Who we are

Vassiliki Kati

Table of Contents

Profile
Research profile

I am a field biologist, with expertise in the taxonomy and ecology of a wide range of animal groups, (grasshoppers, butterflies, dragonflies, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals). I build up primary biodiversity databases, with a special focus on Mediterranean mountainous ecosystems. 

International collaboration, independence, ecological breadth, and a consistent focus on providing solutions to major conservation problems are the four points that depict my research profile.

The last research projects I have initiated concerned the sustainable spatial planning of wind farms without undermining biodiversity goals, the delineation of roadless areas as pristine landscapes of high ecological and aesthetic value that should be preserved as such, and several projects on the conservation of endemic and threatened grasshopper species. I have also recently initiated “apollo” the first voluntary citizen-science scheme for monitoring greek butterflies.  

 
Social profile

It is my belief that biodiversity conservation and ecological justice are the greatest challenges of our century. Science can provide real answers to our biodiversity crisis-era; we do not have the luxury to do science without implementation and vice versa.

For this reason, I am active as a conservation biologist, attempting to apply scientific findings in practice and to bridge the gap between local and international policymaking. I am a member of several international and national scientific societies and NGOs, having also chaired the Education Committee of the SCB-Europe and having organized the first international summer school on conservation biology for five years. 

I am together with Haritakis and we have a lovely daughter, Myrto. If I was not to be a scientist, I would be a musician or a book writer of novels and fairy tales…. Who knows, maybe these dreams will come true one day…

Research interests

Biodiversity conservation: Indicators, reserve design techniques, biodiversity patterns and mapping, biodiversity under climate change, the impact of human-originated pressures on biodiversity.

Community ecology: Diversity patterns, ecological structure, habitat suitability, and conservation management of terrestrial animal communities: grasshoppers, butterflies, herpetofauna, birds, and mammals.

Conservation biology: Endangered species conservation, protected areas management, windfarm spatial planning, roadless areas and wilderness.

Environmental policy: Science-policy interface, implementation of Natura 2000 network, roadless areas, sustainable game management.

Milestones & Education

Professor

University of Ioannina. Department of Biological Applications & Technology. Head of the Biodiversity Conservation Lab.

Associate Professor

University of Ioannina. Department of Biological Applications & Technology

Assistant Professor

University of Patras. Department of Environmental & Natural Resources Management. 2010-2016. Associate Professor in the same Department (2016).

Lecturer

University of Ioannina. Department of Environmental & Natural Resources Management. 2006-2010.

Lecturer (contract-UOI)

University of Ioannina. Department of Environmental & Natural Resources Management. Lecturer under contract [Teaching the core courses: Plant ecology, Environmental planning and sustainable development.] 2002-2006.

Summer visitor professor (Germany)

Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. Institut für Zoologie II. Summer visitor professor (Assistant Professor). [Teaching the postgraduate course: Applied ecology-biodiversity conservation.] July-August 2002.

Lecturer (contract TIE)

Technological Institute of Epirus. Department of Fisheries. Lecturer under contract [Teaching the core course: Biology]. 2001-2003.

Researcher

WWF-Greece. Project on the conservation management and monitoring of Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) in Northern Pindus. 2001-2003.

Ph.D. (ecology)

Université Catholique  de Louvain, Belgium. Department of Biology, Section of Ecology and Biogeography. Ph.D. on biodiversity conservation with grade "The greatest distinction". Doctoral thesis: «Methodological Approach on Assessing and Optimizing the Conservation of Biodiversity: a case study in Dadia reserve (Greece) ».  Supervisor Prof. Ph. Lebrun. 1997-2001

M.Sc. (ecology)

Université Catholique  de Louvain, Belgium. Department of Biology, Section of Ecology and Biogeography.  Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies en Biologie (DEA) with grade « Great Distinction». MSc thesis: «Passerine and Orchid diversity assessment in Dadia forest reserve, N.E. Greece». Supervisor Prof. Ph. Lebrun. 1997-1999.

Biology diploma

Αristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Department of Biology. Diploma in Biology with grade «Excellent» (8.53/10). Diploma thesis: «Assessment of pollution levels of Lasne and Argentine streams (Belgium) in terms of biological indicators”. 1992-1996.

Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. Department of Biology. Erasmus student (12 months). Attending undergraduate and post-graduate courses on land management, environmental management, ecology and biogeography. 1995-1996.

Research projects

NATLAND- Undisturbed natural areas of Greece (SEBI 13).

Goal: Mapping the roadless areas of Greece (over 1 sqkm) and providing to the Greek government and society an open spatial database of the roadless areas of Greece, including whole islands, as a tool to delineate and protect wilderness areas of high naturalness, ecological and aesthetic value. The project concludes to suggestions on integrating its outputs in the national and international environmental policies towards minimizing fragmentation and land use change, in the frame of the new biodiversity strategy in the EU.

Period: 2021-2022. Funding: Green Fund of Greece. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina.  Role: Coordinator. More info here

OITI- Investigating the endemic and threatened entomofauna in Oiti and Tymphristos.

Goal: Study of the distribution and ecological requirements of fourteen important grasshoppers in the mountains of Oiti and Tymphristos and suggestion of conservation measures for two species that are both endemic and endangered (EN) - Parnassiana tymphrestos and Oropodisma tymphrestosi.

Period: 2021-2022. Funding: Management Agency of Oiti National Park. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. [Photo O. tymphrestosi mating]

ALEXANOR- Improving the conservation status of the species Papilio alexanor in Parnassos.

Goal: Study of the distribution and ecological requirements of the butterfly of Community interest Papilio alexanor in two Natura 2000 sites (Parnassos and Giona mountains) and suggest conservation measures to improve its population status and conservation degree. 

Period: 2021-2022. Funding: Management Agency of Parnassos National Park. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator.

PARNO-Improving the knowledge of Parnassos’ endemic and threatened entomofauna.

Goal: Study of the distribution and ecological requirements of eleven important grasshopper species in Parnassos National Park and proposal of conservation measures for four endemic and endangered species: Parnassiana parnassica (CR), Oropodisma parnassica (EN), Stenobothrus graecus (EN), Glyphanus obtusus (EN)

Period: 2021-2022. Funding: Management Agency of Parnassos National Park. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. [Photo Glyphanus obtusus]

LAC-Conservation management of the endemic species Chorthippus lacustris

Goal: Study of the ecological requirements of the Epirus dancing grasshopper (critically endangered and endemic species) and action plan to restore its populations and improve its conservation status in the basin of Pamvotis Lake. Conservation actions will be implemented and their efficiency will be assessed through monitoring, in collaboration with the staff of the Management Agency of Pamvotis Lake. 

Period: 2021-2023. Funding: Management Agency of Pamvotis Lake. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. [Photo male Epirus dancing grasshopper]

PINS-Monitoring and improving the knowledge of the endemic and threatened entomofauna in the area of the Management Agency of Lake Pamvotis

Goal: Study of the distribution and ecological requirements of important insect species in Mitsikeli and Nemertsika mountains and the broader area (Ioannina, Pogoni). It targets the butterfly Ephydrias aurinia, the endemic cave-cricket of Perama cave Dolichopoda graeca, the species of Community interest Paracaloptenus caloptenoides and the endemic and endangered species Pryonotropis willemsorum. The study concludes to a spatial database and data on the species ecological requirements with concrete conservation measure suggestions where applicable.  

Period: 2021-2023. Funding: Management Agency of Pamvotis Lake.  Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role:  Coordinator. [Photo Dolichopoda graeca].

WIND: Windfarms and Sustainable Development Goals: optimal approach for fragmentation and land use change

Goal: The convergence of climate and biodiversity policies, in the field of wind farm development. The project WIND produced a sustainable scenario of sitting windfarms, which minimizes the cost for biodiversity and natural landscapes, while succeeding to overcome the national climate goals of energy production from windfarms by 2030 and beyond. 

Period: 2020-2021. Funding: National Center for the Environment and Sustainable Development. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. More info here

BUTALL- Butterflies of Greece: Linking science with society

Goal: Connect science with society, with a focus on butterflies, for the mutual benefit of the citizens themselves, science and the Greek State. The projects sets up the first methodological guideline and provides the means to set up the first national citizen science scheme for recording and monitoring butterflies in Greece. 

Period: 2019-2020. Funding: National Center for the Environment and Sustainable Development. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. More info here

ROADLESS- Roadless areas and sustainable development in Greece

Goal: Contribution to tackling the problem of fragmentation of the landscape and natural ecosystems from new road networks. The project mapped the roadless areas of 50 sqkm in Greece, and produced papers, policy briefs, video, and an online spatial database of roadless areas. It suggested a European legislation on conserving the last roadless areas as wilderness areas where new roads and artificial land expansion should be banned. The social impact of the project was large, and the Prime Minister announced in COP26 (November 2021) the intention of the government to conserve the last large wilderness roadless areas in Greece under the name “untrodden mountains”. ROADLESS project continued through NATLAND project.

Period: 2019-2020. Funding: Green Fund of Greece. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. More info here

AOOS - Contribution to biodiversity knowledge of Aoos catchment

Goal: To provide a georeferenced database of species distribution in the basin of Aoos river, one of the last unfragmented free-flowing rivers in Europe, with special focus on the part of the area that is under no protection status. The project assessed different microhabitats of Aoos’ catchment in terms of their ecological value for the target species, as well as potential pressures and threats. Targeted species included large mammals, the otter and the dragonflies. The project suggested establishing a cross-border national park of Aoos between Greece and Albania. 

Period: 2019. Funding: Pindos Perivallontiki (NGO) (Funds from Euronatur). Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. View the report here

COEXIST-Conflict of livestock-wolf in selected regions of Greece

Goal: Contribute to wolf-human conflict mitigation in Tzoumerka National Park. The project assesses and describes traditional free-ranging livestock raisers’ profile, records wolf depredation levels on cattle, sheep and goat herds as the main baseline metric of wolf-human conflicts in Tzoumerka NP, identifies and evaluates the principal damage prevention methods adopted by local livestock farmers, assesses levels of livestock guarding dog mortality due to the illegal use of poisoned baits as a major conservation problem and evaluates satisfaction levels of livestock farmers regarding the national compensation system. 

Period: 2018. Funding: WWF-Hellas. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. More info here

SOER-Environmental Status Report - Nature / Biodiversity 2018

Goal: Assess the environmental progress of Greece in terms of indicators (SEBI) in the field of nature conservation. The project output was the national environmental report of the country, assessing the progress of Greece to achieve its biodiversity goals, using the system of the Streamlining Biodiversity Indicators of the European Environmental Agency.

Period: 2017. Funding: National Center of Environment and Sustainable Development. Institute: BCL - University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator. View the report here

LACON-Epirus grasshopper conservation: linking genetics and ecology under a conservation perspective

Goal: Increasing scientific knowledge about the distribution, population and genetic profile of poulations of the endemic and critically endangered grasshopper species (Chorhippus lacustris), with the aim of preserving it in practice. The program provided transfer of know-how to the staff of the Lake Pamvotida Management Agency, which since then monitors the status of the species populations on annual basis (the first invertebrate monitoring scheme in Greece).

Period: 2016-2017. Funding: Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. Institute: University of Patras. Role: Coordinator. More info here

VULTURES-Vultures-Movement ecology of an endangered vulture species (Aegypius monachus) in Thrace and spatial planning of wind farms

Goal: result dissemination (open access papers) of research undertaken by the PhD student D. Vassilakis concerning the sustainable spatial planning of windfarms so as to minimize the mortality of cinereous vulture in Thrace. 

Period: 2015-2017. Funding: Natural Research LtD Company, Scotland. Institute: University of Patras. Role: Coordinator. Relevant paper: Vasilakis et al. 2017

TZIN-Monitoring invertebrate species in the National Park of Tzoumerka-Peristeri-Aracthos gorge

Goal: Set up a spatial database for the grasshopper species in the National Park of Tzoumerka and increase the ecological knowledge of their habitat requirements and human pressures/ threats affecting their populations, to improve their conservation status.

Period: 2015-2017. Funding:  Epirus Development Society AE. (funds from Greek Ministry of Environment). Institute: University of Patras. Role: Coordinator.

HERPETO-Monitoring and evaluation of the conservation status of amphibian and reptile species of European interest in Greece

Goal: Monitoring the amphibian and reptile species of community interest in five sites of the Natura 2000 network and assessing their conservation status in every site of the network. 

Period: 2013-2015. Funding: Hellenic Herpetological Society (funding from the Greek Ministry of Environment). Institute: University of Patras. Role: Coordinator

INSECTA-Monitoring and evaluation of the conservation status of invertebrate species of European interest in Greece

Goal: Monitoring and assess the conservation status of all terrestrial invertebrate species of Community Interest occurring Greece and report on their conservation status under the Article 17 of the Habitats’ Directive.   

Period: 2013-2015. Funding: NCC Company (funding from the Greek Ministry of Environment). Institute: University of Athens (A. Legakis). Role: Coordinator of the butterfly group, methodology setting for grasshoppers and dragonflies (University of Patras). 

DISPAR- Monitoring and evaluation of the conservation status of habitats and flora and fauna species of European interest in the area under the responsibility of the Management Agency of Messologi lagoon

Goal: Collect data on the distribution and population size of insects, with special focus on Lycaena dispar (butterfly) in the lagoon of Messologi to assess its conservation status in the area. 

Period: 2013-2015. Funding: NERCO Company (funding from the Greek Ministry of Environment). Institute: University of Patras. Role: Coordinator. 

KALAMAS-Monitoring of species and habitats in the ravine and estuaries of Acherontas and Kalamas rivers

Goal: Collect data on the distribution and population status of amphibians, reptiles and a beetle species  (Osmoderma eremita) of Community Interest in the area of Kalamas, and report on their conservation status in the area. 

Period: 2013-2015. Funding: OIKOM Company (funding from the Greek Ministry of Environment). Institute: University of Patras. Role: Coordinator and researcher (herpetology/entomology),

THALIS-SAGE - Conservation through religion: the sacred groves of Epirus

Goal: Assess the biodiversity importance and the social value of sacred groves in the area of Epirus  The biodiversity group collected data from vegetation, lichens, birds, and bats and published a relevant paper together with other members of the consortium.

