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STUDENTS AND POST-DOCS

BRANTA — Christina Ieronymidou (PhD)


Avian Land-Use Associations in the Eastern Mediterranean

Institution: University of East Anglia, UK
Supervisors: Paul M. Dolman, Nigel J. Collar
Details: PhD 2012 (Completed)
Address: BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Road, Cambridge, CB3 0NA, UK (Apr 2013) Email
Subject Keywords: Farmland birds, Species of European Conservation Concern (SPEC), High Nature Value (HNV) farming, Land-use, Agri-environment measures, Mediterranean shrublands, Niche displacement, east Mediterranean, Cyprus
Species Keywords: Farmland birds, Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax, Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala

 

Abstract

Land-use change and associated habitat loss and species invasions are two of the greatest threats to global biodiversity. In Europe, changes in farmland management practices driven in part by the European Union (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have caused dramatic declines in associated biodiversity. This thesis studied avian land-use associations to understand the relative importance of different habitat and landscape elements to the farmland bird community, with particular emphasis on priority species for conservation, in Cyprus, a recently acceded EU Member State, as a case study for the eastern Mediterranean. Results provide the first evidence base to inform CAP agri-environment measures in the region. A wide range of habitats and land-uses were important for bird species and assemblages and local habitat diversity was of key value. Farmland habitats, particularly viticulture and groves, and remnant scrub were the most important, demonstrating the high value of heterogeneous farmland mosaics to breeding and wintering avian biodiversity in Cyprus. The area of land under agriculture in Cyprus has substantially decreased, with much of this attributable to declines in marginal low-intensity crops on which much avian biodiversity depends. Building development appears to be one important driver behind these trends. Changes observed in the distributions of Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala, a recently established breeder in Cyprus, and the endemic Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax are more likely mediated by changing land-use patterns relating to grazing intensity of scrub, as there was no evidence of competitive displacement. The complex Mediterranean farmland mosaic was created by traditional farming practices that are usually economically marginal. Agri-environment mechanisms to support this heterogeneity are necessary for effective conservation of priority species and bird biodiversity in the eastern Mediterranean.

 

Published Papers

Ieronymidou, C., Collar, N.J. & Dolman, P.M. 2012. Endemic Cyprus Warbler Sylvia melanothorax and colonizing Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala show different habitat associations. Ibis 154: 248-259.

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