A Resource-Based Modelling Framework to Assess Habitat Suitability for Steppe Birds in Semiarid Mediterranean Agricultural Systems

Laura Cardador, Miquel De Cáceres, Gerard Bota, David Giralt, Fabián Casas, Beatriz Arroyo, François Mougeot, Carlos Cantero-Martínez, Judit Moncunill, Simon J. Butler, Lluís Brotons

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Abstract

European agriculture is undergoing widespread changes that are likely to have profound impacts on farmland biodiversity. The development of tools that allow an assessment of the potential biodiversity effects of different land-use alternatives before changes occur is fundamental to guiding management decisions. In this study, we develop a resource-based model framework to estimate habitat suitability for target species, according to simple information on species’ key resource requirements (diet, foraging habitat and nesting site), and examine whether it can be used to link land-use and local species’ distribution. We take as a study case four steppe bird species in a lowland area of the north-eastern Iberian Peninsula. We also compare the performance of our resource-based approach to that obtained through habitat-based models relating species’ occurrence and land-cover variables. Further, we use our resource-based approach to predict the effects that change in farming systems can have on farmland bird habitat suitability and compare these predictions with those obtained using the habitat-based models. Habitat suitability estimates generated by our resource-based models performed similarly (and better for one study species) than habitat based-models when predicting current species distribution. Moderate prediction success was achieved for three out of four species considered by resource-based models and for two of four by habitat-based models. Although, there is potential for improving the performance of resource-based models, they provide a structure for using available knowledge of the functional links between agricultural practices, provision of key resources and the response of organisms to predict potential effects of changing land-uses in a variety of context or the impacts of changes such as altered management practices that are not easily incorporated into habitat-based models.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere92790
JournalPLoS One
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2014

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