Period: 2012-2015. Funding: Greek Ministry of Development (ESPA) and European Union (European Social Funds). Institute: University of Ioannina. Coordinator: J.M. Halley.  Role: Researcher (ornithologist) and coordinator of the biodiversity group I (vegetation, lichens, birds, bats). Relevant papers:  Avtzis et al 2018; Muggia et al. 2018. More info  here

Nota: New independent research from BCL contradicts the project outputs and underlines the significantly greater ecological value of sacred groves as “biodiversity refugia” for bird communities vs managed oak woods for birds (passerines, woodpeckers) considering organismal, functional and phylogenetic diversity. Benedetti et al. 2021

AGRALE -Impact of Agricultural abandonment on landscape structure, vegetation and birds in SE Europe

Goal: To assess the impact of the agricultural land abandonment on landscape change, on woody species and bird diversity and conclude to measures that contribute to biodiversity conservation. A common methodology for woody species, landscape structure and bird sampling was applied in Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Croatia, whilst Austria was involved in landscape analysis. The project provided concrete evidence on the negative impact of land abandonment for biodiversity and the positive role of mild grazing in the mid-elevation former agricultural landscapes. 

Period 2010-2012. Funding: SEE-ERA.NET PLUS CALL (FP7). Institute: University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator of the international projects involving five countries. Relevant papers: Zakkak et al. 2018, Dyulgerova et al. 2015, Zakkak et al. 2015a, Zakkak et al. 2015b. More info here

Biodiversity patterns (flora and invertebrate fauna) versus local climate change in Cyprus.

Goal: Increase the knowledge of the diversity patterns of flora and invertebrate fauna (butterflies and grasshoppers) in the island of Cyprus, along an elevation gradient, and conclude to conservation measures for the target taxa under the light of climate change. 

Period: 2010-2013. Funding: Institute of Research Promotion of Cyprus (PENEK Scheme). Institute: Frederick University, Cyprus Coordinator (K. Kadis). Role: Co-supervisor of PhD thesis, involved in sampling design and methodology setting of the project. Relevant paper: Tzirkalli et al. 2019

Updading the special environmental study for the Natura 2000 area GR1320002 and special environmental study for the Natura 2000 area GR2130010

Goal: Special environmental studies updating the species list and relevant ecological information of the two Natura 2000 sites through fieldwork. 

Period: 2008-2009. Funding: Epirus Development Society AE. Institute: University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator and researcher (ornithologist). 

Implementing an evaluation system of the conservation status of habitats and landscapes

Goal: Evaluation of the conservation status of habitats as well as the landscapes in the Northern Pindos National Park. 

Period: 2008.Funding: Management Agency of Northern Pindos National Park under Interreg IIIA/Cards, Greece-Albania Scheme. Institute: University of Ioannina. Coordinator: P. Dimopoulos. Role: Researcher (landscape ecology).

Developing an integrated information system for the monitoring and management of Natura 2000 areas in Greece and Italy-a pilot study in common ecosystems of Greece and Italy.

Goal: To develop an integrated information system for common monitoring and management of similar ecosystems Greece and Italy (Greek case study: Kalamas Delta). 

Period: 2006-2009. Funding: INTERREG IIIA, Greece-Italy. Institute: University of Ioannina. Coordinator: P. Dimopoulos. Role: Researcher (ornithologist-entomologist). Relevant paper: Kati et al. 2012

RIPIDURABLE Gestion durable de ripisylves – Code No3S01251

Goal: To provide guidelines for the adequate conservation management of riverine ecosystems. 

Period: 2005-2008. Funding: INTERREG IIIC – Sud/ FEDER. Institute: University of Ioannina. Coordinator: P. Dimopoulos. Role: Researcher (ornithologist).

Assessing and mapping biodiversity in the protected area of Tzoumerka

Goal: To provide the first geospatial biodiversity database of the mountains of central Pindos in Tzoumerka National Park, through fieldwork concerning the habitats, the flora and the fauna of the study area. Animal taxa covered: grasshoppers, butterflies, fish, amphibians, reptiles, small birds (passerines and woodpeckers), small mammals (rodents and insectivorous), bats, as well as the otter and the chamois. The project's ultimate goal was to feed the forthcoming special environmental study with data, in order to contribute to the adequate land-use zoning of the National Park. 

Period: 2004-2007. Funding: Hellenic Ministry of Education (Pythagoras II Scheme). Institute: University of Ioannina. Coordinator: P. Dimopoulos. Role: Researcher (insects, birds) and coordinator of the fauna group.

Special Environmental Study for the broader Tzoumerka area

Goal: Undertake the Special Environmental Study of the broader Tzoumerka area, concluding to an adequate zoning system of land uses for the conservation of biodiversity, under the scope to announce a new national park. 

Period: 2004-2005. Funding: Epirus Development Society AE. Coordinator. H. Papaioannou. Role: Researcher (entomologist-ornithologist).

Diversity of passerine birds in Pindos National Park and relevant actions of environmental education.

Goal: Provide the first geospatial bird database of Pindos National Park through fieldwork, covering different habitat types, assessing their value for conservation, while suggesting adequate conservation measures for bird diversity. The project included environmental education activities, such as university student training and seminars.

Period: 2003-2004. Funding: Hellenic Ministry of Environmental and Public Works (Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Scheme). Institute:  Pindos Perivallontiki & University of Ioannina. Role: Coordinator and researcher (ornithologist). Relevant paper: Kati et al. 2009 

Experimental study for the impact of forest grazing on plant diversity

Goal: Studying the impact of grazing on plant diversity, taking as a study area the Bourazani Environmental Park. 

Period: 2002-2004. Funding: Ministry of Development and General Secretariat of Research, Common Research and Technological Projects of Greece and Germany. Institute: University of Ioannina. Coordinator P. Dimopoulos. Role: Researcher (entomologist).

Biodiversity and conservation of Xiromeros oak forest (Aitoloakarnania Prefecture)

Goal: Studying and mapping biodiversity in Xiromeros oak forest. 

Period: 2002-2003. Funding: Hellenic Ministry of Environmental and Public Works (Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development Scheme). Institute: University of Ioannina. Coordinator: P. Dimopoulos. Role: Researcher (ornithologist)

Northern Pindos project

Goal: A WWF long term project for Northern Pindos National Park. 

Period: 2001-2003. Funding: WWF-Greece. Institute: WWF Greece. Coordinator: H. Papaioannou. Role: Researcher for the monitoring and conservation management of Balkan chamois population. Relevant paper: Papaioannou & Kati 2007 

Publications

Publications include (a) international peer reviewed papers, (b) book chapters, (c) papers in conference proceedings, (d) published datasets, (e) selected reports. Links for accessing pdfs are provided

*: corresponding author.

  Paper without Impact Factor.

Biological group
Grasshoppers
Butterflies
Dragonflies
Small birds
Amphibians & reptiles
Raptors
Other birds
Ungulates
Large carnivores
Vegetation
Multi-taxa
Topic
Roads
Windfarms
Social science

PhD thesis

The current research is conducted in the framework of conservation biology, taking as a case study the reserve of Dadia, in NE Greece. Biological diversity is represented by six biological groups: vegetation, orchids, Orthoptera, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna, and small terrestrial birds. The diversity and the ecological structure of the group communities are assessed and analyzed for 36 sites, which represent different habitat types in the Dadia reserve. Five conservation scenarios are constructed to design optimal reserve networks for the conservation of biodiversity. They support the scoring versus approach, the principle of complementarity, of biological representativeness, of environmental representativeness, and finally the random design of reserve systems. Their efficiency is tested and their utility is discussed. The degree of coincidence of hotspots and of the optimal network for different groups is measured, as well as the surrogate value of each studied group as a shortcut for the conservation of the other groups and of overall biodiversity. Finally, we discuss practical conservation issues for the reserve of Dadia.

 

