen Übungsflächen abdeckten, die verstreut über die ganze tschechische Republik liegen. Lineare Modelle mit gemischten Effekten zeigten, dass die späten Sukzessionsstadien (dichtes Buschland und Wald) den größten Artenreichtum zeigten, während die frühen Sukzessionsstadien die Arten beheimateten, welche die größte Habitatspezialisierung und Gefährdung aufwiesen. Diese Ergebnisse lassen vermuten, dass die späten Sukzessionsstadien für den Erhalt eines großen Artenreichtums von Vögeln notwendig sind, während die frühen Sukzessionsstadien für hochspezialisierte und bedrohte Vogelarten wichtig sind. Berücksichtigt man den großen negativen Einfluss, den die Intensivierung der Landwirtschaft und die Landflucht auf die offenen Habitate haben, ist es notwendig solche Faktoren zu fördern, die neue frühe Sukzessionsstadien schaffen, die für spezialisierte und bedrohte Arten geeignet sind.