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Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Ronchi S.,Polytechnic of Milan
Science of the Total Environment | Year: 2016

Land-use changes in the surrounding of protected areas might compromise their conservation efficacy, and thus the potential attractive effect that protected areas may exert on urban development is particularly concerning. We investigated whether the proximity to protected areas in a region (Lombardy, Italy) with a high density of urban areas and parks may increase the likelihood of residential development. The main change around protected areas was the loss of open areas (mostly due to development processes at the expense of arable land), which was higher in proximity of parks. Changes in residential discontinuous development were significantly and negatively related to proximity to parks, whereas changes in productive developments were unrelated to park proximity. The higher likelihood of residential development in proximity to parks is likely due to the attraction exerted by parks. The severe loss of open areas and increase of residential development around parks heavily impacted on habitat availability for a declining bird species (Alauda arvensis). Conservation policies considering also what happens around protected areas are urgently needed. © 2016 Elsevier B.V.


Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Bassi E.,Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio | Ceci C.,University of Milan Bicocca | Rubolini D.,University of Milan
Ibis | Year: 2010

Habitat selection is a complex process, that is affected by several factors, including habitat characteristics, environmental conditions, and both intra- and interspecific interactions. We analysed habitat preferences of two top avian predators, Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus, a medium-sized diurnal raptor, and Eagle Owl Bubo bubo, a large nocturnal raptor. These two species are known to compete for preferred nest-sites, and proximity to cliffs with Eagle Owls may reduce Peregrine breeding output through predation of young Falcons. We investigated the environmental factors affecting occurrence and coexistence of the two species and the potential role of habitat suitability in favouring co-occurrence in 3519 km2 of the central pre-Alps of Italy, where the two species breed on cliffs and sometimes co-occur on the same cliff. Peregrines settled on long, steep and favourably orientated cliffs in woodland landscapes close to urban areas. Eagle Owls settled on topographically similar cliffs, but in lower rainfall areas compared with cliffs occupied by Peregrines and cliffs unoccupied by either species. Sites where the two species co-occurred were characterized by more horizontally extended cliffs compared with sites of exclusive occurrence of each species. An analysis of relative habitat suitability revealed that sites where the two species co-occurred had the highest predicted probability of occupancy for both species, suggesting that those sites should be regarded as high-quality sites. Breeding productivity of Eagle Owls was negatively affected by the co-occurrence of Peregrines, whereas the effect of Eagle Owl proximity on Peregrine productivity varied according to cliff suitability for the Peregrines. Habitat selection had fitness consequences for Eagle Owls because breeding productivity increased with cliff length. Environmental conditions, particularly climatic factors, could allow the widespread coexistence of these competing raptors at the landscape scale, whereas at the local scale co-occurrence could take place only on larger cliffs. These were preferred sites for both species, presumably because breeding at such sites offsets the costs of settling close to the competitor species. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 British Ornithologists' Union.


Bionda R.,Parco Naturale Alpe Veglia e Devero Alta Valle Antrona | Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente
Journal of Ornithology | Year: 2012

We investigated the effects of habitat structure and composition, rainfall and nest spacing on the productivity of an Eagle Owl Bubo bubo population in Piedmont, northern Italy, at 10 sites from 1996 to 2007. We modeled the effects of the above factors on the productivity of 85 breeding attempts through a mixed model procedure. The number of fledged young per pair was affected positively by wetland interspersion index (a potential estimate of prey abundance) and negatively by rainfall during chick-rearing and by cover of urbanized land in the nest surroundings. Our results demonstrated that productivity can be affected by a variety of factors of different kinds, which should be considered together in studies on habitat quality. © 2011 Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.


Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Casale F.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Casale F.,University of Insubria | Bergero V.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | And 6 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2010

Land-use changes have strong impacts on biological communities. Among them, land abandonment is threatening a large number of conservation-concern species associated with semi-natural habitats shaped by 'traditional' farming. We focused on the red-backed shrike as a model for investigating the effect of land abandonment on a threatened bird species, and used historical data to model dynamic scenarios. We explored variations in habitat suitability from the 1950s to the present and predicted possible future variations. After investigating local habitat preferences of the species, we formulated a spatially explicit model of habitat suitability for shrikes according to current land-use types; then, we evaluated past habitat suitability, by applying the model to three known past scenarios, and simulated the habitat changes after land abandonment. By combining a habitat-association approach with past and future land use scenarios, we assessed and predicted the effects of habitat changes caused by abandonment. Shrike occurrence was favoured by the cover of four types of grassland and of shrubland with trees, and negatively affected by broadleaved woodlands. The current average habitat suitability is less than half of what it was in the 1950s. Future predictions in a complete abandonment scenario suggest that important decrease could be expected 10 or 20. years after abandonment, and that after 30. years the red-backed shrike would be completely extinct. Alternative scenarios involving partial abandonment suggested that subsidy policies may mitigate the effects of abandonment. Knowing land-use dynamics allowed the exploration of effects of land-use changes and corroborated the importance of low-intensity farming for conservation. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Fulco E.,Studio Naturalistico Milvus | Gustin M.,Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli LIPU BirdLife Italia | Celada C.,Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli LIPU BirdLife Italia
Bird Study | Year: 2013

Capsule We analysed habitat preferences of Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica of the eastern subspecies (O. hispanica melanoleuca) in South Italy, considering 1-ha (coinciding with territory size) square plots (49 occupied and 49 unoccupied). We used multi-adaptive regression splines to model habitat preferences. Black-eared Wheatear occurrence was positively associated with three factors: aspect (a SE orientation was preferred), cover of grazed grassland and cover of bare ground. Species conservation should be based on the maintenance of grazed grasslands, especially on SE-facing slopes, and including at least 2500 m2 of bare ground per ha. © 2013 British Trust for Ornithology.


Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Saporetti F.,Gruppo Insubrico di Ornitologia
Biological Conservation | Year: 2014

Most modelling exercises use generic occurrence points of a species, but the distribution of habitats used for different purposes may differ. Modelling separately the availability of functionally different habitats may allow for the identification of the habitats mostly affecting/limiting distribution, with important implications for conservation. We analyzed the regional distribution of the black woodpecker in Northern Italy. We separately modelled the availability of feeding and nesting habitats at the fine scale (20. m. ×. 20. m), and compared the outputs with a more conventional distribution modelling procedure, which included all records and was developed at the territory scale (1. km. ×. 1. km). Both the conventional and feeding habitat models performed well (although they tended to under- and overestimate occurrence, respectively), whereas the nesting habitat model had a lower discriminatory ability. Nesting and feeding habitats show different relationships between woodpecker occurrence and habitat variables, this resulting in a weak overlap of the respective niches and in quite different distributions. The conventional model provided less information for management, being mainly affected by elevation and urbanized areas; the two specific models instead showed effects of habitat variables on occurrence of feeding and nesting sites. The availability of feeding habitat is likely the most important factor limiting distribution in the area and could be the focus of possible habitat management, which should include the preservation of grassland patches interspersed within woodlands, especially on South-facing, gently sloping mountainsides. Modelling separately the availability of functionally different habitats may provide useful information for conservation and management. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Gustin M.,Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli LIPU | Celada C.,Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli LIPU
Bird Conservation International | Year: 2011

Setting favourable reference values (FRV) for conservation targets may help in assessing the conservation status of species and habitats. FRVs should be expressed through population size or demographic parameters that are likely to ensure the long-term persistence of a species across its range. We developed a conceptual framework for defining FRVs for Italian birds included in Annex I of the European Unions Wild Birds Directive 79/409/CEE. The approach was based on demographic trends, current population size and the minimum viable population concept. We subdivided bird species according to abundance at the national scale, spatial distribution in discrete isolated populations and/or biogeographic categories. FRVs based on population viability analysis (PVA) were provided for populations of less than 2,500 pairs. For species with more than 2,500 pairs and a wide, more or less continuous range, the FRV was expressed in terms of breeding density at different spatial scales for non-colonial species. Out of the 88 species considered, we were able to formulate FRVs based on PVA for 47 populations belonging to 21 species, and breeding density for 15 further species; lack of adequate data prevented us from defining FRVs for the remaining species. Further work should focus on the translation of FRV density values into population size and on the definition of reference values for range and habitat. © 2010 BirdLife International.


