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Evaluating the benefits of CAP reforms: can afforestations restore bird diversity in Mediterranean Spain?

Evaluating the benefits of CAP reforms: can afforestations restore bird diversity in Mediterranean Spain?

Basic and Applied Ecology 7(6): 483-495

Current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies in the Mediterranean region tend to prioritize afforestation on former arable (and with oaks rather than pines because pine plantations would maintain lower biological diversities than native forests. Nevertheless, no thorough evaluations of the conservation values of pine plantations as compared to oak remnants have been carried out to date. We analyze the diversity and conservation value of bird assemblages breeding in 200 remnants of Holm oak Quercus ilex woodlands and 82 mature (> 50-year-old) pine plantations in central Spain, a Mediterranean region mostly devoted to arable farming. Species-area relationships were compared between forest types. The conservation value of bird assemblages was assessed using the "Species of European Conservation Concern" (SPEC) classification of Burfield and van Bommel ((2004). Birds in Europe: Populations estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge: BirdLife International). Overall numbers of bird species maintained by oak and pine archipelagoes were rather similar, but species-area relationships differed between forest types. Intercepts were higher in oak fragments, whereas slopes were steeper in pine plantations. Small oak fragments held more species (mainly Mediterranean Sylvia warblers) than plantations, whereas large plantations held more species than large oak remnants. Differences in species-area relationships seemed to be due to differences in vegetation structure, especially understorey shrub cover and tree height and cover. We recorded nine SPECs, all exclusive (6) or near-exclusive (3) to oak woodlands, although such woodlands do not appear to be critical for their conservation. Hence, we conclude that pine afforestations have played a role for maintaining and restoring forest bird communities in the farming landscapes of central Spain. Promoting large and shrubby plantations would enhance their conservation value for breeding birds, together with promoting growth, regeneration and expansion of Holm oak remnants by means of set-aside measures previous or alternative to oak reafforestation. The increasing importance of non-commercial as compared to commercial values of Mediterranean forests would justify subsidizing the proposed policy. [copyright] 2006 Geseltschaft fuer Oekologie.

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Accession: 012786895

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DOI: 10.1016/j.baae.2005.11.001

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