Papers

The Dadia Forest Reserve, eastern Greek Thraki, is a dry and rocky area, most of it consisting of forested hills. A check-list of Orthoptera is given. The fauna is relatively poor, but some species are biogeographically important. Most interesting is the occurrence of the pamphagid Paranocarodes chopardi Pechev, 1965. The species is new to the Greek fauna. Its range is quite limited and the official protection status of the Dadia Forest Reserve will certainly help to prevent extinction
The Dadia Forest Reserve, eastern Greek Thraki, is a dry and rocky area, most of it consisting of forested hills. A check-list of Orthoptera is given. The fauna is relatively poor, but some species are biogeographically important. Most interesting is the occurrence of the pamphagid Paranocarodes chopardi Pechev, 1965. The species is new to the Greek fauna. Its range is quite limited and the official protection status of the Dadia Forest Reserve will certainly help to prevent extinction
Reserve networks are a major tool of ecological management aiming at biodiversity conservation. Maximizing the number of species conserved with the minimum land sacrifice is a primary requirement in reserve design. In this study, we examine the efficiency of five different scenarios to conserve: (i) the biodiversity of one target group and (ii) the overall biodiversity of an area. The study was conducted in Dadia Reserve, in northern Greece. Six groups of species were selected to represent its biodiversity: woody plants, orchids, Orthoptera, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna, and small terrestrial birds. The scenarios examined represent different conservation approaches to select network sites. For each approach, the starting point was one of the above six groups of species, considered as the target group. In scenario A, which reflects the hotspot approach, the sites richest in species are selected. Scenario B selects the sites most complementary in terms of species richness. The next two scenarios use the principle of environmental representativeness, expressed in terms of habitat (scenario C) or vegetation (scenario D). Under scenario E, sites forming the network are selected at random. The rank of scenarios in terms of preserving the species of the target group was always B > A > C > D > E, irrespective of the group considered as target group. Their rank, when preservation of the total biodiversity was the issue, was B, A > C, D > E.
Reserve networks are a major tool of ecological management aiming at biodiversity conservation. Maximizing the number of species conserved with the minimum land sacrifice is a primary requirement in reserve design. In this study, we examine the efficiency of five different scenarios to conserve: (i) the biodiversity of one target group and (ii) the overall biodiversity of an area. The study was conducted in Dadia Reserve, in northern Greece. Six groups of species were selected to represent its biodiversity: woody plants, orchids, Orthoptera, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna, and small terrestrial birds. The scenarios examined represent different conservation approaches to select network sites. For each approach, the starting point was one of the above six groups of species, considered as the target group. In scenario A, which reflects the hotspot approach, the sites richest in species are selected. Scenario B selects the sites most complementary in terms of species richness. The next two scenarios use the principle of environmental representativeness, expressed in terms of habitat (scenario C) or vegetation (scenario D). Under scenario E, sites forming the network are selected at random. The rank of scenarios in terms of preserving the species of the target group was always B > A > C > D > E, irrespective of the group considered as target group. Their rank, when preservation of the total biodiversity was the issue, was B, A > C, D > E.
We examined six groups of taxa—woody plants, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna, small terrestrial birds, orchids, and Orthoptera—to determine their efficiency as biodiversity indicators in the Dadia Reserve in northern Greece. We investigated the indicator value of each group by examining the degree of congruence of its species‐richness pattern with that of the other groups and the efficiency of its complementary network in conserving the other groups and biodiversity. The two techniques differed in many respects in their outputs, but they both showed woody plants as the best biodiversity indicator. There was in general low congruence in the species richness patterns across the different groups. Significant relationships were found between woody plants and birds, Orthoptera and terrestrial herpetofauna, and birds and aquatic herpetofauna. None of the optimal complementary networks of the groups we examined protected all species of the other groups. Nevertheless, the complementary network of woody plants adequately conserved all groups except orchids. We conclude that the principle of complementarity must be integrated into the methodology of evaluating an indicator. In an applied context, our results provide a scientific background on which to base a biomonitoring program for the Dadia Reserve. In a wider scope, if the group of woody plants prove an adequate biodiversity indicator for other Mediterranean areas as well, this will be important because it will facilitate conservation‐related decisions for the entire Mediterranean region.
We examined six groups of taxa—woody plants, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna, small terrestrial birds, orchids, and Orthoptera—to determine their efficiency as biodiversity indicators in the Dadia Reserve in northern Greece. We investigated the indicator value of each group by examining the degree of congruence of its species‐richness pattern with that of the other groups and the efficiency of its complementary network in conserving the other groups and biodiversity. The two techniques differed in many respects in their outputs, but they both showed woody plants as the best biodiversity indicator. There was in general low congruence in the species richness patterns across the different groups. Significant relationships were found between woody plants and birds, Orthoptera and terrestrial herpetofauna, and birds and aquatic herpetofauna. None of the optimal complementary networks of the groups we examined protected all species of the other groups. Nevertheless, the complementary network of woody plants adequately conserved all groups except orchids. We conclude that the principle of complementarity must be integrated into the methodology of evaluating an indicator. In an applied context, our results provide a scientific background on which to base a biomonitoring program for the Dadia Reserve. In a wider scope, if the group of woody plants prove an adequate biodiversity indicator for other Mediterranean areas as well, this will be important because it will facilitate conservation‐related decisions for the entire Mediterranean region.
The diversity patterns, the ecological structure and the typical species of the orthopteran assemblage in the Dadia reserve are investigated. The reserve was designed to protect the black vulture (Aegypius monachus) and other raptors. A total of 39 orthopteran species were found, including Paranocarodes chopardi, a pamphagid species with very restricted distribution. All species can be represented in a network of six complementary habitats, including open oak woodlands, agricultural fields separated with hedges, humid grasslands, as well as serpentine grasslands. The buffer zone of the reserve is far more important for Orthoptera conservation than the core areas, which host most of the black vulture nests. Management focusing on raptors is in general compatible with conservation of Orthoptera. We suggest the maintenance of forest openings in the buffer zone, the maintenance of forest heterogeneity, the enhancement of periodical livestock grazing, and the use of nine indicator species and Paranocarodes chopardi in the reserve monitoring program.
The diversity patterns, the ecological structure and the typical species of the orthopteran assemblage in the Dadia reserve are investigated. The reserve was designed to protect the black vulture (Aegypius monachus) and other raptors. A total of 39 orthopteran species were found, including Paranocarodes chopardi, a pamphagid species with very restricted distribution. All species can be represented in a network of six complementary habitats, including open oak woodlands, agricultural fields separated with hedges, humid grasslands, as well as serpentine grasslands. The buffer zone of the reserve is far more important for Orthoptera conservation than the core areas, which host most of the black vulture nests. Management focusing on raptors is in general compatible with conservation of Orthoptera. We suggest the maintenance of forest openings in the buffer zone, the maintenance of forest heterogeneity, the enhancement of periodical livestock grazing, and the use of nine indicator species and Paranocarodes chopardi in the reserve monitoring program.
Butterfly, spider, and plant species richness and diversity were investigated in five different land-use types in Sardinia. In 16 one-hectare plots we measured a set of 15 environmental variables to detect the most important factors determining patterns of variation in species richness, particularly endemicity. The studied land-use types encompassed homogeneous and heterogeneous shrublands, shrublands with tree-overstorey, Quercus forest and agricultural land. A total of 30 butterfly species, among which 10 endemics, and 50 spider (morpho)species, were recorded. Butterfly and spider community composition differed according to land-use type. The main environmental factors determining diversity patterns in butterflies were the presence of flowers and trees. Spiders reacted mainly to habitat heterogeneity and land-use type. Traditional land-use did not have adverse effects on the diversity of butterflies, spiders, or plants. The number of endemic butterfly species per treatment increased with total species richness and altitude. Butterfly and spider richness did not co-vary across the five land-use types. Butterflies were, however, positively associated with plant species richness and elevation, whereas spiders were not. Conclusively, butterflies did not appear to be good indicators for spider diversity and species richness at the studied sites.
Butterfly, spider, and plant species richness and diversity were investigated in five different land-use types in Sardinia. In 16 one-hectare plots we measured a set of 15 environmental variables to detect the most important factors determining patterns of variation in species richness, particularly endemicity. The studied land-use types encompassed homogeneous and heterogeneous shrublands, shrublands with tree-overstorey, Quercus forest and agricultural land. A total of 30 butterfly species, among which 10 endemics, and 50 spider (morpho)species, were recorded. Butterfly and spider community composition differed according to land-use type. The main environmental factors determining diversity patterns in butterflies were the presence of flowers and trees. Spiders reacted mainly to habitat heterogeneity and land-use type. Traditional land-use did not have adverse effects on the diversity of butterflies, spiders, or plants. The number of endemic butterfly species per treatment increased with total species richness and altitude. Butterfly and spider richness did not co-vary across the five land-use types. Butterflies were, however, positively associated with plant species richness and elevation, whereas spiders were not. Conclusively, butterflies did not appear to be good indicators for spider diversity and species richness at the studied sites.
Birds are integral to many environmental monitoring schemes. However, there has been little research on the ecological basis of utilizing bird species as indicators of their respective communities and habitats. We used point counts to survey 72 landbird species, 16 of conservation concern, in the Dadia Nature Reserve, Greece, in order to understand the ecology of bird diversity patterns, analyse community composition, identify species characteristic of major vegetation types, and improve long‐term management and monitoring protocols. We sampled 36 sites representing 21 vegetation types. Highly heterogeneous sites were the most species rich and rural mosaics (small fields and pastures of low intensity land use, separated by thick hedgerows and tree lines) were twice as rich as intensified crop monocultures. Using multivariate analysis, we found that vegetation cover and height affected the composition of the avifauna. Twenty‐one predefined vegetation categories clustered into eight distinct bird habitat types: field crops, rural mosaics, mosaic sites, poplar trees, broadleaved woods, pinewoods, shrubs, and heaths. Ten bird species were highly characteristic of the main bird habitat types in the study area. Our results emphasize the importance of conserving rural mosaics, hedgerows, and openings within forests for landbird conservation in the Mediterranean countryside. We also provide evidence in support of maintaining horizontal heterogeneity at a local scale. Finally, we suggest that monitoring populations of certain indicator bird species can be a cost‐effective and efficient way to monitor the state and habitat quality of the entire landbird community, thereby integrating the knowledge of community structure into conservation decision‐making.
Birds are integral to many environmental monitoring schemes. However, there has been little research on the ecological basis of utilizing bird species as indicators of their respective communities and habitats. We used point counts to survey 72 landbird species, 16 of conservation concern, in the Dadia Nature Reserve, Greece, in order to understand the ecology of bird diversity patterns, analyse community composition, identify species characteristic of major vegetation types, and improve long‐term management and monitoring protocols. We sampled 36 sites representing 21 vegetation types. Highly heterogeneous sites were the most species rich and rural mosaics (small fields and pastures of low intensity land use, separated by thick hedgerows and tree lines) were twice as rich as intensified crop monocultures. Using multivariate analysis, we found that vegetation cover and height affected the composition of the avifauna. Twenty‐one predefined vegetation categories clustered into eight distinct bird habitat types: field crops, rural mosaics, mosaic sites, poplar trees, broadleaved woods, pinewoods, shrubs, and heaths. Ten bird species were highly characteristic of the main bird habitat types in the study area. Our results emphasize the importance of conserving rural mosaics, hedgerows, and openings within forests for landbird conservation in the Mediterranean countryside. We also provide evidence in support of maintaining horizontal heterogeneity at a local scale. Finally, we suggest that monitoring populations of certain indicator bird species can be a cost‐effective and efficient way to monitor the state and habitat quality of the entire landbird community, thereby integrating the knowledge of community structure into conservation decision‐making.
Chorthippus lacustris is an endemic grasshopper (Orthoptera) species in Epirus, Greece. Its population status, habitat characteristics, and relation to historical and current human land use are investigated. The species has a restricted and fragmented distribution pattern. Five locations, four within Pamvotida Lake basin and one in Lake Paramythia, cover a total of 0.12 km2. It is strongly dependent on wet grasslands, flooded on a seasonal basis. The greatest population density is recorded in the site with the greatest diversity of dominant plant species. Ch. lacustris is estimated to have lost 85–99% of its habitat during the last 50 years due to wetland drainage. The main threat to the species survival is further habitat loss by urbanisation around Pamvotida Lake and by land conversion to agriculture in Paramythia Lake, even though both sites belong to the Natura 2000 network. The species status is Critically Endangered and it should be listed in Annex II of the Habitat Directive (92/43/EEC) as a priority species for conservation. Restoring wet grasslands, protecting them from further urbanisation and drainage, and monitoring species population are the main measures proposed for its conservation.
Chorthippus lacustris is an endemic grasshopper (Orthoptera) species in Epirus, Greece. Its population status, habitat characteristics, and relation to historical and current human land use are investigated. The species has a restricted and fragmented distribution pattern. Five locations, four within Pamvotida Lake basin and one in Lake Paramythia, cover a total of 0.12 km2. It is strongly dependent on wet grasslands, flooded on a seasonal basis. The greatest population density is recorded in the site with the greatest diversity of dominant plant species. Ch. lacustris is estimated to have lost 85–99% of its habitat during the last 50 years due to wetland drainage. The main threat to the species survival is further habitat loss by urbanisation around Pamvotida Lake and by land conversion to agriculture in Paramythia Lake, even though both sites belong to the Natura 2000 network. The species status is Critically Endangered and it should be listed in Annex II of the Habitat Directive (92/43/EEC) as a priority species for conservation. Restoring wet grasslands, protecting them from further urbanisation and drainage, and monitoring species population are the main measures proposed for its conservation.
The Dadia–Lefkimi–Soufli National Park in North-Eastern Greece is a protected area distin-guished as particularly significant not only at the national but also at the European level. The long-term but mild human exploitation coupled with the heterogeneity of the habitats and the maintenance of nature have resulted in the conservation of an important biodiversity of biota, characterized by the existence of unique and rare species of flora and fauna. The present study provides an initial recording of the flora in the area based on fieldwork, and consisting of a total of 351 vascular taxa. Collective data on the chorology, life-form and the habitats of plant taxa are presented.
The Dadia–Lefkimi–Soufli National Park in North-Eastern Greece is a protected area distin-guished as particularly significant not only at the national but also at the European level. The long-term but mild human exploitation coupled with the heterogeneity of the habitats and the maintenance of nature have resulted in the conservation of an important biodiversity of biota, characterized by the existence of unique and rare species of flora and fauna. The present study provides an initial recording of the flora in the area based on fieldwork, and consisting of a total of 351 vascular taxa. Collective data on the chorology, life-form and the habitats of plant taxa are presented.
In this study the nest-site selection patterns of four tree-nesting sympatric raptor species in Dadia National Park (Greece) were compared in order to provide a sound conservation tool for their long-term management in the area. The species studied were the Black vulture (Aegypius monachus), the Lesser-spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), the Booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) and the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Twenty-six variables illustrating the landscape context and vegetation structure of nesting sites were analysed. Multivariate-ANOVA and Discriminant Function Analysis were used to test for significant differentiations in nest-site characteristics among the species. The species studied were initially differentiated by geomorphology and distance to foraging areas. Once these were determined their nesting areas were established according to forest structure. Our results indicate that forest management should integrate the preservation of mature forest stands with sparse canopy and forest heterogeneity in order to conserve suitable nesting habitats for the raptors. Specific conservation measures such as restriction of road construction should be implemented in order to protect the active nests and provisions should be made for adequate nesting sites for the Black vulture, which is sensitive to human disturbance.
