Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Assessing impacts of land abandonment on Mediterranean biodiversity using indicators based on bird and butterfly monitoring data


In Europe, and particularly in the Mediterranean Basin, the abandonment of traditional land-use practices has been reported as one of the main causes of decline for open-habitat species. Data from large-scale bird and butterfly monitoring schemes in the north-east Iberian Peninsula were used to evaluate the impact that land abandonment has had on local biodiversity. Species’ habitat preferences, along a gradient from open to forest habitats, were significantly related to population trends: for both birds and butterflies, open-habitat species showed the most marked declines while forest species increased moderately. Multi-species indicators for tracking the impact of land abandonment on bird and butterfly populations were developed using habitat preference estimates and population trend indices. The patterns shown by these indicators were in line with the changes occurring in forest cover in the monitoring sites. This study reveals that multi-species indicators based on monitoring data from different taxonomic groups (here, birds and butterflies) may usefully be employed to track impacts of environmental change on biodiversity.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Dr Sergi Herrando e-mail
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

B.W. Brook , N.S. Sodhi & C.J. Bradshaw (2008) Synergies among extinction drivers under global change. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 23: 453460.

S.H.M. Butchart , M. Walpole , B. Collen , A. van Strien , J.P. Scharlemann , R.E. Almond , J.E. Baillie , B. Bomhard , C. Brown , J. Bruno et al. (2010) Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science 328: 11641168. doi:10.1126/science.1187512

B. Collen & E. Nicholson (2014) Taking the measure of change. Science 346: 166167. doi:10.1126/science.1255772

J. de Chazal & M.D.A. Rounsevell (2009) Land-use and climate change within assessments of biodiversity change: a review. Global Environmental Change 19: 306315.

M. de Heer , V. Kapos & B.J.R. Ten Brink (2005) Biodiversity trends in Europe: development and testing of a species trend indicator for evaluating progress towards the 2010 target. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 360: 297308.

V. Devictor , C. van Swaay , T. Brereton , L. Brotons , D. Chamberlain , J. Heliölä , S. Herrando , R. Julliard , M. Kuussaari , A. Lindström , J. Reif , D.V. Roy , O. Schweiger , J. Settele , C. Stefanescu , A. van Strien , C. van Turnhout , Z. Vermouzek , M. DeVries , I. Wynhoff & F. Jiguet (2012) Differences in the climatic debts of birds and butterflies at a continental scale. Nature Climate Change 2: 121124.

R. Dirzo , H.S. Young , M. Galetti , G. Ceballos , N.J.B. Isaac & B. Collen (2014) Defaunation in the Anthropocene. Science 345: 401406.

J. Feranec , G. Jaffrain , T. Soukup & G. Hazeu (2010) Determining changes and flows in European landscapes 1990–2000 using CORINE land cover data. Applied Geography 30: 1935.

E. Fleishman & D.D. Murphy (2009) A realistic assessment of the indicator potential of butterflies and other charismatic taxonomic groups. Conservation Biology 23: 11091116.

R.W. Furness & J.J.D. Greenwood (1993) Birds as Monitors of Environmental Change. London, UK: Chapman & Hall.

R.D. Gregory , A. van Strien , P. Voříšek , A.W. Gmelig Meyling , D.G. Noble , R.P.B. Foppen & D.W. Gibbons (2005) Developing indicators for European birds. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 360: 269288.

R.D. Gregory , P. Vořišek , D.G. Noble , A. van Strien , A. Klvaňová , M. Eaton , A.W. Gmelig Meyling , A. Joys , R.P.B. Foppen & I.J. Burfield (2008) The generation and use of bird population indicators in Europe. Bird Conservation International 18: 223244.

J. Hilty & A. Merenlender (2000). Faunal indicator taxa selection for monitoring ecosystem health. Biological Conservation 92: 185197.

N.J.B. Isaac , K.L. Cruickshanks , A.M. Weddle , J.M. Rowcliffe , T.M. Brereton , R.L.H. Dennis , D.M. Shuker & C.D. Thomas (2011) Distance sampling and the challenge of monitoring butterfly populations. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 2: 585594.

