We studied the effects of different land uses on conservation value and bird diversity in a Northern Adriatic karstic landscape. Our research area was situated in SW Slovenia and was covered with dry pastures and meadows in different stages of forest sucession and with different grazing intensities. We surveyed birds in 2007 and 2012 using the line transect method, with 50.4 km being covered each year. In the analysis we divided the survey transects into 200 m tiles which were used as statistical units in the analysis. We then modelled conservation value, bird diversity and bird abundances with different land uses; we used boosted regression trees as a modelling tool. Canonical correspondence analysis showed that a distinct group of birds occurred on tiles with higher grazing intensity. The species in this group also had significantly higher abundances in 2012 than in 2007. Forest succession was the most important predictor of SPA conservation value (Special Protected Areas according to the Directive on the conservation of wild birds of the European Union) and had negative effect on it; grazing intensity had a unimodal positive influence on conservation value and was most beneficial at low intensity. The model for the European conservation value showed a rather low predictive power. Farmland bird diversity was also negatively affected by forest and positively by grazing intensity. For the four Natura 2000 species—protected species in the SPA Kras (Woodlark Lullula arborea, Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra and Skylark Alauda arvensis), forest cover also had a negative effect. Grazing intensity had a positive effect for Woodlark, Red-backed Shrike and Skylark. The highest SPA conservation value and farmland bird diversity could therefore be achieved in a landscape with as low a forest succession as possible and grazing present but at low intensity. We recommend inclusion of appropriate measures in the agri-environment schemes (CAP pillar II) of Rural Development Programmes of the countries in the region with similar areas. The payments should be sufficiently stimulative to reopen the large areas subject to forest encroachment in the Northern Adriatic hinterland.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Feb 27, 2018
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