PhD on Forest management and Mediterranean birds

Determinant factors of forest bird species richness, distribution and dynamic at the landscape scale in Catalonia: Implications for sustainable forest management, by Assu Gil-Tena

The thesis “Determinant factors of forest bird species richness, distribution and dynamic at the landscape scale in Catalonia: Implications for sustainable forest management” has been developed by Ms. Assu Gil-Tena at the Agroforestry Department of the University of Lleida (UdL, Spain) from October 2005 to July 2009, under the supervision of Dr. Santiago Saura (Technical University of Madrid) and Dr. Lluís Brotons (Forest Technology Centre of Catalonia). A. Gil-Tena was funded by the UdL, the Catalan Government and the European Social Fund by means of a predoctoral grant. This work received financial support from the projects: IBEPFOR, DINDIS, MONTES-CONSOLIDER and Forest Restoration and Management; being a contribution to the European Research Group ‘‘Mediterranean and mountain systems in a changing world’’. As a result, 4 articles in SCI Journals (Forest Ecology and Management, Global Change Biology and Ardeola) and one chapter in a Springer book were published.

Forest birds play a key functional role in forest ecosystems and, therefore, determining their quantitative responses to environmental factors occurring in forest systems and their dynamics may help to understand how management can contribute to buffer global change impacts in forest biodiversity in the Mediterranean. This thesis assessed the determinants of forest bird species richness, range and dynamics at different spatial scales in Catalonia (NE Spain) in order to provide sustainable forest management guidelines.

Large biodiversity and forest databases available in Catalonia, such as the First and Second Catalan Breeding Bird Atlas and the Second and Third Spanish National Forest Inventory, were analysed by means of different regression techniques.

Forest bird species richness was mainly favoured by the availability of forest patches presenting different degrees of forest canopy cover, and by forests with advanced development stages and a mixture of tree species. Comparatively, forest bird species richness was less related to forest landscape configuration.
The widespread forest maturation and afforestation occurring at the regional scale, mainly related to rural land abandonment, appeared to favour the spatial expansion of bird species in the two last decades of the 20th century and to have largely overridden the potentially negative effects of forest fires on forest bird species’ ranges, being the impact of forest management in forest bird communities much smaller than the impact of the former.

Forest management can enhance forest avian diversity by focusing on forest habitat availability rather than on a particular spatial configuration and avoiding landscape homogenization and stand densification that may impede the transition to more developed stages and the establishment of a variety of forest species. A landscape perspective will allow developing effective strategies aimed at promoting biodiversity and ensuring the sustainability of forest ecosystem services while mitigating the effects of global change, being critical the integration of forest management with other kinds of landscape management and conservation biodiversity plans.

• Dr. Lluís Brotons’ Biodiversity and Landscape Ecology Lab webpage
• Dr. Santiago Saura’s webpage at the Technical University of Madrid

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