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University of East Anglia (2014)

Effects of climate and land management changes on conservation of Mediterranean Cork oak woodlands and their bird communities

Correia, Ricardo

Titre : Effects of climate and land management changes on conservation of Mediterranean Cork oak woodlands and their bird communities

Auteur : Correia, Ricardo

Université de soutenance : University of East Anglia.

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2014

Résumé
Cork oak woodlands are a keystone habitat for Mediterranean biodiversity but are currently undergoing a global decline and widespread management changes driven by social, economic and climatic factors. I examine the effects of both climate and land management changes on cork oak woodlands and their bird communities across the western Mediterranean Basin. Future climatic scenarios indicate that up to 60% of current cork oak woodlands may become unsuitable by 2080, especially in southern areas where they will be restricted to microclimatic refugia sites. Increasing aridity, particularly in drier microclimates, will potentiate a decline of cork oak tree condition resulting in impacts across the food web that ultimately have a negative effect on breeding bird abundance and diversity, particularly for tree-dependent forest species. Farmland and shrubland birds respond mainly to habitat features modified by land management and their abundances increase in areas with open and heterogeneous ground cover. Current abandonment, intensification and overexploitation trends are likely to have negative effects on their populations but climate change can also play an important role if it provides an additional stimulus for land management changes. The unique bird assemblages of North African cork oak woodlands seem particularly vulnerable to both factors and should therefore be considered a conservation priority. Nonetheless, climate change may benefit species of Mediterranean origin and seems to have enabled the establishment of resident populations of traditionally migratory bird species in the Iberian Peninsula. This may provide new conservation opportunities for declining migratory species as long as adequate winter habitat areas are available. Adaptation strategies should aim to incorporate biodiversity-friendly management practices, promote cork oak afforestation in areas that will become climatically suitable and evaluate alternatives to provide similar economic and environmental services in the regions where cork oak woodlands are likely to disappear

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