Forest bird diversity in Mediterranean areas affected by wildfires: a multi-scale approach

Authors

  • Sergi Herrando,

  • Lluís Brotons


S. Herrando (sherrand@bio.ub.es) (present address: Grup Català d'Anellament, Girona 168 E-5, E-08037 Barcelona, Spain) and L. Brotons, Dept of Animal Biology (vertebrates), Univ. of Barcelona, Av. Diagonal 645, E-08028 Barcelona, Spain.

Abstract

Fire is a key mechanism creating and maintaining habitat heterogeneity in Mediterranean landscapes by turning continuous woody landscapes into mosaics of forests and shrublands. Due to the long historical role of fires in the Mediterranean, we hypothesised a moderate negative effect of this type of perturbation on forest bird distribution at a landscape level. We conducted point bird censuses in Aleppo pine forest patches surrounded by burnt shrublands and studied the relationships between three ecological groups of bird species (forest canopy species, forest understorey species, and ubiquitous species) and the features of local habitat, whole patch and surrounding landscape. We used a multi-scale approach to assess the effects of landscape variables at increasing spatial scales on point bird richness. Regarding local habitat components, canopy species were positively associated with tall pines while understorey species with the cover of shrubs and plants from holm-oak forests. Forest birds were positively related to patch size and irregular forest shapes, that is, with high perimeter/size ratios. Thus, these species did not seem to perceive edges as low quality but rather favourable microhabitats. We did not detect any negative effect of isolation or cover of woodlands in the landscape on the presence of forest species after local habitat factors had been accounted for. Finally, only local habitat factors entered the model for ubiquitous species. We suggest that mosaic-like landscapes shaped by fires in the Mediterranean basin are not strongly associated with negative effects fragmentation on forest birds other than those related with habitat loss.

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