Capsule The potential range of Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala in Lombardy, northern Italy, is restricted to the small area actually occupied by a tiny and isolated population; distribution modelling suggests that both climatic and habitat features contribute to the observed correspondence between the potential and realized range. © 2014 British Trust for Ornithology


Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Ficetola G.F.,University of Milan Bicocca
Journal of Animal Ecology | Year: 2012

1.Correlative species distribution models (SDMs) assess relationships between species distribution data and environmental features, to evaluate the environmental suitability (ES) of a given area for a species, by providing a measure of the probability of presence. If the output of SDMs represents the relationships between habitat features and species performance well, SDM results can be related also to other key parameters of populations, including reproductive parameters. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated whether SDM results can be used as a proxy of reproductive parameters (breeding output, territory size) in red-backed shrikes (Lanius collurio). 2.The distribution of 726 shrike territories in Northern Italy was obtained through multiple focused surveys; for a subset of pairs, we also measured territory area and number of fledged juveniles. We used Maximum Entropy modelling to build a SDM on the basis of territory distribution. We used generalized least squares and spatial generalized mixed models to relate territory size and number of fledged juveniles to SDM suitability, while controlling for spatial autocorrelation. 3.Species distribution models predicted shrike distribution very well. Territory size was negatively related to suitability estimated through SDM, while the number of fledglings significantly increased with the suitability of the territory. This was true also when SDM was built using only spatially and temporally independent data. 4.Results show a clear relationship between ES estimated through presence-only SDMs and two key parameters related to species' reproduction, suggesting that suitability estimated by SDM, and habitat quality determining reproduction parameters in our model system, are correlated. Our study shows the potential use of SDMs to infer important fitness parameters; this information can have great importance in management and conservation. © 2012 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology © 2012 British Ecological Society.


Jedlikowski J.,University of Warsaw | Brambilla M.,Fondazione Lombardia per lAmbiente | Suska-Malawska M.,University of Warsaw
Bird Study | Year: 2014

Capsule The most important factor determining fine-scale selection of nesting habitat in Little Crake and Water Rail is water depth.Aims To evaluate factors affecting nest-site selection and relative inter-specific differences in two poorly studied Rallidae species, the Little Crake and Water Rail.Methods Habitat variables describing water depth, water cover, as well as vegetation type and structure were measured within 3-m radius plots around birds' nests and random points, located in small ponds scattered within a largely cultivated landscape in north-eastern Poland. Descriptive statistics and multi-adaptive regression splines were used to describe nesting habitat and to model nest-site selection in the study species.Results Little Crake nested in sites with deeper water and lower percentage of vegetation cover than Water Rail. Both species chose nest sites according to water depth (probability of Little Crake nests occurrence was the highest around 40cm and of Water Rail below 12cm) and vegetation stage in which nests were build (old vegetation was preferred). Little Crake nests were also associated with vegetation height lower than 1.5m and high percentage cover of old vegetation within a 3-m radius around nests, whereas Water Rail preferred Carex spp. and Juncus effusus for nesting.Conclusion For both species, water depth was the main driver of nest-site selection, followed by vegetation traits. Water depth was also the variable most important in discriminating between the nesting sites of the two species. The different patterns of habitat selection showed by the two species are likely to be due to different morphology and nest characteristics, and are probably driven by the need to maximize both nest and adult safety. © 2014 British Trust for Ornithology.

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