In this study the nest-site selection patterns of four tree-nesting sympatric raptor species in Dadia National Park (Greece) were compared in order to provide a sound conservation tool for their long-term management in the area. The species studied were the Black vulture (Aegypius monachus), the Lesser-spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), the Booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) and the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Twenty-six variables illustrating the landscape context and vegetation structure of nesting sites were analysed. Multivariate-ANOVA and Discriminant Function Analysis were used to test for significant differentiations in nest-site characteristics among the species. The species studied were initially differentiated by geomorphology and distance to foraging areas. Once these were determined their nesting areas were established according to forest structure. Our results indicate that forest management should integrate the preservation of mature forest stands with sparse canopy and forest heterogeneity in order to conserve suitable nesting habitats for the raptors. Specific conservation measures such as restriction of road construction should be implemented in order to protect the active nests and provisions should be made for adequate nesting sites for the Black vulture, which is sensitive to human disturbance.
The current study attempts to explore the diversity patterns and the ecological structure of herpetofauna in order to provide a guideline for its conservation management, taking as case study the Dadia national park, in Greece. We surveyed 36 sites by conducting time constraint visits and random transects to sample semi-aquatic (amphibians and freshwater terrapins) and terrestrial (lizards and terrestrial tortoises) herpetofauna respectively. We recorded 20 herpetofauna taxa, including five protected species. The park authorities should maintain brooks as a high priority habitat for semi-aquatic herpetofauna, periodically flooded land and lowland streams as important habitats, and to a lesser degree anthropogenic wet habitats. Semi-aquatic species have narrow habitat requirements related to substrate type and humidity. Terrestrial herpetofauna species are influenced by the degree of shade and the type of substrate; they favour a diversity of semi-open habitats (open oakwoods, heaths), located in the buffer zone rather than in the core of the park that contains densely forested habitats. Management focusing on raptors, the initial conservation priority of the national park, is compatible with the conservation of the terrestrial herpetofauna, as the proposed maintenance of an open forest structure is beneficial for terrestrial herpetofauna as well. Our research indicates that future management programs will have to address the needs of herpetofauna species independently and that they should also be integrated in the monitoring programme of the park, with emphasis on the conservation status and trend of the five protected species.
The current study attempts to explore the diversity patterns and the ecological structure of herpetofauna in order to provide a guideline for its conservation management, taking as case study the Dadia national park, in Greece. We surveyed 36 sites by conducting time constraint visits and random transects to sample semi-aquatic (amphibians and freshwater terrapins) and terrestrial (lizards and terrestrial tortoises) herpetofauna respectively. We recorded 20 herpetofauna taxa, including five protected species. The park authorities should maintain brooks as a high priority habitat for semi-aquatic herpetofauna, periodically flooded land and lowland streams as important habitats, and to a lesser degree anthropogenic wet habitats. Semi-aquatic species have narrow habitat requirements related to substrate type and humidity. Terrestrial herpetofauna species are influenced by the degree of shade and the type of substrate; they favour a diversity of semi-open habitats (open oakwoods, heaths), located in the buffer zone rather than in the core of the park that contains densely forested habitats. Management focusing on raptors, the initial conservation priority of the national park, is compatible with the conservation of the terrestrial herpetofauna, as the proposed maintenance of an open forest structure is beneficial for terrestrial herpetofauna as well. Our research indicates that future management programs will have to address the needs of herpetofauna species independently and that they should also be integrated in the monitoring programme of the park, with emphasis on the conservation status and trend of the five protected species.
This article was published as a Letter to the Editor. On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the death of C. Linnaeus, we present a brief overview of his contribution to science. We also try to connect the work and form of this great systematic with today and the modern science of conservation biology
This article was published as a Letter to the Editor. On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the death of C. Linnaeus, we present a brief overview of his contribution to science. We also try to connect the work and form of this great systematic with today and the modern science of conservation biology
In this study, we carried out direct and indirect surveys in 30 Greek areas to clarify the current status of the Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica). It is an important flagship species for conservation in Greece, protected by both National and European legislation. New chamois populations are recorded for the first time in 3 areas, direct sightings of chamois are found in 11 areas, and presence is reported by locals in a further 4 areas. The overall potential distribution area of the species is 1.663km2. The chamois is considered extinct in 6 areas and its presence is doubtful in the remaining 6 areas. Chamois have a frag-mented dispersal pattern in Greece and three blocks of populations are distinguished : Pindus, Sterea Ellada and Rhodopi popula-tions. Population sizes do not usually exceed 30 individuals in each area, and the maximum population size recorded is 120-130 individuals (Mt. Timfi). Our preliminary estimate of the total Greek population size is between 477 and 750, which is slightly higher than previous estimates. Although most sites are within established reserves, protected by the Natura 2000 network, there is an urgent need for further conservation measures. Poaching is considered to be the major threat to this species, therefore effective protection is urgently needed, through the enhancement of guarding system against poaching, the control of roads usage within its core range, and the creation of protected natural corridors between chamois populations.
In this study, we carried out direct and indirect surveys in 30 Greek areas to clarify the current status of the Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica). It is an important flagship species for conservation in Greece, protected by both National and European legislation. New chamois populations are recorded for the first time in 3 areas, direct sightings of chamois are found in 11 areas, and presence is reported by locals in a further 4 areas. The overall potential distribution area of the species is 1.663km2. The chamois is considered extinct in 6 areas and its presence is doubtful in the remaining 6 areas. Chamois have a frag-mented dispersal pattern in Greece and three blocks of populations are distinguished : Pindus, Sterea Ellada and Rhodopi popula-tions. Population sizes do not usually exceed 30 individuals in each area, and the maximum population size recorded is 120-130 individuals (Mt. Timfi). Our preliminary estimate of the total Greek population size is between 477 and 750, which is slightly higher than previous estimates. Although most sites are within established reserves, protected by the Natura 2000 network, there is an urgent need for further conservation measures. Poaching is considered to be the major threat to this species, therefore effective protection is urgently needed, through the enhancement of guarding system against poaching, the control of roads usage within its core range, and the creation of protected natural corridors between chamois populations.
The current study explores the diversity patterns of the lizard species assembly found on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus with the broader aim of providing guidelines for the conservation management of these types of Mediterranean species communities. We sampled lizards in eight quadrats of 10 ha each, located in the Xeros Potamos protected area (SW Cyprus), and recorded 16 environmental parameters for each quadrat. We identified eight lizard species, five of which are protected under European legislation (Ablepharus budaki, Chalcides ocellatus, Laudakia stel- lio, Mediodactylus kotschyi, Ophisops elegans), and one that is listed as endangered (Acanthoda- ctylus schreiberi) based on IUCN assessments. The microhabitats used by the resident lizard com- munity in the study area were defined best by substrate, bush cover, humidity, altitude and incli- nation (RDA). Traditionally cultivated land with hedges harbored the highest lizard diversity. The typical habitat for the endangered species A. schreiberi consisted of humid sandy river banks with bush cover, a habitat currently threatened by the Xeros Potamos River channelization. Im- mediate action should involve the establishment of a control mechanism for the protection of the sandy riverbeds from illegal deposit of construction debris, the removal of embankments, and the sustainable use of water so as to maintain the natural flow regimes of the river.
The current study explores the diversity patterns of the lizard species assembly found on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus with the broader aim of providing guidelines for the conservation management of these types of Mediterranean species communities. We sampled lizards in eight quadrats of 10 ha each, located in the Xeros Potamos protected area (SW Cyprus), and recorded 16 environmental parameters for each quadrat. We identified eight lizard species, five of which are protected under European legislation (Ablepharus budaki, Chalcides ocellatus, Laudakia stel- lio, Mediodactylus kotschyi, Ophisops elegans), and one that is listed as endangered (Acanthoda- ctylus schreiberi) based on IUCN assessments. The microhabitats used by the resident lizard com- munity in the study area were defined best by substrate, bush cover, humidity, altitude and incli- nation (RDA). Traditionally cultivated land with hedges harbored the highest lizard diversity. The typical habitat for the endangered species A. schreiberi consisted of humid sandy river banks with bush cover, a habitat currently threatened by the Xeros Potamos River channelization. Im- mediate action should involve the establishment of a control mechanism for the protection of the sandy riverbeds from illegal deposit of construction debris, the removal of embankments, and the sustainable use of water so as to maintain the natural flow regimes of the river.
Europe is one of the world’s most densely populated continents and has a long history of human‐dominated land‐ and seascapes. Europe is also at the forefront of developing and implementing multinational conservation efforts. In this contribution, we describe some top policy issues in Europe that need to be informed by high‐quality conservation science. These include evaluation of the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, implications of rapid economic and subsequent land‐use change in Central and Eastern Europe, conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainability of fisheries, the effect of climate change on movement of species in highly fragmented landscapes, and attempts to assess the economic value of ecosystem services and biodiversity. Broad policy issues such as those identified are not easily amenable to scientific experiment. A key challenge at the science–policy interface is to identify the research questions underlying these problem areas so that conservation science can provide evidence to underpin future policy development.
Europe is one of the world’s most densely populated continents and has a long history of human‐dominated land‐ and seascapes. Europe is also at the forefront of developing and implementing multinational conservation efforts. In this contribution, we describe some top policy issues in Europe that need to be informed by high‐quality conservation science. These include evaluation of the effectiveness of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, implications of rapid economic and subsequent land‐use change in Central and Eastern Europe, conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainability of fisheries, the effect of climate change on movement of species in highly fragmented landscapes, and attempts to assess the economic value of ecosystem services and biodiversity. Broad policy issues such as those identified are not easily amenable to scientific experiment. A key challenge at the science–policy interface is to identify the research questions underlying these problem areas so that conservation science can provide evidence to underpin future policy development.
We used the community of passerines and woodpeckers as a target group for the conservation management of Pindos National Park (NW Greece). We conducted bird point counts twice during springtime in 72 plots that represented the main vegetation types (16 sites). We recorded 56 species (14 of conservation concern-SPEC). The montane grasslands were the most important habitats in terms of species of conservation concern, whereas the agricultural mosaics were the most species-rich habitats. The mixed pine-beech woods were significantly richer than the pinewoods, whereas pinewoods and broad-leaved woods did not differ significantly between them. The bird diversity was significantly correlated with the number of tree layers, the vertical structural complexity and the maximum height of trees. The presence of grassland, forest and agricultural habitat type, as well as the altitude and the vegetation structural complexity were the main environmental parameters determining species composition (Canonical Correspondence Analysis). We identified a set of 17 typical species (IndVal analysis) to be used in the monitoring scheme of the Park, which were characteristic of the main bird habitat types distinguished by Ward’s hierarchical clustering. Conservation measures should involve maintenance of the traditional agricultural practices, montane grasslands, old growth woods, as well as the vertical vegetation complexity and high trees in forest stands.
We used the community of passerines and woodpeckers as a target group for the conservation management of Pindos National Park (NW Greece). We conducted bird point counts twice during springtime in 72 plots that represented the main vegetation types (16 sites). We recorded 56 species (14 of conservation concern-SPEC). The montane grasslands were the most important habitats in terms of species of conservation concern, whereas the agricultural mosaics were the most species-rich habitats. The mixed pine-beech woods were significantly richer than the pinewoods, whereas pinewoods and broad-leaved woods did not differ significantly between them. The bird diversity was significantly correlated with the number of tree layers, the vertical structural complexity and the maximum height of trees. The presence of grassland, forest and agricultural habitat type, as well as the altitude and the vegetation structural complexity were the main environmental parameters determining species composition (Canonical Correspondence Analysis). We identified a set of 17 typical species (IndVal analysis) to be used in the monitoring scheme of the Park, which were characteristic of the main bird habitat types distinguished by Ward’s hierarchical clustering. Conservation measures should involve maintenance of the traditional agricultural practices, montane grasslands, old growth woods, as well as the vertical vegetation complexity and high trees in forest stands.
We tested the surrogate value of butterflies, red-listed butterflies and grasshoppers for each other in terms of diversity patterns congruence and complementarity at a site in the NATURA 2000 network. Grammos Mountain is proposed as a new Prime Butterfly Area for Greece: it supports a total of 56 grasshopper species and 112 butterfly species, 24 of which are of European conservation concern (SPEC) and two of Prime Butterflies Area Project. We found a strong congruence in the species richness patterns of SPEC butterflies, butterflies and grasshoppers, because three common ecological factors influenced them: number of flower heads, altitude, and cover of low trees or bushes (Redundancy Analysis, CANOCO). Each complementarity network maintained quite well the species richness of the other two target groups (<18% average species loss). SPEC butterflies were the best surrogate group overall and therefore we propose that they should be monitored on a permanent basis.
We tested the surrogate value of butterflies, red-listed butterflies and grasshoppers for each other in terms of diversity patterns congruence and complementarity at a site in the NATURA 2000 network. Grammos Mountain is proposed as a new Prime Butterfly Area for Greece: it supports a total of 56 grasshopper species and 112 butterfly species, 24 of which are of European conservation concern (SPEC) and two of Prime Butterflies Area Project. We found a strong congruence in the species richness patterns of SPEC butterflies, butterflies and grasshoppers, because three common ecological factors influenced them: number of flower heads, altitude, and cover of low trees or bushes (Redundancy Analysis, CANOCO). Each complementarity network maintained quite well the species richness of the other two target groups (<18% average species loss). SPEC butterflies were the best surrogate group overall and therefore we propose that they should be monitored on a permanent basis.
In this paper, we present a novel approach for using ecological heterogeneity in reserve design. We measured five ecological heterogeneity indices (EHI) and we used a database of six biological groups (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna and passerine birds) across 30 sites in a Mediterranean reserve (Greece). We found that all the five EHI were significantly related to the overall species richness and to the species richness of woody plants and birds. Two indices, measuring vertical vegetation complexity (1/D) and horizontal heterogeneity of landcover types (SIDI) in terms of Simpson’s index, predicted well overall species richness and had significantly higher values inside the complementary reserve networks designed after five of the six biological groups. We compared five methods of forming reserve networks. The method of ecological heterogeneity (selecting those sites with the greatest 1/D and then SIDI) was less efficient (non-significantly) than the species-based methods (scoring and complementary networks) but significantly more efficient than the random method (randomly selected network). We also found that the method of complementary ecological heterogeneity (selecting those sites where each EHI had its maximum value) was not that efficient, as it did not differ significantly from the random method. These results underline the potential of the ecological heterogeneity method as an alternative tool in reserve design.
In this paper, we present a novel approach for using ecological heterogeneity in reserve design. We measured five ecological heterogeneity indices (EHI) and we used a database of six biological groups (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, aquatic and terrestrial herpetofauna and passerine birds) across 30 sites in a Mediterranean reserve (Greece). We found that all the five EHI were significantly related to the overall species richness and to the species richness of woody plants and birds. Two indices, measuring vertical vegetation complexity (1/D) and horizontal heterogeneity of landcover types (SIDI) in terms of Simpson’s index, predicted well overall species richness and had significantly higher values inside the complementary reserve networks designed after five of the six biological groups. We compared five methods of forming reserve networks. The method of ecological heterogeneity (selecting those sites with the greatest 1/D and then SIDI) was less efficient (non-significantly) than the species-based methods (scoring and complementary networks) but significantly more efficient than the random method (randomly selected network). We also found that the method of complementary ecological heterogeneity (selecting those sites where each EHI had its maximum value) was not that efficient, as it did not differ significantly from the random method. These results underline the potential of the ecological heterogeneity method as an alternative tool in reserve design.