M. Kéry & M. Plattner (2007) Species richness estimation and determinants of species detectability in butterfly monitoring programmes. Ecological Entomology 32: 5361.

M. Kéry , J.A. Royle & H. Schmid (2005) Modeling avian abundance from replicated counts using binomial mixture models. Ecological Applications 15: 14501461.

N. Myers , R.A. Mittermeier , C.G. Mittermeier , G.A.B. da Fonseca & J. Kent (2000) Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403: 853858.

H.M. Pereira , S. Ferrier , M. Walters , G.N. Geller , R.H.G. Jongman , R.J. Scholes , M.W. Bruford , N. Brummitt , S.H.M. Butchart , A.C. Cardoso , N.C. Coops , E. Dulloo , D.P. Faith , J. Freyhof , R.D. Gregory , C. Heip , R. Höft , G. Hurtt , W. Jetz , D.S. Karp , M.A. McGeoch , D. Obura , Y. Onoda , N. Pettorelli , B. Reyers , R. Sayre , J.P.W. Scharlemann , S.N. Stuart , E. Turak , M. Walpole & M. Wegmann (2013) Essential biodiversity variables. Science 339: 277278.

E. Pollard (1977) A method for assessing change in the abundance of butterflies. Biological Conservation 12: 115132.

E. Preiss , J.L. Martin & M. Debussche (1997) Rural depopulation and recent landscape changes in a Mediterranean region: consequences to the breeding avifauna. Landscape Ecology 12: 5161.

T.H. Ricketts , G.C. Daily & P.R. Ehrlich (2002) Does butterfly diversity predict moth diversity? Testing a popular indicator taxon at local scales. Biological Conservation 103: 361370.

C. Sirami , L. Brotons , I. Burfield , J. Fonderflick & J.L. Martin (2008) Is land abandonment having an impact on biodiversity? A meta-analytical approach to bird distribution changes in the north-western Mediterranean. Biological Conservation 141: 450459.

C. Stefanescu , J. Peñuelas & I. Filella (2009) Rapid changes in butterfly communities following the abandonment of grasslands: a case study. Insect Diversity and Conservation 2: 261269.

C. Stefanescu , I. Torre , J. Jubany & F. Páramo (2011) Recent trends in butterfly populations from north-east Spain and Andorra in the light of habitat and climate change. Journal of Insect Conservation 15: 8393.

D. Strijker (2005) Marginal lands in Europe – causes of decline. Basic and Applied Ecology 6: 99106.

S. Suárez-Seoane , P.E. Osborne & J. Baudry (2002) Responses of birds of different biogeographic origins and habitat requirements to land abandonment in northern Spain. Biological Conservation 105: 333344.

A.J. Suggitt , C. Stefanescu , T. Oliver , F. Páramo , B.J. Anderson , J.K. Hill , D.B. Roy & C.D. Thomas (2012) Habitat associations of species show consistent but weak responses to climate. Biology Letters 8: 590593.

J. Tews , U. Brose , V. Grimm , K. Tielbörger , M. C. Wichmann , M. Schwager & F. Jeltsch (2004) Animal species diversity driven by habitat heterogeneity/diversity: the importance of keystone structures. Journal of Biogeography 31: 7992.

J.A. Thomas (2005) Monitoring change in the abundance and distribution of insects using butterflies and other indicator groups. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 360: 339357.

J.A. Thomas , M.G. Telfer , D.B. Roy , C.D. Preston , J.J.D. Greenwood , J. Asher , R. Fox , R.T. Clarke & J.H. Lawton (2004) Comparative losses of British butterflies, birds, and plants and the global extinction crisis. Science 303: 18791881.

J. Tzanopoulos , R. Mouttet , A. Letourneau , I.N. Vogiatzakis , S.G. Potts , K. Henlee , R. Mathevet & P. Marty (2013) Scale sensitivity of drivers of environmental change across Europe. Global Environmental Change 23: 167178.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 17
Total number of PDF views: 47 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 397 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.