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SANTOS M.,University of Tras os Montes e Alto Douro | BESSA R.,University of Tras os Montes e Alto Douro | CABRAL J.A.,University of Tras os Montes e Alto Douro | PACHECO F.A.L.,University of Tras os Montes e Alto Douro | And 5 more authors.
Bird Conservation International

With the combination of worldwide landscape changes and the uncertainty about the impact on species abundance and distribution, the value of spatio-temporal modelling tools is increasingly obvious. The Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax breeds on low-intensity arable cultivation and pastoral land and is currently threatened by diverse landscape modifications. The aim of this research was to predict Little Bustard population trends in the face of realistic scenarios of land use and infrastructure changes, applying a recently developed spatially explicit framework, based on the stochastic dynamic methodology (StDM). The application of this approach provided some basis to analyse the responses of breeding populations’ spatial distribution and abundance to the scenarios implemented. Since some of these scenarios represent local and/or regional risks to the viability of Little Bustard breeding populations, the results obtained demonstrate the potential of the proposed framework for landscape planning in the scope of the conservation of this threatened species. This approach also provides a promising baseline to support ecological risk assessments for other species, derived from ecological models with increased predictive power and intuitiveness to decision makers and environmental managers. Copyright © BirdLife International 2016 Source

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

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. Source

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.

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. Source

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