Distribution and identification of the best areas for Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) during the breeding season in Catalonia

A new article from Gerard Bota, a BAC Lab’s member, has been published on November. This article has been done with Lluís Brotons from the Biodiversity and Landscape Ecology lab, Magda Pla from the Geographical information system lab and Juan Bécares from SEO/BirdLife. The article has the aim to identify the distribution and the best areas for Pin- tailed sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata) during the breeding season in Catalaonia.

Using standardized and non-standardized surveys, they obtained evidence of reproduction that allowed them to produce a distribution map of the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse at 1×1 km resolution for Catalonia. The standardized observations, environmental variables and population data from the species in question were then used to develop models of habitat suitability at 20 m-resolution with the software MAXENT.

Results show that forty-three squares had some evidence of breeding, of which 37 are located within the principal breeding nucleus of the species in Catalonia (Alfés-Castelldans).Twelve squares located in a clear spatial continuity showed definite evidence of breeding. The models of habitat suitability show that the species only uses flat, extensive cereal farmland with a low greenery index (NDVI), and with above-average mean and maximum temperatures. The spatial contagion within the presence data appears as a very important variable. The best sector identified by the model also holds the highest concentration of evidence of breeding. The area occupied at present by the Pin-tailed Sandgrouse coincides to a great extent with the availability of its potential habitat, as revealed by the models.

In conclusion, these results suggest that management should focus on the best quality zones that are currently occupied. The sensibility to variables related with the condition and structure of the vegetation and this sandgrouse’s preference for zones with low NDVI values indicate that management (for example, the creation and maintenance of fallow and uncultivated land) should be carried out to increase the quality of the available microhabitat for this species.

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