Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette

Seveso, Italy

Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette

Seveso, Italy
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Jedlikowski J.,University of Warsaw | Brambilla M.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette
PeerJ | Year: 2017

Background. Habitat selection and its adaptive outcomes are crucial features for animal life-history strategies. Nevertheless, congruence between habitat preferences and breeding success has been rarely demonstrated, which may result from the singlescale evaluation of animal choices. As habitat selection is a complex multi-scale process in many groups of animal species, investigating adaptiveness of habitat selection in a multi-scale framework is crucial. In this study, we explore whether habitat preferences acting at different spatial scales enhance the fitness of bird species, and check the appropriateness of single vs. multi-scale models. We expected that variables found to be more important for habitat selection at individual scale(s), would coherently play a major role in affecting nest survival at the same scale(s). Methods. We considered habitat preferences of two Rallidae species, little crake (Zapornia parva) and water rail (Rallus aquaticus), at three spatial scales (landscape, territory, and nest-site) and related them to nest survival. Single-scale versus multi-scale models (GLS and glmmPQL) were compared to check which model better described adaptiveness of habitat preferences. Consistency between the effect of variables on habitat selection and on nest survival was checked to investigate their adaptive value. Results. In both species, multi-scale models for nest survival were more supported than single-scale ones. In little crake, the multi-scale model indicated vegetation density and water depth at the territory scale, as well as vegetation height at nest-site scale, as the most important variables. The first two variables were among the most important for nest survival and habitat selection, and the coherent effects suggested the adaptive value of habitat preferences. In water rail, the multi-scale model of nest survival showed vegetation density at territory scale and extent of emergent vegetation within landscape scale as the most important ones, although we found a consistent effect with the habitat selection model (and hence evidence for adaptiveness) only for the former. Discussion. Our work suggests caution when interpreting adaptiveness of habitat preferences at a single spatial scale because such an approach may under- or overestimate the importance of habitat factors. As an example, we found evidence only for a weak effect of water depth at territory scale on little crake nest survival; however, according to the multi-scale analysis, such effect turned out to be important and appeared highly adaptive. Therefore, multi-scale approaches to the study of adaptive explanations for habitat selection mechanisms should be promoted. © 2017 Jedlikowski and Brambilla.

Bassi E.,Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio Lombardia | Trotti P.,Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio Lombardia | Brambilla M.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette | Diana F.,Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio Lombardia | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Ornithology | Year: 2017

We investigated the breeding behaviour of Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus and Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos between 2008 and 2011 in the Stelvio National Park (the Alps, Italy), which harbours one of highest densities of wild ungulates in the Alps. Parental care behaviours (incubation and chick brooding, nest attendance, changeover, food provisioning and nestling feeding) were recorded at nests of both species (four Bearded Vulture and 14 Golden Eagle pairs). Differences in investment between sexes and periods were found in both species: the time spent in incubation and nest attendance was higher in females and decreased with the progress of the breeding season (from incubation to post-hatching and to pre-fledging). A significant effect of the interaction between sex and period was also found. Compared to the literature, our results suggest a lower contribution by Bearded Vulture males, whereas Golden Eagle males spent more time in incubation and nestling brooding than reported. The higher investment shown by Golden Eagle males in our study area may be due to the high availability of live prey and ungulate carrion, which could allow males to spend less time in hunting, resulting in more time at the nest. Most changeovers for both species took place in the central hours of the day. No difference in food provisioning was observed between the sexes of the two species, consistent with information available for Bearded Vultures, but not for Golden Eagles. The patterns we found revealed a female-biased investment (unexpected for the Bearded Vulture), although males significantly contributed to nest behaviour, especially during the incubation period (unexpected for Golden Eagles). The large amounts of natural prey and carrion in the study area may contribute to the nest behaviour of these large raptors. © 2016, Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.