With increasing road encroachment, habitat fragmentation by transport infrastructures has been a serious threat for European biodiversity. Areas with no roads or little traffic (“roadless and low-traffic areas”) represent relatively undisturbed natural habitats and functioning ecosystems. They provide many benefits for biodiversity and human societies (e.g., landscape connectivity, barrier against pests and invasions, ecosystem services). Roadless and low-traffic areas, with a lower level of anthropogenic disturbances, are of special relevance in Europe because of their rarity and, in the context of climate change, because of their contribution to higher resilience and buffering capacity within landscape ecosystems. An analysis of European legal instruments illustrates that, although most laws aimed at protecting targets which are inherent to fragmentation, like connectivity, ecosystem processes or integrity, roadless areas are widely neglected as a legal target. A case study in Germany underlines this finding. Although the Natura 2000 network covers a significant proportion of the country (16%), Natura 2000 sites are highly fragmented and most low-traffic areas (75%) lie unprotected outside this network. This proportion is even higher for the old Federal States (western Germany), where only 20% of the low-traffic areas are protected. We propose that the few remaining roadless and low-traffic areas in Europe should be an important focus of conservation efforts; they should be urgently inventoried, included more explicitly in the law and accounted for in transport and urban planning. Considering them as complementary conservation targets would represent a concrete step towards the strengthening and adaptation of the Natura 2000 network to climate change.
With increasing road encroachment, habitat fragmentation by transport infrastructures has been a serious threat for European biodiversity. Areas with no roads or little traffic (“roadless and low-traffic areas”) represent relatively undisturbed natural habitats and functioning ecosystems. They provide many benefits for biodiversity and human societies (e.g., landscape connectivity, barrier against pests and invasions, ecosystem services). Roadless and low-traffic areas, with a lower level of anthropogenic disturbances, are of special relevance in Europe because of their rarity and, in the context of climate change, because of their contribution to higher resilience and buffering capacity within landscape ecosystems. An analysis of European legal instruments illustrates that, although most laws aimed at protecting targets which are inherent to fragmentation, like connectivity, ecosystem processes or integrity, roadless areas are widely neglected as a legal target. A case study in Germany underlines this finding. Although the Natura 2000 network covers a significant proportion of the country (16%), Natura 2000 sites are highly fragmented and most low-traffic areas (75%) lie unprotected outside this network. This proportion is even higher for the old Federal States (western Germany), where only 20% of the low-traffic areas are protected. We propose that the few remaining roadless and low-traffic areas in Europe should be an important focus of conservation efforts; they should be urgently inventoried, included more explicitly in the law and accounted for in transport and urban planning. Considering them as complementary conservation targets would represent a concrete step towards the strengthening and adaptation of the Natura 2000 network to climate change.
Nature conservation should ideally build on the scientific recommendations that are concluded from applied conservation research, as well as on monitoring schemes that evaluate the effectiveness of recommendations. We considered as a case study a system of six protected areas located in the Eastern Rhodopes mountains in the southern part of the European Green Belt (EGB). To investigate nature conservation effectiveness, we reviewed 196 articles from scientific journals and books, eight doctoral and master theses, and 39 scientific reports regarding the Greek (one protected area, 428 km2) and the Bulgarian (five protected areas, 904 km2) part of the study area. We extracted 743 conservation recommendations, and through questionnaires completed by 10 local experts, we found that 74% of the recommendations were familiar for the experts. In the Greek (GR) and the Bulgarian part (BG) only 52% and 16%, respectively, of the recommendations were implemented, and only 15% (GR) and 3.1% (BG) were implemented and evaluated regarding their effectiveness. According to the experts, the main reasons for non-implementation and non-evaluation were absence or incompetence of the responsible authorities. Some recommendations obtained a remarkable low rate of implementation, such as those regarding agriculture and livestock rearing practices (GR: 29%, BG: 16%) or mammal conservation (GR: 0%, BG: 16%). Some other recommendations obtained rather high rates at least for Greece, such as tourism and environmental education (GR: 57%, BG: 42%) and bird conservation (GR: 57%, BG: 11%). We found that researchers and conservation managers at both sides of the Greek-Bulgarian border face similar implementation problems, related often to the lack of political will for nature conservation and establishment of competent authorities. The role of the EGB is crucial in enhancing the established cross-border collaborations between stakeholders involved in nature conservation.
Nature conservation should ideally build on the scientific recommendations that are concluded from applied conservation research, as well as on monitoring schemes that evaluate the effectiveness of recommendations. We considered as a case study a system of six protected areas located in the Eastern Rhodopes mountains in the southern part of the European Green Belt (EGB). To investigate nature conservation effectiveness, we reviewed 196 articles from scientific journals and books, eight doctoral and master theses, and 39 scientific reports regarding the Greek (one protected area, 428 km2) and the Bulgarian (five protected areas, 904 km2) part of the study area. We extracted 743 conservation recommendations, and through questionnaires completed by 10 local experts, we found that 74% of the recommendations were familiar for the experts. In the Greek (GR) and the Bulgarian part (BG) only 52% and 16%, respectively, of the recommendations were implemented, and only 15% (GR) and 3.1% (BG) were implemented and evaluated regarding their effectiveness. According to the experts, the main reasons for non-implementation and non-evaluation were absence or incompetence of the responsible authorities. Some recommendations obtained a remarkable low rate of implementation, such as those regarding agriculture and livestock rearing practices (GR: 29%, BG: 16%) or mammal conservation (GR: 0%, BG: 16%). Some other recommendations obtained rather high rates at least for Greece, such as tourism and environmental education (GR: 57%, BG: 42%) and bird conservation (GR: 57%, BG: 11%). We found that researchers and conservation managers at both sides of the Greek-Bulgarian border face similar implementation problems, related often to the lack of political will for nature conservation and establishment of competent authorities. The role of the EGB is crucial in enhancing the established cross-border collaborations between stakeholders involved in nature conservation.
The present paper studies butterfly, grasshopper and vascular plant communities in ten seasonally flooded grasslands with different anthropogenic disturbance regimes (NW Greece). Disturbance intensity was assessed on the basis of disturbance frequency and type (grazing, mowing, trampling, constructions). The distribution patterns of butterflies are regulated by humidity and elevation (Redundancy Analysis). Elevation, flower-heads abundance, low disturbance intensity and plant species richness predict grasshopper species richness well, while the latter together with humidity predict plant species richness (Generalized Linear Models). Chorthippus lacustris, a critically endangered endemic grasshopper species, is positively associated with humid microhabitats with high flower-heads abundance. An indicator value procedure reveals four butterfly species as being typical species for habitats with a pronounced character of hedgerows and tree lines. Conservation management of grassland butterflies should focus on the maintenance of the humid character of the humid grasslands as well as on the maintenance of hedgerows and tree lines. The reduction of human-induced disturbance towards occasional grazing and mowing seems to benefit both butterfly and grasshopper communities. Finally, we suggest the use of grasshoppers as surrogates for vascular plants and vice versa, given their congruent species richness patterns.
The present paper studies butterfly, grasshopper and vascular plant communities in ten seasonally flooded grasslands with different anthropogenic disturbance regimes (NW Greece). Disturbance intensity was assessed on the basis of disturbance frequency and type (grazing, mowing, trampling, constructions). The distribution patterns of butterflies are regulated by humidity and elevation (Redundancy Analysis). Elevation, flower-heads abundance, low disturbance intensity and plant species richness predict grasshopper species richness well, while the latter together with humidity predict plant species richness (Generalized Linear Models). Chorthippus lacustris, a critically endangered endemic grasshopper species, is positively associated with humid microhabitats with high flower-heads abundance. An indicator value procedure reveals four butterfly species as being typical species for habitats with a pronounced character of hedgerows and tree lines. Conservation management of grassland butterflies should focus on the maintenance of the humid character of the humid grasslands as well as on the maintenance of hedgerows and tree lines. The reduction of human-induced disturbance towards occasional grazing and mowing seems to benefit both butterfly and grasshopper communities. Finally, we suggest the use of grasshoppers as surrogates for vascular plants and vice versa, given their congruent species richness patterns.
Landscape metrics are widely used to investigate the spatial structure of landscapes. Numerous metrics are currently available, yet only little empirical research has comparatively examined their indicator value for species richness for several taxa at several scales. Taking a Mediterranean forest landscape – Dadia National Park (Greece) – as a case study area, we explored the performance of 52 landscape level landscape metrics as indicators of species richness for six taxa (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, amphibians, reptiles, and small terrestrial birds) and for overall species richness. We computed the landscape metrics for circular areas of five different extents around each of 30 sampling plots. We applied linear mixed models to evaluate significant relations between metrics and species richness and to assess the effects of the extent of the considered landscape on the performance of the metrics. Our results showed that landscape metrics were good indicators for overall species richness, woody plants, orthopterans and reptiles. Metrics quantifying patch shape, proximity, texture and landscape diversity resulted often in well-fitted models, while those describing patch area, similarity and edge contrast rarely contributed to significant models. Spatial scale affected the performance of the metrics, since woody plants, orthopterans and small terrestrial birds were usually better predicted at smaller extents of surrounding landscape, and reptiles frequently at larger ones. The revealed pattern of relations and performances will be useful to understand landscape structure as a driver and indicator of biodiversity, and to improve forest and landscape management decisions in Mediterranean and other forest mosaics.
Landscape metrics are widely used to investigate the spatial structure of landscapes. Numerous metrics are currently available, yet only little empirical research has comparatively examined their indicator value for species richness for several taxa at several scales. Taking a Mediterranean forest landscape – Dadia National Park (Greece) – as a case study area, we explored the performance of 52 landscape level landscape metrics as indicators of species richness for six taxa (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, amphibians, reptiles, and small terrestrial birds) and for overall species richness. We computed the landscape metrics for circular areas of five different extents around each of 30 sampling plots. We applied linear mixed models to evaluate significant relations between metrics and species richness and to assess the effects of the extent of the considered landscape on the performance of the metrics. Our results showed that landscape metrics were good indicators for overall species richness, woody plants, orthopterans and reptiles. Metrics quantifying patch shape, proximity, texture and landscape diversity resulted often in well-fitted models, while those describing patch area, similarity and edge contrast rarely contributed to significant models. Spatial scale affected the performance of the metrics, since woody plants, orthopterans and small terrestrial birds were usually better predicted at smaller extents of surrounding landscape, and reptiles frequently at larger ones. The revealed pattern of relations and performances will be useful to understand landscape structure as a driver and indicator of biodiversity, and to improve forest and landscape management decisions in Mediterranean and other forest mosaics.
Biodiversity continues to decline in the face of increasing anthropogenic pressures such as habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution and introduction of alien species. Existing global databases of species’ threat status or population time series are dominated by charismatic species. The collation of datasets with broad taxonomic and biogeographic extents, and that support computation of a range of biodiversity indicators, is necessary to enable better understanding of historical declines and to project – and avert – future declines. We describe and assess a new database of more than 1.6 million samples from 78 countries representing over 28,000 species, collated from existing spatial comparisons of local‐scale biodiversity exposed to different intensities and types of anthropogenic pressures, from terrestrial sites around the world. The database contains measurements taken in 208 (of 814) ecoregions, 13 (of 14) biomes, 25 (of 35) biodiversity hotspots and 16 (of 17) megadiverse countries. The database contains more than 1% of the total number of all species described, and more than 1% of the described species within many taxonomic groups – including flowering plants, gymnosperms, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, beetles, lepidopterans and hymenopterans. The dataset, which is still being added to, is therefore already considerably larger and more representative than those used by previous quantitative models of biodiversity trends and responses. The database is being assembled as part of the PREDICTS project (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – www.predicts.org.uk). We make site‐level summary data available alongside this article. The full database will be publicly available in 2015.
Biodiversity continues to decline in the face of increasing anthropogenic pressures such as habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution and introduction of alien species. Existing global databases of species’ threat status or population time series are dominated by charismatic species. The collation of datasets with broad taxonomic and biogeographic extents, and that support computation of a range of biodiversity indicators, is necessary to enable better understanding of historical declines and to project – and avert – future declines. We describe and assess a new database of more than 1.6 million samples from 78 countries representing over 28,000 species, collated from existing spatial comparisons of local‐scale biodiversity exposed to different intensities and types of anthropogenic pressures, from terrestrial sites around the world. The database contains measurements taken in 208 (of 814) ecoregions, 13 (of 14) biomes, 25 (of 35) biodiversity hotspots and 16 (of 17) megadiverse countries. The database contains more than 1% of the total number of all species described, and more than 1% of the described species within many taxonomic groups – including flowering plants, gymnosperms, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, beetles, lepidopterans and hymenopterans. The dataset, which is still being added to, is therefore already considerably larger and more representative than those used by previous quantitative models of biodiversity trends and responses. The database is being assembled as part of the PREDICTS project (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – www.predicts.org.uk). We make site‐level summary data available alongside this article. The full database will be publicly available in 2015.
The European protected-area network will cease to be efficient for biodiversity conservation, particularly in the Mediterranean region, if species are driven out of protected areas by climate warming. Yet, no empirical evidence of how climate change influences ecological communities in Mediterranean nature reserves really exists. Here, we examine long-term (1998–2011/2012) and short-term (2011–2012) changes in the butterfly fauna of Dadia National Park (Greece) by revisiting 21 and 18 transects in 2011 and 2012 respectively, that were initially surveyed in 1998. We evaluate the temperature trend for the study area for a 22-year-period (1990–2012) in which all three butterfly surveys are included. We also assess changes in community composition and species richness in butterfly communities using information on (a) species’ elevational distributions in Greece and (b) Community Temperature Index (calculated from the average temperature of species’ geographical ranges in Europe, weighted by species’ abundance per transect and year). Despite the protected status of Dadia NP and the subsequent stability of land use regimes, we found a marked change in butterfly community composition over a 13 year period, concomitant with an increase of annual average temperature of 0.95°C. Our analysis gave no evidence of significant year-to-year (2011–2012) variability in butterfly community composition, suggesting that the community composition change we recorded is likely the consequence of long-term environmental change, such as climate warming. We observe an increased abundance of low-elevation species whereas species mainly occurring at higher elevations in the region declined. The Community Temperature Index was found to increase in all habitats except agricultural areas. If equivalent changes occur in other protected areas and taxonomic groups across Mediterranean Europe, new conservation options and approaches for increasing species’ resilience may have to be devised.
The European protected-area network will cease to be efficient for biodiversity conservation, particularly in the Mediterranean region, if species are driven out of protected areas by climate warming. Yet, no empirical evidence of how climate change influences ecological communities in Mediterranean nature reserves really exists. Here, we examine long-term (1998–2011/2012) and short-term (2011–2012) changes in the butterfly fauna of Dadia National Park (Greece) by revisiting 21 and 18 transects in 2011 and 2012 respectively, that were initially surveyed in 1998. We evaluate the temperature trend for the study area for a 22-year-period (1990–2012) in which all three butterfly surveys are included. We also assess changes in community composition and species richness in butterfly communities using information on (a) species’ elevational distributions in Greece and (b) Community Temperature Index (calculated from the average temperature of species’ geographical ranges in Europe, weighted by species’ abundance per transect and year). Despite the protected status of Dadia NP and the subsequent stability of land use regimes, we found a marked change in butterfly community composition over a 13 year period, concomitant with an increase of annual average temperature of 0.95°C. Our analysis gave no evidence of significant year-to-year (2011–2012) variability in butterfly community composition, suggesting that the community composition change we recorded is likely the consequence of long-term environmental change, such as climate warming. We observe an increased abundance of low-elevation species whereas species mainly occurring at higher elevations in the region declined. The Community Temperature Index was found to increase in all habitats except agricultural areas. If equivalent changes occur in other protected areas and taxonomic groups across Mediterranean Europe, new conservation options and approaches for increasing species’ resilience may have to be devised.
