Quantifying the detrimental impacts of land-use and management change on European forest bird populations

Amy S. I. Wade, Boris Barov, Ian J. Burfield, Richard D. Gregory, Ken Norris, Simon J. Butler

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The ecological impacts of changing forest management practices in Europe are poorly understood despite European forests being highly managed. Furthermore, the effects of potential drivers of forest biodiversity decline are rarely considered in concert, thus limiting effective conservation or sustainable forest management. We present a trait-based framework that we use to assess the detrimental impact of multiple land-use and management changes in forests on bird populations across Europe. Major changes to forest habitats occurring in recent decades, and their impact on resource availability for birds were identified. Risk associated with these changes for 52 species of forest birds, defined as the proportion of each species' key resources detrimentally affected through changes in abundance and/or availability, was quantified and compared to their pan-European population growth rates between 1980 and 2009. Relationships between risk and population growth were found to be significantly negative, indicating that resource loss in European forests is an important driver of decline for both resident and migrant birds. Our results demonstrate that coarse quantification of resource use and ecological change can be valuable in understanding causes of biodiversity decline, and thus in informing conservation strategy and policy. Such an approach has good potential to be extended for predictive use in assessing the impact of possible future changes to forest management and to develop more precise indicators of forest health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere64552
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2013

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