Large-scale habitat associations of birds in lowland Iceland: Implications for conservation

T.G. Gunnarsson, J.A. Gill, G.F. Appleton, H. Gislason, A. Gardarsson, A.R. Watkinson, W.J. Sutherland

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Iceland is responsible for many internationally important populations of breeding bird species, yet very little is currently known about how these species use the habitats available to them. Lowland areas of Iceland, in particular, have undergone significant landscape changes over the last century, such as widespread drainage of wetlands and conversion to agriculture, changes in grazing pressure and recently, extensive afforestation. The impact of these changes on breeding bird species will depend on the relative importance of different habitats for each species, and the threats facing those habitats. Here we report the results of a large-scale survey of the factors influencing patterns of habitat selection of eight populations of Charadriiform bird species throughout lowland Iceland; oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus, golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, dunlin Calidris alpina, snipe Gallinago gallinago, whimbrel Numenius phaeopus, black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa, redshank Tringa totanus and arctic skua Stercorarius parasiticus. Ordination analyses and multiple logistic regression models are constructed to explore the components of habitats that influence the distribution of these species. Five of the eight species analysed showed significant preferences for lowland wetland habitats and four significantly selected areas containing wet features such as pools and high water tables. These results allow us to identify future conflicts in land use that are likely to result from government-supported large-scale afforestation of lowland areas and hydro-electric developments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-275
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number2
Early online date15 Nov 2005
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • Waders
  • Shorebirds
  • Iceland
  • Habitat-selection
  • Conservation

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