Agricultural land abandonment is one of the main drivers of land use change, leading to various responses of farmland ecological communities. In an effort to better understand the effect of agricultural land abandonment on passerine bird communities, we sampled 20 randomly selected sites [1 km × 1 km] in remote Greek mountains, reflecting an abandonment gradient, in terms of forest encroachment. We sampled 169 plots using the point count method of fixed distance (47 passerine species), and we investigated bird diversity and community structure turnover along the gradient. We found that grazing intensity has a beneficial effect hampering forest encroachment that follows progressively land abandonment. Habitat composition changes gradually with forests developing at the expense of open meadows and heterogeneous grasslands. Forest encroachment has a significant negative effect on bird diversity and species richness, affecting in particular typical farmland and Mediterranean shrubland species. Birds form five distinct ecological clusters after land abandonment: species mostly found in pinewoods and cavity-dwelling species; species that prefer open forests forest edges or ecotones; species that prefer shrubland or open habitats with scattered woody vegetation; Mediterranean farmland birds that prefer semi-open habitats with hedges and/or woodlots; and, generalist forest-dwelling or shrubland species. We extracted a set of 22 species to represent the above ecological communities, as a new monitoring tool for agricultural land use change and conservation. We suggest that the maintenance of rural mosaics should be included in the priorities of agricultural policy for farmland bird diversity conservation.
Agricultural land abandonment is one of the main drivers of land use change, leading to various responses of farmland ecological communities. In an effort to better understand the effect of agricultural land abandonment on passerine bird communities, we sampled 20 randomly selected sites [1 km × 1 km] in remote Greek mountains, reflecting an abandonment gradient, in terms of forest encroachment. We sampled 169 plots using the point count method of fixed distance (47 passerine species), and we investigated bird diversity and community structure turnover along the gradient. We found that grazing intensity has a beneficial effect hampering forest encroachment that follows progressively land abandonment. Habitat composition changes gradually with forests developing at the expense of open meadows and heterogeneous grasslands. Forest encroachment has a significant negative effect on bird diversity and species richness, affecting in particular typical farmland and Mediterranean shrubland species. Birds form five distinct ecological clusters after land abandonment: species mostly found in pinewoods and cavity-dwelling species; species that prefer open forests forest edges or ecotones; species that prefer shrubland or open habitats with scattered woody vegetation; Mediterranean farmland birds that prefer semi-open habitats with hedges and/or woodlots; and, generalist forest-dwelling or shrubland species. We extracted a set of 22 species to represent the above ecological communities, as a new monitoring tool for agricultural land use change and conservation. We suggest that the maintenance of rural mosaics should be included in the priorities of agricultural policy for farmland bird diversity conservation.
Land abandonment is a widespread phenomenon in agricultural systems, especially in former communist countries of Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Moreover, Croatia was affected by acts of war which enhanced the depopulation of marginal areas impelling further land abandonment. Agricultural landscapes in Croatia are highly parcelled with various proportions of forest habitats due to traditional smallholder farming systems. Secondary successions as a consequence of land abandonment affect farmland birds that are among the most endangered bird species in Europe. We examined bird communities along a habitat gradient in heterogeneous agricultural landscapes. We used the share of woody vegetation cover as a proxy measure for land abandonment that we classified in four classes. Our results showed no significant Shannon Wiener Index differences of bird communities along the land abandonment gradient. However, there were differences in abundances when we examined bird guilds such as farmland, forest and “other” birds separately. However, the conservation value of each of the four land abandonment classes did not show significant differences. We extracted single bird species such as the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) as potential indicator species for the four examined land abandonment levels. With these four species we successfully modelled the distribution of the recorded bird assemblages at the plot level along the four vegetation succession stages. We emphasized the need to develop new and integrative land use management concepts for areas affected by land abandonment in order to formulate sound conservation policy.
Land abandonment is a widespread phenomenon in agricultural systems, especially in former communist countries of Eastern and South-eastern Europe. Moreover, Croatia was affected by acts of war which enhanced the depopulation of marginal areas impelling further land abandonment. Agricultural landscapes in Croatia are highly parcelled with various proportions of forest habitats due to traditional smallholder farming systems. Secondary successions as a consequence of land abandonment affect farmland birds that are among the most endangered bird species in Europe. We examined bird communities along a habitat gradient in heterogeneous agricultural landscapes. We used the share of woody vegetation cover as a proxy measure for land abandonment that we classified in four classes. Our results showed no significant Shannon Wiener Index differences of bird communities along the land abandonment gradient. However, there were differences in abundances when we examined bird guilds such as farmland, forest and “other” birds separately. However, the conservation value of each of the four land abandonment classes did not show significant differences. We extracted single bird species such as the Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) and European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) as potential indicator species for the four examined land abandonment levels. With these four species we successfully modelled the distribution of the recorded bird assemblages at the plot level along the four vegetation succession stages. We emphasized the need to develop new and integrative land use management concepts for areas affected by land abandonment in order to formulate sound conservation policy.
Agricultural land abandonment is a major conservation issue when it comes to remote Mediterranean mountainous ecosystems. Although its impact on taxa such as birds or butterflies is well known, knowledge remains poor for less studied invertebrate taxa such as spiders. We sampled ground spiders (Gnaphosidae, Liocranidae, Miturgidae and Corrinidae) in 20 randomly selected sites (1 km × 1 km; 15 pitfall traps) that well depicted a land abandonment gradient, in terms of four forest encroachment classes. Our results showed a negative effect of land abandonment on ground spider species richness and diversity (Simpson index), pinpointing that forested habitats with more than 75 % woody vegetation cover are relatively poor. We also provide evidence for the beneficial role of low intensity grazing (0.4–4 livestock units/km2) for ground spider abundance. Community analysis revealed four distinct clusters of co-occurring species, while Generalized Linear Models at cluster and species level showed the definitive role of forest encroachment, and secondarily of other environmental factors such as humidity, elevation and longitude, in regulating species distribution patterns. Conservation measures for ground spider diversity maintenance should focus on promoting traditional agricultural practices, including small-scale cultivation and mild livestock grazing in order to preserve open and semi-open rural mosaics.
Agricultural land abandonment is a major conservation issue when it comes to remote Mediterranean mountainous ecosystems. Although its impact on taxa such as birds or butterflies is well known, knowledge remains poor for less studied invertebrate taxa such as spiders. We sampled ground spiders (Gnaphosidae, Liocranidae, Miturgidae and Corrinidae) in 20 randomly selected sites (1 km × 1 km; 15 pitfall traps) that well depicted a land abandonment gradient, in terms of four forest encroachment classes. Our results showed a negative effect of land abandonment on ground spider species richness and diversity (Simpson index), pinpointing that forested habitats with more than 75 % woody vegetation cover are relatively poor. We also provide evidence for the beneficial role of low intensity grazing (0.4–4 livestock units/km2) for ground spider abundance. Community analysis revealed four distinct clusters of co-occurring species, while Generalized Linear Models at cluster and species level showed the definitive role of forest encroachment, and secondarily of other environmental factors such as humidity, elevation and longitude, in regulating species distribution patterns. Conservation measures for ground spider diversity maintenance should focus on promoting traditional agricultural practices, including small-scale cultivation and mild livestock grazing in order to preserve open and semi-open rural mosaics.
Agricultural land abandonment is recognized as a major environmental threat in Europe, being particularly pronounced in south-eastern Europe, where knowledge on its effects is limited. Taking the Balkan Peninsula as a case study, we investigated agricultural abandonment impact on passerine communities at regional level. We set up a standard methodology for site selection (70 sites) and data collection, along a well-defined forest-encroachment gradient that reflects land abandonment in four countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Greece. Regardless the different socio-economic and political histories in the Balkans that led to diverse land abandonment patterns in space and time, rural abandonment had a consistent negative effect on bird communities, while regional-level analysis revealed patterns that were hidden at local level. The general trends were an increase of forest-dwelling bird species at the expense of farmland birds, the decline of overall bird species richness, as well as the decline of Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs) richness and abundance. Many farmland bird species declined with land abandonment, whereas few forest species benefited from the process. In conclusion, our results support CAP towards hampering rural land abandonment and preserving semi-open rural mosaics in remote upland areas, using a suite of management measures carefully tailored to local needs. The maintenance of traditional rural landscapes should be prioritized in the Balkans, through the timely identification of HNV farmland that is most prone to abandonment. We also suggest that coordinated transnational research is needed, for a better assessment of conservation options in remote rural landscapes at European scale, including the enhancement of wild grazers’ populations as an alternative in areas where traditional land management is rather unlikely to be re-established.
Agricultural land abandonment is recognized as a major environmental threat in Europe, being particularly pronounced in south-eastern Europe, where knowledge on its effects is limited. Taking the Balkan Peninsula as a case study, we investigated agricultural abandonment impact on passerine communities at regional level. We set up a standard methodology for site selection (70 sites) and data collection, along a well-defined forest-encroachment gradient that reflects land abandonment in four countries: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Greece. Regardless the different socio-economic and political histories in the Balkans that led to diverse land abandonment patterns in space and time, rural abandonment had a consistent negative effect on bird communities, while regional-level analysis revealed patterns that were hidden at local level. The general trends were an increase of forest-dwelling bird species at the expense of farmland birds, the decline of overall bird species richness, as well as the decline of Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs) richness and abundance. Many farmland bird species declined with land abandonment, whereas few forest species benefited from the process. In conclusion, our results support CAP towards hampering rural land abandonment and preserving semi-open rural mosaics in remote upland areas, using a suite of management measures carefully tailored to local needs. The maintenance of traditional rural landscapes should be prioritized in the Balkans, through the timely identification of HNV farmland that is most prone to abandonment. We also suggest that coordinated transnational research is needed, for a better assessment of conservation options in remote rural landscapes at European scale, including the enhancement of wild grazers’ populations as an alternative in areas where traditional land management is rather unlikely to be re-established.
1.Insects undergo phenological change at different rates, showing no consistent trend between habitats, time periods, species or groups. Understanding how and why this variability occurs is crucial. 2. Phenological patterns of butterflies and O rthoptera were analysed using a novel approach of s tandardised major axis (SMA ) analysis. It was investigated whether: (i) phenology (the mean date and duration of flight) of butterflies and O rthoptera changed from one survey (1998 and 1999 respectively) to another (2011), (ii) the rate at which phenology changed differed between taxa and (iii) phenological change was significantly different across habitat types (agriculture fields, grasslands, and forests). Using the 2011 dataset, we investigated relationships between habitat‐specific variables and species phenology. 3. For both groups, late‐emerging species had an advanced onset on the second survey while the duration showed no consistent trend for butterflies and did not change for O rthoptera. Although the rate at which phenology changed was consistent between the two groups, at the habitat level, a longer duration of flight period emerged for butterflies in agriculture fields while O rthoptera showed no differentiation in flight duration between habitats. We found an earlier emergence of butterflies in grasslands compared to forests, attributed to habitat‐specific temperature, whereas spatial variation in humidity had a significantly lower effect on butterflies’ phenology in grasslands compared to forests. A gradual delay of butterfly appearances as the canopy cover increased was also found. 4. The utility of SMA analysis was demonstrated in phenological studies and evidence was detected that both habitat type and habitat‐specific variables refine species’ phenological responses.
1.Insects undergo phenological change at different rates, showing no consistent trend between habitats, time periods, species or groups. Understanding how and why this variability occurs is crucial. 2. Phenological patterns of butterflies and O rthoptera were analysed using a novel approach of s tandardised major axis (SMA ) analysis. It was investigated whether: (i) phenology (the mean date and duration of flight) of butterflies and O rthoptera changed from one survey (1998 and 1999 respectively) to another (2011), (ii) the rate at which phenology changed differed between taxa and (iii) phenological change was significantly different across habitat types (agriculture fields, grasslands, and forests). Using the 2011 dataset, we investigated relationships between habitat‐specific variables and species phenology. 3. For both groups, late‐emerging species had an advanced onset on the second survey while the duration showed no consistent trend for butterflies and did not change for O rthoptera. Although the rate at which phenology changed was consistent between the two groups, at the habitat level, a longer duration of flight period emerged for butterflies in agriculture fields while O rthoptera showed no differentiation in flight duration between habitats. We found an earlier emergence of butterflies in grasslands compared to forests, attributed to habitat‐specific temperature, whereas spatial variation in humidity had a significantly lower effect on butterflies’ phenology in grasslands compared to forests. A gradual delay of butterfly appearances as the canopy cover increased was also found. 4. The utility of SMA analysis was demonstrated in phenological studies and evidence was detected that both habitat type and habitat‐specific variables refine species’ phenological responses.
Agricultural land abandonment is recognized as one of the main environmental drivers in Southern Europe, affecting ecological communities. Lizards, as ectothermic species with low dispersal capacity, are particularly prone to the threats associated with land use changes. We investigated the effect of land abandonment on lizards in a remote mountainous area in Greece, using line transect sampling, in 20 randomly selected sites [1 km × 1 km], along a four grade abandonment gradient in terms of forest encroachment. We recorded four species: Algyroides nigropunctatus, Lacerta viridis/trilineata, Podarcis tauricus and Podarcis muralis, the latter being the most abundant. Our results did not provide evidence for a significant effect of forest encroachment or grazing on lizard diversity, given the dominance of P. muralis, the availability of all microhabitat types along the gradient and the low grazing intensity in the study area. Environmental parameters at the macrohabitat scale did not prove determinant for habitat variance, but microhabitat analysis showed a clear preference of P. muralis to bare ground. Despite the non-significant effects of land abandonment on lizard diversity, the dominance of P. muralis tends to indicate a lizard community shift towards species inhabiting forested habitats. The preservation of open microhabitats, such as bare land, is considered of great importance for promoting high levels of lizard diversity, as their loss would affect even species currently widespread in forested ecosystems. Low intensity grazing, as well as the enhancement of wild ungulate populations in abandoned areas, can contribute to halting forest encroachment and maintaining the required habitat heterogeneity.
Agricultural land abandonment is recognized as one of the main environmental drivers in Southern Europe, affecting ecological communities. Lizards, as ectothermic species with low dispersal capacity, are particularly prone to the threats associated with land use changes. We investigated the effect of land abandonment on lizards in a remote mountainous area in Greece, using line transect sampling, in 20 randomly selected sites [1 km × 1 km], along a four grade abandonment gradient in terms of forest encroachment. We recorded four species: Algyroides nigropunctatus, Lacerta viridis/trilineata, Podarcis tauricus and Podarcis muralis, the latter being the most abundant. Our results did not provide evidence for a significant effect of forest encroachment or grazing on lizard diversity, given the dominance of P. muralis, the availability of all microhabitat types along the gradient and the low grazing intensity in the study area. Environmental parameters at the macrohabitat scale did not prove determinant for habitat variance, but microhabitat analysis showed a clear preference of P. muralis to bare ground. Despite the non-significant effects of land abandonment on lizard diversity, the dominance of P. muralis tends to indicate a lizard community shift towards species inhabiting forested habitats. The preservation of open microhabitats, such as bare land, is considered of great importance for promoting high levels of lizard diversity, as their loss would affect even species currently widespread in forested ecosystems. Low intensity grazing, as well as the enhancement of wild ungulate populations in abandoned areas, can contribute to halting forest encroachment and maintaining the required habitat heterogeneity.
Capsule. Spatial environmental modelling well predicted nesting distribution of the White stork in Southeast Europe and can be used in conservation planning with respect to climate change. Aims. To create spatial models for predicting White Stork presence and densities in the Southeast Europe to identify areas of suitable habitat for White Storks. Methods. We quantified the habitat used by nesting White storks in Southeast Europe. Using spatial modelling, we defined a set of free and available online environmental variables that predict the breeding localities of the species. We employed pseudo-absences and the kriging of the residuals in order to create predictive models of nest presence and density. Results. The presence–absence model was found to be precise in predicting the presence of nests. Both density and presence of breeding pairs were best explained negatively by elevation, slope, minimum temperature during May, and distance to the nearest human settlement and positively by topographic wetness index, total area of human settlement and spring precipitation. Conclusion. Our robust and easily repeatable models offer a conservation tool to reveal suitable but unoccupied localities for breeding White Storks pairs which may inform our understanding of how climate change might affect the species’ distribution in the future. For example, protecting White Storks on the Dalmatian coast may become even more significant in the future, because the Dalmatian coast is predicted as the only suitable breeding area in Croatia later this century.
