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Silva J.P.,Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity | Silva J.P.,University of Lisbon | Santos M.,University of Trás os Montes e Alto Douro | Queiros L.,University of Trás os Montes e Alto Douro | And 5 more authors.
Ecological Modelling | Year: 2010

Collision with conductors and earth cables is a known impact generated by transmission power lines, however there is virtually no information on how these infrastructures might affect bird distribution in a landscape context. With this work we specifically hypothesise that transmission power lines may affect the occurrence of a threatened bird, the little bustard (Tetrax tetrax). To test this hypothesis we used a Stochastic Dynamic Methodology (StDM), analysing the effects of power lines in a landscape perspective and simulating population trends as a response to power line installation and habitat changes induced by agricultural shifts in southern Portugal. The data used in the dynamic model construction included relevant gradients of environmental conditions and was sampled during the breeding seasons of 2003-2006. Transmission power lines were significantly avoided by the little bustard and the developed StDM model showed that the distance to these utility structures is the most important factor determining breeding densities in sites with suitable habitat for the species, which possibly leads to displacement of populations and habitat fragmentation. The model simulations also provided the base to analyse the cumulative effects caused by the habitat degradation that can ultimately lead to the extinction of local populations. Within priority conservation sites, the dismantling of existing transmission lines should be considered whenever possible, in order to ensure adequate breeding habitat. The model is considered useful as an auxiliary tool to be used in environmental impact assessments, management and conservation studies. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Moreira F.,University of Lisbon | Silva J.P.,University of Lisbon | Silva J.P.,Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity | Estanque B.,University of Lisbon | And 11 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

Changes in land use/land cover are a major driver of biodiversity change in the Mediterranean region. Understanding how animal populations respond to these landscape changes often requires using landscape mosaics as the unit of investigation, but few previous studies have measured both response and explanatory variables at the land mosaic level. Here, we used a "whole-landscape" approach to assess the influence of regional variation in the land cover composition of 81 farmland mosaics (mean area of 2900 ha) on the population density of a threatened bird, the little bustard (Tetrax tetrax), in southern Portugal. Results showed that ca. 50% of the regional variability in the density of little bustards could be explained by three variables summarising the land cover composition and diversity in the studied mosaics. Little bustard breeding males attained higher population density in land mosaics with a low land cover diversity, with less forests, and dominated by grasslands. Land mosaic composition gradients showed that agricultural intensification was not reflected in a loss of land cover diversity, as in many other regions of Europe. On the contrary, it led to the introduction of new land cover types in homogenous farmland, which increased land cover diversity but reduced overall landscape suitability for the species. Based on these results, the impact of recent land cover changes in Europe on the little bustard populations is evaluated. © 2012 Moreira et al.

Silva J.P.,University of Lisbon | Silva J.P.,Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity | Palmeirim J.M.,University of Lisbon | Moreira F.,University of Lisbon | Moreira F.,Institute for Nature Conservation and Biodiversity
Biological Conservation | Year: 2010

Previous studies have found that densities of little bustard Tetrax tetrax breeding males tend to be higher in areas with smaller agricultural fields, presumably due to increased habitat diversity. However, exceptionally high densities have been found in large grassland fields in Portugal, which suggests that the influence of field size varies geographically, and that the role of this factor is not yet fully understood, despite its importance as a key management issue.We studied how field size, together with vegetation structure, influences the presence and density of breeding little bustards in a region of southern Portugal. Fifty-four grassland fields were sampled in 2007 and another 29 in 2008, with sizes ranging from 23 to 172. ha. A total of 183 breeding males were found in 47 of these fields, reaching densities of up to 37 males/100. ha. A higher probability of occurrence of breeding males was found in larger fields with a vegetation height below 40. cm and field size alone explained 46% of the variability in male density. These results suggest that larger continuous areas of suitable habitat attract many males, most likely as a consequence of their lek mating system. We conclude that conservation efforts, in a landscape context of large farm sizes, should: (1) be channelled to farms with large fields; (2) ensure adequate livestock grazing to create suitable habitat and (3) promote management at a landscape level to ensure the most continuous grassland habitat patches possible. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

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