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Keywords:

  • Aznalcóllar mine spill;
  • bird communities;
  • landscape restoration;
  • riparian corridor

Abstract

In Mediterranean areas, river systems are key for maintaining regional biodiversity by providing a high diversity of habitats. We studied bird community recovery for 9 years (2001–2009) during landscape restoration and Guadiamar Green Corridor establishment in the area affected by the Aznalcóllar mine spill (SW Spain, 1998). One year following plant restoration (3 years after the spill), values for α- and β-bird species diversity were high, sooner than reported for similar restoration processes elsewhere. Species richness, ecological diversity, and abundance increased only slightly in the following 8 years. Overlap between communities in sequential years, measured by similarity indexes, increased throughout the study period to about 70% during final survey years, and most breeding bird species present before the accident again inhabit the area. Only 5 years after the mine accident, bird communities in the restored site were similar in species richness, abundance, and diversity to an unaffected reference site; redundancy analysis demonstrated that bird communities were also similar between the reference river and the Guadiamar. Despite the severity of the mine accident, our results suggest a swift recovery of the bird community. We attribute this success to the rapid restoration of habitat availability and the resilience of the birds. This long-term study contributes to our limited knowledge of bird species response to habitat restoration following toxic spills in Mediterranean habitats.