Capsule. Spatial environmental modelling well predicted nesting distribution of the White stork in Southeast Europe and can be used in conservation planning with respect to climate change. Aims. To create spatial models for predicting White Stork presence and densities in the Southeast Europe to identify areas of suitable habitat for White Storks. Methods. We quantified the habitat used by nesting White storks in Southeast Europe. Using spatial modelling, we defined a set of free and available online environmental variables that predict the breeding localities of the species. We employed pseudo-absences and the kriging of the residuals in order to create predictive models of nest presence and density. Results. The presence–absence model was found to be precise in predicting the presence of nests. Both density and presence of breeding pairs were best explained negatively by elevation, slope, minimum temperature during May, and distance to the nearest human settlement and positively by topographic wetness index, total area of human settlement and spring precipitation. Conclusion. Our robust and easily repeatable models offer a conservation tool to reveal suitable but unoccupied localities for breeding White Storks pairs which may inform our understanding of how climate change might affect the species’ distribution in the future. For example, protecting White Storks on the Dalmatian coast may become even more significant in the future, because the Dalmatian coast is predicted as the only suitable breeding area in Croatia later this century.
Landscape metrics are commonly used indicators of ecological pattern and processes in ecological modelling. Numerous landscape metrics are available, making the selection of appropriate metrics a common challenge in model development. In this paper, we tested the performance of methods for preselecting sets of three landscape metrics for use in modelling species richness of six groups of organisms (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, amphibians, reptiles, and small terrestrial birds) and overall species richness in a Mediterranean forest landscape. The tested methods included expert knowledge, decision tree analysis, principal component analysis, and principal component regression. They were compared with random choice and optimal sets, which were evaluated by testing all possible combinations of metrics. All pre-selection methods performed significantly worse than the optimal sets. The statistical approaches performed slightly better than random choice that in turn performed slightly better than sets derived by expert knowledge. We concluded that the process of selecting the most appropriate landscape metrics for modelling biodiversity is not trivial and that shortcuts to systematic evaluation of metrics should not be expected to identify appropriate indicators.
Landscape metrics are commonly used indicators of ecological pattern and processes in ecological modelling. Numerous landscape metrics are available, making the selection of appropriate metrics a common challenge in model development. In this paper, we tested the performance of methods for preselecting sets of three landscape metrics for use in modelling species richness of six groups of organisms (woody plants, orchids, orthopterans, amphibians, reptiles, and small terrestrial birds) and overall species richness in a Mediterranean forest landscape. The tested methods included expert knowledge, decision tree analysis, principal component analysis, and principal component regression. They were compared with random choice and optimal sets, which were evaluated by testing all possible combinations of metrics. All pre-selection methods performed significantly worse than the optimal sets. The statistical approaches performed slightly better than random choice that in turn performed slightly better than sets derived by expert knowledge. We concluded that the process of selecting the most appropriate landscape metrics for modelling biodiversity is not trivial and that shortcuts to systematic evaluation of metrics should not be expected to identify appropriate indicators.
Established under the European Union (EU) Birds and Habitats Directives, Natura 2000 is one of the largest international networks of protected areas. With the spatial designation of sites by the EU member states almost finalized, the biggest challenge still lying ahead is the appropriate management of the sites. To evaluate the cross‐scale functioning of Natura 2000 implementation, we analyzed 242 questionnaires completed by conservation scientists involved in the implementation of Natura 2000 in 24 EU member states. Respondents identified 7 key drivers of the quality of Natura 2000 implementation. Ordered in decreasing evaluation score, these drivers included: network design, use of external resources, legal frame, scientific input, procedural frame, social input, and national or local policy. Overall, conservation scientists were moderately satisfied with the implementation of Natura 2000. Tree modeling revealed that poor application of results of environmental impact assessments (EIA) was considered a major constraint. The main strengths of the network included the substantial increase of scientific knowledge of the sites, the contribution of nongovernmental organizations, the adequate network design in terms of area and representativeness, and the adequacy of the EU legal frame. The main weaknesses of Natura 2000 were the lack of political will from local and national governments toward effective implementation; the negative attitude of local stakeholders; the lack of background knowledge of local stakeholders, which prevented well‐informed policy decisions; and the understaffing of Natura 2000 management authorities. Top suggestions to improve Natura 2000 implementation were increase public awareness, provide environmental education to local communities, involve high‐quality conservation experts, strengthen quality control of EIA studies, and establish a specific Natura 2000 fund.
Established under the European Union (EU) Birds and Habitats Directives, Natura 2000 is one of the largest international networks of protected areas. With the spatial designation of sites by the EU member states almost finalized, the biggest challenge still lying ahead is the appropriate management of the sites. To evaluate the cross‐scale functioning of Natura 2000 implementation, we analyzed 242 questionnaires completed by conservation scientists involved in the implementation of Natura 2000 in 24 EU member states. Respondents identified 7 key drivers of the quality of Natura 2000 implementation. Ordered in decreasing evaluation score, these drivers included: network design, use of external resources, legal frame, scientific input, procedural frame, social input, and national or local policy. Overall, conservation scientists were moderately satisfied with the implementation of Natura 2000. Tree modeling revealed that poor application of results of environmental impact assessments (EIA) was considered a major constraint. The main strengths of the network included the substantial increase of scientific knowledge of the sites, the contribution of nongovernmental organizations, the adequate network design in terms of area and representativeness, and the adequacy of the EU legal frame. The main weaknesses of Natura 2000 were the lack of political will from local and national governments toward effective implementation; the negative attitude of local stakeholders; the lack of background knowledge of local stakeholders, which prevented well‐informed policy decisions; and the understaffing of Natura 2000 management authorities. Top suggestions to improve Natura 2000 implementation were increase public awareness, provide environmental education to local communities, involve high‐quality conservation experts, strengthen quality control of EIA studies, and establish a specific Natura 2000 fund.
The annual range of Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) in Giona mountain was found to be 5502 ha, with a low population density (2 individuals/100 ha). Seasonal range patterns varied significantly, with a minimum extent in summer and a maximum in winter (30% and 79% of the annual range, respectively). Summer stress and the rutting period might be associated with the observed aggregated distributions during the summer and autumn (core areas of 28% and 22% of seasonal ranges, respectively, defined after the Fixed Kernel Density Estimator). Chamois were found to use significantly lower altitude habitats in winter (1212 m) than in summer (2223 m), and significantly steeper slopes in winter (35°); aspect was not found to have a significant effect on habitat use. Population structure consisted of kids (21%), yearlings (8%), females (35%) and males (36%). Conservation management for the species should consider poaching, livestock competition and global warming.
The annual range of Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) in Giona mountain was found to be 5502 ha, with a low population density (2 individuals/100 ha). Seasonal range patterns varied significantly, with a minimum extent in summer and a maximum in winter (30% and 79% of the annual range, respectively). Summer stress and the rutting period might be associated with the observed aggregated distributions during the summer and autumn (core areas of 28% and 22% of seasonal ranges, respectively, defined after the Fixed Kernel Density Estimator). Chamois were found to use significantly lower altitude habitats in winter (1212 m) than in summer (2223 m), and significantly steeper slopes in winter (35°); aspect was not found to have a significant effect on habitat use. Population structure consisted of kids (21%), yearlings (8%), females (35%) and males (36%). Conservation management for the species should consider poaching, livestock competition and global warming.
Farmland birds are reported to decrease strongly in numbers throughout Europe over the last 30 years. Agricultural land abandonment is considered amongst the main drivers for the negative population trends. This process has been studied widely in Western Europe but the evidence for Central and Eastern Europe is limited. We examined the differences in the bird community structure among several secondary succession stages after land abandonment (since the 1940s) in central Bulgaria. Our results demonstrated that avian species richness and diversity decreased with the secondary succession, while no significant difference in the overall bird abundance was observed. The shifts in bird community pattern were mainly related to grassland specialists, which decreased in species richness, diversity and abundance along the succession gradient. Birds of European Conservation Concern were also negatively affected by the woody vegetation overgrowth. We think that in order to stop and reverse the loss of farmland bird diversity in the low-productive mountainous regions of Bulgaria, the rural sustainable development should be reinforced by implementation of agri-environmental and other policy measures that encourage effectively small-scale extensive farming. © 2015, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Farmland birds are reported to decrease strongly in numbers throughout Europe over the last 30 years. Agricultural land abandonment is considered amongst the main drivers for the negative population trends. This process has been studied widely in Western Europe but the evidence for Central and Eastern Europe is limited. We examined the differences in the bird community structure among several secondary succession stages after land abandonment (since the 1940s) in central Bulgaria. Our results demonstrated that avian species richness and diversity decreased with the secondary succession, while no significant difference in the overall bird abundance was observed. The shifts in bird community pattern were mainly related to grassland specialists, which decreased in species richness, diversity and abundance along the succession gradient. Birds of European Conservation Concern were also negatively affected by the woody vegetation overgrowth. We think that in order to stop and reverse the loss of farmland bird diversity in the low-productive mountainous regions of Bulgaria, the rural sustainable development should be reinforced by implementation of agri-environmental and other policy measures that encourage effectively small-scale extensive farming. © 2015, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
The biodiversity of the Southern Balkans, part of the Mediterranean global biodiversity hot-spot, is threatened by land use intensification and abandonment, the latter causing forest encroachment of formerly open habitats. We investigated the impact of forest encroachment on butterfly species richness, community species composition and the representation of life history traits by repeated seasonal visits of 150 one-hectare sites in five separate regions in three countries—Greece, Bulgaria, and the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM—the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)— 10 replicates for each habitat type of grasslands, open formations and scrub forest within each region. Grasslands and open formations sites hosted in average more species and more red-listed species than scrub forest, while no pattern was found for numbers of Mediterranean species. As shown by ordination analyses, each of the three habitat types hosted distinct butterfly communities, with Mediterranean species inclining either towards grasslands or open formations. Analysing the representation of life history traits revealed that successional development from grasslands and open formations towards scrub forest shifts the community composition towards species overwintering in earlier stages, having fewer generations per year, and inhabiting large European or Eurosiberian (e.g. northern) ranges; it decreases the representation of Mediterranean endemics. The loss of grasslands and semi-open formations due to forest encroachment thus threatens exactly the species that should be the focus of conservation attention in the Mediterranean region, and innovative conservation actions to prevent ongoing forest encroachment are badly needed.
The biodiversity of the Southern Balkans, part of the Mediterranean global biodiversity hot-spot, is threatened by land use intensification and abandonment, the latter causing forest encroachment of formerly open habitats. We investigated the impact of forest encroachment on butterfly species richness, community species composition and the representation of life history traits by repeated seasonal visits of 150 one-hectare sites in five separate regions in three countries—Greece, Bulgaria, and the Republic of Macedonia (FYROM—the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)— 10 replicates for each habitat type of grasslands, open formations and scrub forest within each region. Grasslands and open formations sites hosted in average more species and more red-listed species than scrub forest, while no pattern was found for numbers of Mediterranean species. As shown by ordination analyses, each of the three habitat types hosted distinct butterfly communities, with Mediterranean species inclining either towards grasslands or open formations. Analysing the representation of life history traits revealed that successional development from grasslands and open formations towards scrub forest shifts the community composition towards species overwintering in earlier stages, having fewer generations per year, and inhabiting large European or Eurosiberian (e.g. northern) ranges; it decreases the representation of Mediterranean endemics. The loss of grasslands and semi-open formations due to forest encroachment thus threatens exactly the species that should be the focus of conservation attention in the Mediterranean region, and innovative conservation actions to prevent ongoing forest encroachment are badly needed.
Harnessing wind energy is seen as an environmentally friendly strategy to combat climate change. However, adverse environmental impacts have come to light for species that are prone to collision with wind turbine blades, such as vultures, leading to a conflict between wind energy industry and conservation. Our study area epitomized such a conflict, containing the only population of cinereous vultures in south-eastern Europe while also being the location for substantial existing and planned wind farms. We used long-term remote telemetry data to produce a species-specific sensitivity map for guiding wind energy development and to estimate vulture collision mortality due to currently operating wind farms. Most operational wind farms were in the population core area and in the highest priority areas for vulture conservation. Collision mortality due to the thirteen operating wind farms was estimated by combining global position system (GPS) telemetry data on vulture space use with a collision risk model (CRM). Estimated mortality varied greatly according to the CRM’s ‘avoidance rate’. Under the most likely avoidance rates annual predicted collision mortality was 5–11% of the population, creating risk of population decline. Collision mortality was expected almost exclusively in the population core area, rendering further future development plans there severely problematic for vulture population persistence. Our sensitivity map, as a conservation prioritization system, offered a spatially explicit solution to the conflict between wind energy development and vulture conservation. Combining spatial use models derived from telemetry data with collision mortality models offers a novel conservation tool for evaluating large scale wind energy development proposals.
Harnessing wind energy is seen as an environmentally friendly strategy to combat climate change. However, adverse environmental impacts have come to light for species that are prone to collision with wind turbine blades, such as vultures, leading to a conflict between wind energy industry and conservation. Our study area epitomized such a conflict, containing the only population of cinereous vultures in south-eastern Europe while also being the location for substantial existing and planned wind farms. We used long-term remote telemetry data to produce a species-specific sensitivity map for guiding wind energy development and to estimate vulture collision mortality due to currently operating wind farms. Most operational wind farms were in the population core area and in the highest priority areas for vulture conservation. Collision mortality due to the thirteen operating wind farms was estimated by combining global position system (GPS) telemetry data on vulture space use with a collision risk model (CRM). Estimated mortality varied greatly according to the CRM’s ‘avoidance rate’. Under the most likely avoidance rates annual predicted collision mortality was 5–11% of the population, creating risk of population decline. Collision mortality was expected almost exclusively in the population core area, rendering further future development plans there severely problematic for vulture population persistence. Our sensitivity map, as a conservation prioritization system, offered a spatially explicit solution to the conflict between wind energy development and vulture conservation. Combining spatial use models derived from telemetry data with collision mortality models offers a novel conservation tool for evaluating large scale wind energy development proposals.
Roads fragment landscapes and trigger human colonization and degradation of ecosystems, to the detriment of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. The planet’s remaining large and ecologically important tracts of roadless areas sustain key refugia for biodiversity and provide globally relevant ecosystem services. Applying a 1-kilometer buffer to all roads, we present a global map of roadless areas and an assessment of their status, quality, and extent of coverage by protected areas. About 80% of Earth’s terrestrial surface remains roadless, but this area is fragmented into ~600,000 patches, more than half of which are <1 square kilometer and only 7% of which are larger than 100 square kilometers. Global protection of ecologically valuable roadless areas is inadequate. International recognition and protection of roadless areas is urgently needed to halt their continued loss.
Roads fragment landscapes and trigger human colonization and degradation of ecosystems, to the detriment of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. The planet’s remaining large and ecologically important tracts of roadless areas sustain key refugia for biodiversity and provide globally relevant ecosystem services. Applying a 1-kilometer buffer to all roads, we present a global map of roadless areas and an assessment of their status, quality, and extent of coverage by protected areas. About 80% of Earth’s terrestrial surface remains roadless, but this area is fragmented into ~600,000 patches, more than half of which are <1 square kilometer and only 7% of which are larger than 100 square kilometers. Global protection of ecologically valuable roadless areas is inadequate. International recognition and protection of roadless areas is urgently needed to halt their continued loss.
