Bird communities in traditional wood-pastures with changing management in Eastern Europe

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Wood-pastures are fragile ecosystems because they were formed by, and depend on specific, low-intensity multifunctional management. Although their ecological and cultural significance is high, wood-pastures are rapidly deteriorating all over Europe, mainly due to changing land use. We still lack a basic understanding of the ecological value of wood-pastures, and in which features they differ from other landscape elements. In this paper we investigated the ecological value of wood-pastures for passerine birds by (i) comparing bird assemblages of wood-pastures with those of closed forests and open pastures and (ii) exploring the relationships between variables describing wood-pastures and species traits of the bird assemblages. Our study region (Southern Transylvania, Romania) provides a unique opportunity to understand the importance of a traditional cultural and ecological environment for many different organisms. Wood-pastures had a higher overall number of bird species, and a higher spatial turnover in bird community composition than closed forests and open pastures. We found significant associations between bird species traits and habitat structural elements in wood-pastures such as large trees, oak- and pear trees and shrubs. Our findings suggest that traditional wood-pastures in Southern Transylvania have distinct and rich passerine bird communities. This richness is inextricably linked to the multifunctional, low-intensity land use traditionally applied in the wood-pastures that promotes high niche diversity. For effective conservation of the biodiversity of wood-pastures, a detailed understanding is needed of how different management regimes may influence the key structural elements of wood-pastures relevant for biodiversity and these should be protected.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)385–395
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 08.2014

    Research areas

  • Environmental planning - Biodiversity, Conservation, Dead trees, Grazing, Romania, Scattered trees, Shrub, Traditional cultural landscape