Seasonal changes in avian communities living in an extensively used farmland of Western Poland

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Abstract

To study the seasonal changes in avian communities, we collected data in an extensively used farmland in Western Poland during 2006-2013. Generalized additive mixed models were used in order to study the effects of seasonality and protected areas on the overall bird species richness. A similarity percentage analysis was also conducted in order to identify the species that contribute most strongly to dissimilarity among each bird according to the phenological season. Furthermore, the differences in bird communities were investigated applying the decomposition of the species richness in season, trend, and remainder components. Each season showed significant differences in bird species richness (seasonality effect). The effect of the protected areas was slightly positive on the overall species richness for all seasons. However, an overall negative trend was detected for the entire period of eight years. The bird community composition was different among seasons, showing differences in terms of dominant species. Greater differences were found between breeding and wintering seasons, in particular, the spatial pattern of sites with higher bird richness (hotspots) were different between breeding and wintering seasons. Our findings showed a negative trend in bird species richness verified in the Polish farmlands from 2006. This result mirrors the same negative trend already highlighted for Western Europe. The role of protected areas, even if slightly positive, was not enough to mitigate this decline process. Therefore, to effectively protect farmland birds, it is necessary to also consider inter-seasons variation, and for this, we suggest the use of medium-term temporal studies on bird communities’ trends.

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