New paper: “Suitability of poplar plantations for a cavity-nesting specialist, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor, in the Mediterranean mosaic landscape”

Jordi Camprodon with other authors recently published a new paper in the journal Acta Ornithologica. The abstract can be consulted below.


Monocultures of even-aged trees in short rotation are a forest system of low ecological complexity that hasbeen described as unsuitable for the establishment of stable populations of forest birds. However, key habitat qualitycues could make them attractive to forest specialists. This paper assesses the suitability of poplar plantations in thenortheast of the Iberian Peninsula for a forest specialist, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor. Poplarstands occupy a small area of an agroforestry mosaic landscape where semi-natural Mediterranean woodland is predominant.Population size, nesting success, home ranges and habitat selection were studied by radio-tracking and monitoringduring the breeding season and the winter. Poplar plantations were preferentially selected for breeding and foragingin the spring and the winter. Home ranges in the breeding season and the winter (32.4 and 438.5 ha, respectively)were similar to those observed in semi-natural woodlands that have been studied in Europe. However, populationdensity (0.25 territories/100 ha) was lower than that described in most European semi-natural woodlands. Nesting successwas low (0.54), due to strong competition with other cavity nesters, predation of nests by the Greater SpottedWoodpecker, and loss of one of the adults. Fifty per cent of the foraging activity during the breeding season took placein an area of 180 metres around the nest. The amount of standing dead wood in poplar stands was much higher thanin the surrounding habitats and source areas. The moderate breeding success and the high rate of adult predation maysuggest that poplar plantations act as an ecological trap, in which standing dead wood may be a habitat quality cue thatattracts birds to this non-ideal habitat. Poplar plantations become even less suitable when most of the available habitatis felled at the same time. Suitable planning of poplar plantation rotations and recovery of riparian forest is the best wayto ensure the survival of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker populations in the long term.

For more information:

- Camprodon J., Faus J., Salvanyà P., Soler-Zurita J., Romero J. L. 2015. Suitability of poplar plantations for a cavitynesting specialist, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor, in the Mediterranean mosaic landscape. Acta Ornithol. 50: 157–169. DOI 10.3161/00016454AO2015.50.2.004

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