Effects of overgrowing at Cerknica Polje (southern Slovenia) on breeding farmland birds/ Vpliv zaraščanja Cerkniškega polja (južna Slovenija) na gnezdilke kmetijske krajine

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Abstract

Agriculture has a great impact on biodiversity in Europe. Populations of farmland birds are declining due to both intensification and abandonment of agriculture. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of overgrowing on the diversity of birds at Cerknica Polje. Six vegetation types were identified on eight survey plots (15.2-31.6 ha each): Short grass - regularly mown wet meadows; Tall herbs - stands of Common Reed Phragmites australis and Reed Canary Grass Phalaris arundinacea; Sparse bushes - stands of low woody plants; Dense bushes - dense stands of bushes; Meadows with trees - mown meadows with scattered trees; Bushes with trees - hedges, trees and dense stands of bushes. In total, 34 species were registered. The heterogeneity of vegetation types correlated positively with the heterogeneity of bird species. The highest density of breeding territories and species was established in Bushes with trees, the lowest in Short grass. No species were registered in all vegetation types, and only Tree Pipit was recorded in five out of six types. Twelve species were registered in only one vegetation type. Cerknica Polje is an important breeding locality for species with the highest breeding density at the national level (e.g. Corncrake Crex crex, Curlew Numenius arquata, Skylark Alauda arvensis, Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus). These species breed in specific habitats with different stages of succession. A managing plan for the area should therefore combine abandoned plots in different stages of succession and large regularly mown areas. Abandonment of agriculture at Cerknica Polje has led to the emergence of areas with bushes in different succession stages. Efforts should be directed at preserving large complexes of mown wet meadows.

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