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A multi-scale approach for identifying conservation needs of two threatened sympatric steppe birds

AuthorsBenítez-López, Ana ; Viñuela, Javier ; Mougeot, François ; García, Jesús T.
KeywordsPterocles alchata
Ecological modelling
Habitat selection
Pterocles orientalis
Human disturbance
Issue Date2017
PublisherSpringer Nature
CitationBiodiversity and Conservation 26(1): 63-83 (2017)
AbstractHabitat selection is an inherently scale-sensitive process in which detected selection patterns frequently depend on the scale of analysis employed. We used a multi-scale modelling approach to identify how the distributions of two sympatric birds are shaped by differential selection at the landscape, land use and microhabitat scales and by human infrastructures as possible sources of disturbance. We studied two threatened steppe birds, the pin-tailed sandgrouse (PTS) and black-bellied sandgrouse (BBS) in central Spain. Land use gradients explained most of the variation in PTS and BBS occurrence, but there was cross-scale interdependence between the lower (microhabitat) and upper (landscape) spatial scales for the PTS. Synergies between the three scales highlighted the importance of integrating habitat scales in a single modelling framework. The process of habitat selection was also modulated by human disturbance. Both species selected ploughs of large size distant from houses, tracks and other infrastructures, although BBS exhibited broader habitat tolerance than the PTS, and was more sensitive to human disturbance. At microhabitat scale, PTS selected ploughs with greater green vegetation cover and insect abundance and fallows with lower dry vegetation cover and height but greater stone cover. This might reflect a trade-off between camouflage (vegetation and stone cover for concealment) and visibility for predator detection and escape. Ploughs and fallows should be maintained by means of traditional 2-year rotations and low management during the breeding season. Ongoing urbanization trends and infrastructure development inside protected areas should be limited. Multi-scale models were key to identify scale-specific factors that determine sandgrouse habitat preferences and conservation requirements at appropriate levels, and are recommended to better guide regional and local conservation efforts of threatened species.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1007/s10531-016-1222-7
e-issn: 1572-9710
issn: 0960-3115
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