Bazzi G.,University of Milan | Foglini C.,University of Milan | Brambilla M.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette | Saino N.,University of Milan | Rubolini D.,University of Milan
Italian Journal of Zoology | Year: 2015

Abstract: Currently, land abandonment constitutes a serious threat for many species tied to semi-natural grasslands. In southern Europe, the conservation of many grassland bird communities largely depends on low-intensity mountain farming. In this study, we analysed the effects of the main farming practices promoting grassland maintenance, i.e. grazing and mowing, on species richness of a Prealpine grassland bird community and on the breeding densities of the two commonest grassland species, the skylark (Alauda arvensis Linnaeus, 1758) and the tree pipit (Anthus trivialis Linnaeus, 1758). The two study sites were located between 1100 and 2000 m above sea level in the Italian central Prealps. Grassland species richness was positively affected by grazing, and increased with increasing distance from the nearest woodland. Skylark density was positively influenced by mowing, grassland cover extent and distance from woodland, with the latter effect occurring only at a single study site. Finally, tree pipit density was positively affected by grazing. Our findings suggest that, in order to maintain open grasslands below the natural treeline and enhance the biodiversity of grassland bird communities, grazing should be preferred over mowing. Moreover, woodland edge effects may have a negative impact on mountain grassland bird communities. Advancing woodlands and abandonment of low-intensity farming and grazing practices may therefore constitute a serious threat for open-habitat specialist bird species of the Alpine region. © 2014, © 2014 Unione Zoologica Italiana.

Brambilla M.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette | Gustin M.,Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli LIPU BirdLife Italia | Vitulano S.,Lega Italiana Protezione Uccelli LIPU BirdLife Italia | Falco R.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette | And 4 more authors.
Regional Environmental Change | Year: 2016

Habitat loss and degradation are main global threats to biodiversity, and land-use changes in agriculture-dominated landscapes are crucial for an important portion of biodiversity, especially in Europe. We evaluated the effects of land-use changes (1954–2012) on a threatened species, the ortolan bunting, in an agricultural area crucial for its conservation in Italy. We built a distribution model for ortolan bunting in current landscapes and then re-projected it to past scenarios (1954 and 1999–2000). We evaluated the most important land-use changes occurred and estimated their effects on habitat suitability. Bunting occurrence was mostly affected by the extent of grassland (positively; used as foraging/breeding ground), shrubland (quadratic effect; perches/shelter), forest and urbanized land (negatively), and by solar radiation (positively) and slope (quadratic), consistent with other studies carried out especially in southern Europe. The potential distribution of the species was much larger in the past: the estimated decline in suitable habitat is 44–72 % (since 1999–2000/1954), coherent with historical data suggesting strong decline and contraction. Changes in suitability (1954–2012) were mostly associated with changes in the cover of forest, vineyards and abandoned areas (negatively), and shrubland (positively). Land-use/land-cover changes are the main drivers of species occurrence and of habitat decline. The heterogeneous landscape of hilly/low-mountain sites in this area, characterized by a mix of habitats offering complementary resources to ortolan buntings and other species of conservation concern, is currently threatened by abandonment and intensification, but its maintenance may be promoted by a correct definition of Rural Development Programme measures. © 2016 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg

Brambilla M.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette | Falco R.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette | Negri I.,Settore Biodiversita e Aree protette
Animal Conservation | Year: 2012

The intra-seasonal adjustment in site selection, and hence in distribution of multi-brooded avian species, is a poorly investigated topic of potentially high relevance for conservation. This phenomenon may be especially important among multi-brooded species occurring in habitats undergoing large modifications. We used correlative species distribution models to carry out a spatially explicit assessment of variation in habitat suitability between early and late periods of the breeding season for four European farmland passerine species (woodlark Lullula arborea, skylark Alauda arvensis, cirl Emberiza cirlus and corn bunting E. calandra). We counted birds at transects (surveyed in early and late season) in Northern Apennines (Lombardy, Italy), and modelled their spatial distribution with MaxEnt, separately for early and late season periods. A comparison of predicted environmental suitability (ES) at occurrence sites showed significant differences between early and late period ES at both early and late occurrence sites. Three species showed differences in elevation between early and late occurrence sites. The proportion of 1-ha cells predicted as potentially suitable during the entire breeding season ranged from 29.3% (corn bunting) to 52.8% (woodlark) of the at least once suitable cells. In multi-brooded birds, a dynamic pattern of species occurrence may be likely and particularly important in farmland habitats along altitudinal gradients. The resulting within-season switches in habitat and distribution could be widespread among farmland birds and could have critical implications for their conservation. Moreover, such habitat switches provide an additional reason for preserving habitat heterogeneity. The intra-seasonal variation in habitat association/distribution should become a focal topic for researchers. Animal Conservation © 2012 The Zoological Society of London.

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