The PREDICTS project—Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (www.predicts.org.uk)—has collated from published studies a large, reasonably representative database of comparable samples of biodiversity from multiple sites that differ in the nature or intensity of human impacts relating to land use. We have used this evidence base to develop global and regional statistical models of how local biodiversity responds to these measures. We describe and make freely available this 2016 release of the database, containing more than 3.2 million records sampled at over 26,000 locations and representing over 47,000 species. We outline how the database can help in answering a range of questions in ecology and conservation biology. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most geographically and taxonomically representative database of spatial comparisons of biodiversity that has been collated to date; it will be useful to researchers and international efforts wishing to model and understand the global status of biodiversity.
The PREDICTS project—Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (www.predicts.org.uk)—has collated from published studies a large, reasonably representative database of comparable samples of biodiversity from multiple sites that differ in the nature or intensity of human impacts relating to land use. We have used this evidence base to develop global and regional statistical models of how local biodiversity responds to these measures. We describe and make freely available this 2016 release of the database, containing more than 3.2 million records sampled at over 26,000 locations and representing over 47,000 species. We outline how the database can help in answering a range of questions in ecology and conservation biology. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most geographically and taxonomically representative database of spatial comparisons of biodiversity that has been collated to date; it will be useful to researchers and international efforts wishing to model and understand the global status of biodiversity.
Wind farm development can combat climate change but may also threaten bird populations’ persistence through collision with wind turbine blades if such development is improperly planned strategically and cumulatively. Such improper planning may often occur. Numerous wind farms are planned in a region hosting the only cinereous vulture population in south-eastern Europe. We combined range use modelling and a Collision Risk Model (CRM) to predict the cumulative collision mortality for cinereous vulture under all operating and proposed wind farms. Four different vulture avoidance rates were considered in the CRM. Cumulative collision mortality was expected to be eight to ten times greater in the future (proposed and operating wind farms) than currently (operating wind farms), equivalent to 44% of the current population (103 individuals) if all proposals are authorized (2744 MW). Even under the most optimistic scenario whereby authorized proposals will not collectively exceed the national target for wind harnessing in the study area (960 MW), cumulative collision mortality would still be high (17% of current population) and likely lead to population extinction. Under any wind farm proposal scenario, over 92% of expected deaths would occur in the core area of the population, further implying inadequate spatial planning and implementation of relevant European legislation with scant regard for governmental obligations to protect key species. On the basis of a sensitivity map we derive a spatially explicit solution that could meet the national target of wind harnessing with a minimum conservation cost of less than 1% population loss providing that the population mortality (5.2%) caused by the operating wind farms in the core area would be totally mitigated. Under other scenarios, the vulture population would probably be at serious risk of extinction. Our ‘win-win’ approach is appropriate to other potential conflicts where wind farms may cumulatively threaten wildlife populations.
Wind farm development can combat climate change but may also threaten bird populations’ persistence through collision with wind turbine blades if such development is improperly planned strategically and cumulatively. Such improper planning may often occur. Numerous wind farms are planned in a region hosting the only cinereous vulture population in south-eastern Europe. We combined range use modelling and a Collision Risk Model (CRM) to predict the cumulative collision mortality for cinereous vulture under all operating and proposed wind farms. Four different vulture avoidance rates were considered in the CRM. Cumulative collision mortality was expected to be eight to ten times greater in the future (proposed and operating wind farms) than currently (operating wind farms), equivalent to 44% of the current population (103 individuals) if all proposals are authorized (2744 MW). Even under the most optimistic scenario whereby authorized proposals will not collectively exceed the national target for wind harnessing in the study area (960 MW), cumulative collision mortality would still be high (17% of current population) and likely lead to population extinction. Under any wind farm proposal scenario, over 92% of expected deaths would occur in the core area of the population, further implying inadequate spatial planning and implementation of relevant European legislation with scant regard for governmental obligations to protect key species. On the basis of a sensitivity map we derive a spatially explicit solution that could meet the national target of wind harnessing with a minimum conservation cost of less than 1% population loss providing that the population mortality (5.2%) caused by the operating wind farms in the core area would be totally mitigated. Under other scenarios, the vulture population would probably be at serious risk of extinction. Our ‘win-win’ approach is appropriate to other potential conflicts where wind farms may cumulatively threaten wildlife populations.
Mountains are complex ecosystems supporting a great variety of taxa. Here, we explored the diversity patterns of arthropods in two mountains, pinpointing the spatial scale that accounts most for overall diversity variation, using an additive partitioning framework. Butterflies and Orthoptera were sampled in Rodopi (2012) and Grammos (2013) mountains. Diversity was partitioned into five hierarchical levels (mountain, elevational zone, habitat, transect and plot). We compared the estimated diversity values for each level to the respective permuted values expected by chance, for all species, as well as for species identified as “rare” or “common”. At broader spatial levels, the variation in total diversity was attributed to the beta diversity component: mountains accounted for 20.94 and 26.25% of butterfly and Orthoptera diversity, and elevational zones accounted for 28.94 and 35.87% respectively. At finer spatial scales, beta diversity was higher than expected by chance in terms of the Shannon index. The type of habitat was found to play a significant role only for rare orthopterans. Finally, common species were recognized for shaping overall species diversity. We highlight the importance of the spatial levels of elevation zone and then mountain position in conservation planning, due to the greater beta diversity recorded at this scale as compared to habitat or more finite scales. Monitoring programs might need to adapt different strategies with respect to the focal organisms, and consider patterns of common rather than rare species that found to drive the patterns of the entire community.
Mountains are complex ecosystems supporting a great variety of taxa. Here, we explored the diversity patterns of arthropods in two mountains, pinpointing the spatial scale that accounts most for overall diversity variation, using an additive partitioning framework. Butterflies and Orthoptera were sampled in Rodopi (2012) and Grammos (2013) mountains. Diversity was partitioned into five hierarchical levels (mountain, elevational zone, habitat, transect and plot). We compared the estimated diversity values for each level to the respective permuted values expected by chance, for all species, as well as for species identified as “rare” or “common”. At broader spatial levels, the variation in total diversity was attributed to the beta diversity component: mountains accounted for 20.94 and 26.25% of butterfly and Orthoptera diversity, and elevational zones accounted for 28.94 and 35.87% respectively. At finer spatial scales, beta diversity was higher than expected by chance in terms of the Shannon index. The type of habitat was found to play a significant role only for rare orthopterans. Finally, common species were recognized for shaping overall species diversity. We highlight the importance of the spatial levels of elevation zone and then mountain position in conservation planning, due to the greater beta diversity recorded at this scale as compared to habitat or more finite scales. Monitoring programs might need to adapt different strategies with respect to the focal organisms, and consider patterns of common rather than rare species that found to drive the patterns of the entire community.
Our understanding of arthropod responses to environmental pressures is limited, especially for the poorly studied Mediterranean region. In the light of likely further environmental change and the need for protocols for rapid biodiversity assessment, we measured how the abundance and species richness of two taxa, ground spiders and Orthoptera, belonging to different functional groups, fluctuates intra- seasonally (early-mid-late summer) and across habitat types (grasslands, maquis, forests). We also tested their surrogate value. Spiders were found to have higher species richness and abundance almost throughout the investigation. Orthoptera had lower species richness and abundance in forests compared to grasslands and maquis, while no significant difference between habitats was revealed for spiders. Early-summer was the richest period for spiders while mid-summer was the richest for Orthoptera. Canopy cover was found to significantly influence community composition of both groups, while herb height and cover of stones was a determinant factor for Orthoptera only. There was a significant congruence between the two groups and Orthoptera provided the best complementary network. Our results show that diversity patterns of both spiders and Orthoptera are sensitive to environmental changes even over short time-scales (e.g. within the summer period) and space (e.g. across different habitat types), suggesting that small inexpensive experimental designs may still reveal community dynamics. For conservation purposes, we advise a focus on variables regulating habitat heterogeneity and microhabitat characteristics. We provide a list of the most influential species and propose the most effective network for obtaining information on the local fauna.
Our understanding of arthropod responses to environmental pressures is limited, especially for the poorly studied Mediterranean region. In the light of likely further environmental change and the need for protocols for rapid biodiversity assessment, we measured how the abundance and species richness of two taxa, ground spiders and Orthoptera, belonging to different functional groups, fluctuates intra- seasonally (early-mid-late summer) and across habitat types (grasslands, maquis, forests). We also tested their surrogate value. Spiders were found to have higher species richness and abundance almost throughout the investigation. Orthoptera had lower species richness and abundance in forests compared to grasslands and maquis, while no significant difference between habitats was revealed for spiders. Early-summer was the richest period for spiders while mid-summer was the richest for Orthoptera. Canopy cover was found to significantly influence community composition of both groups, while herb height and cover of stones was a determinant factor for Orthoptera only. There was a significant congruence between the two groups and Orthoptera provided the best complementary network. Our results show that diversity patterns of both spiders and Orthoptera are sensitive to environmental changes even over short time-scales (e.g. within the summer period) and space (e.g. across different habitat types), suggesting that small inexpensive experimental designs may still reveal community dynamics. For conservation purposes, we advise a focus on variables regulating habitat heterogeneity and microhabitat characteristics. We provide a list of the most influential species and propose the most effective network for obtaining information on the local fauna.
Urbanization causes rapid changes in the landscape and land use, exerting a significant pressure on bird communities. The effect of urbanization on bird diversity has been widely investigated in many cities worldwide; however, our knowledge on urban bird communities from the eastern Mediterranean region is very scarce. In this context, we aimed to investigate the effect of the different land-cover types on bird species richness and abundance in a densely built coastal Mediterranean city (Patras, Greece) during the breeding and wintering seasons. We sampled the bird community in 90 randomly selected sites along an urbanization gradient. Open green spaces proved to be the most significant factor favouring bird diversity in both seasons. In winter, woody vegetation and impervious surfaces had a positive effect on species richness as well. The local bird community consisted of a large number of species associated with open and semi-open unmanaged green areas, 12 of which are Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs) showing a declining trend in Europe. On the other hand, in winter the number of forest-dwellers increased significantly. Species richness was significantly higher in winter indicating that the urban environment provides important wintering grounds. Thus, management actions in cities with similar characteristics in the Mediterranean region should focus on the maintenance of open green spaces and woody vegetation patches to enhance bird diversity.
Urbanization causes rapid changes in the landscape and land use, exerting a significant pressure on bird communities. The effect of urbanization on bird diversity has been widely investigated in many cities worldwide; however, our knowledge on urban bird communities from the eastern Mediterranean region is very scarce. In this context, we aimed to investigate the effect of the different land-cover types on bird species richness and abundance in a densely built coastal Mediterranean city (Patras, Greece) during the breeding and wintering seasons. We sampled the bird community in 90 randomly selected sites along an urbanization gradient. Open green spaces proved to be the most significant factor favouring bird diversity in both seasons. In winter, woody vegetation and impervious surfaces had a positive effect on species richness as well. The local bird community consisted of a large number of species associated with open and semi-open unmanaged green areas, 12 of which are Species of European Conservation Concern (SPECs) showing a declining trend in Europe. On the other hand, in winter the number of forest-dwellers increased significantly. Species richness was significantly higher in winter indicating that the urban environment provides important wintering grounds. Thus, management actions in cities with similar characteristics in the Mediterranean region should focus on the maintenance of open green spaces and woody vegetation patches to enhance bird diversity.
The sacred groves in the mountains of Epirus in NW Greece have been established during the Ottoman period and consist of locally adapted systems set apart from the surrounding intensively managed, anthropogenic landscape. We inventoried eight sacred groves and compared them with nearby control (managed) forests. In total, 166 taxa of lichens and five of lichenicolous fungi were recorded. The most common lichen species were Anaptychia ciliaris, Phlyctis argena and Lecidella elaeochroma. Seven species are new for Greece: Calicium quercinum, Chaenotheca ferruginea, Chaenotheca trichialis, Chaenothecopsis nana, Leptogium hibernicum, Parvoplaca nigroblastidiata and Rinodina orculata. The sacred groves appeared not very different from the control forests; more pronounced differences were observed between deciduous oak evergreen oak and pine forests. Localities characterized by deciduous oak forest hosted the highest number of taxa belonging to the order Peltigerales, the most frequent were: Nephroma laevigatum, Collema subflaccidum, Leptogium lichenoides and Lobaria pulmonaria, but also rare species such as Polychidium muscicola, Koerberia biformis and Degelia atlantica were recorded.
The sacred groves in the mountains of Epirus in NW Greece have been established during the Ottoman period and consist of locally adapted systems set apart from the surrounding intensively managed, anthropogenic landscape. We inventoried eight sacred groves and compared them with nearby control (managed) forests. In total, 166 taxa of lichens and five of lichenicolous fungi were recorded. The most common lichen species were Anaptychia ciliaris, Phlyctis argena and Lecidella elaeochroma. Seven species are new for Greece: Calicium quercinum, Chaenotheca ferruginea, Chaenotheca trichialis, Chaenothecopsis nana, Leptogium hibernicum, Parvoplaca nigroblastidiata and Rinodina orculata. The sacred groves appeared not very different from the control forests; more pronounced differences were observed between deciduous oak evergreen oak and pine forests. Localities characterized by deciduous oak forest hosted the highest number of taxa belonging to the order Peltigerales, the most frequent were: Nephroma laevigatum, Collema subflaccidum, Leptogium lichenoides and Lobaria pulmonaria, but also rare species such as Polychidium muscicola, Koerberia biformis and Degelia atlantica were recorded.
This study examined the effects of pastoralism, including cattle grazing, on populations of three species of locally endemic and rare Peripodisma grasshoppers in calcareous grassland mountain habitats of northwestern Greece and southern Albania. The three Peripodisma species are on the IUCN Red List as near threatened, endangered, and critically endangered species, and cattle grazing had been identified as a key threat to the species. The study sites represented 70% of the known locations of Peripodisma genus. The region was historically grazed by local breeds of nomadic sheep and goats, but grazing practices had recently shifted to cattle grazing from non-local cattle breeds. We found a clear relationship between local abundance of Peripodisma and overall richness of Orthoptera communities. Orthoptera richness decreased at sites with medium to high impacts of livestock grazing. Cattle grazing had significant adverse effects on overall Orthoptera species richness and on Peripodisma abundance. Further studies are urgently needed to gather more data and information to guide grazing management and conservation planning that will provide a more balanced coexistence between livestock and Orthoptera, especially for the rare Peripodisma species that are in dire need of conservation management.
This study examined the effects of pastoralism, including cattle grazing, on populations of three species of locally endemic and rare Peripodisma grasshoppers in calcareous grassland mountain habitats of northwestern Greece and southern Albania. The three Peripodisma species are on the IUCN Red List as near threatened, endangered, and critically endangered species, and cattle grazing had been identified as a key threat to the species. The study sites represented 70% of the known locations of Peripodisma genus. The region was historically grazed by local breeds of nomadic sheep and goats, but grazing practices had recently shifted to cattle grazing from non-local cattle breeds. We found a clear relationship between local abundance of Peripodisma and overall richness of Orthoptera communities. Orthoptera richness decreased at sites with medium to high impacts of livestock grazing. Cattle grazing had significant adverse effects on overall Orthoptera species richness and on Peripodisma abundance. Further studies are urgently needed to gather more data and information to guide grazing management and conservation planning that will provide a more balanced coexistence between livestock and Orthoptera, especially for the rare Peripodisma species that are in dire need of conservation management.
Many have asserted that Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) play an important role in nature protection but few have assessed their conservation effectiveness for different taxa. We studied sacred groves in Epirus, NW Greece, where a large number of such SNS have been identified. Based on historical, ethnographic and ecological criteria, we selected eight of these groves and matching control sites and in them we studied fungi, lichens, herbaceous plants, woody plants, nematodes, insects, bats and passerine birds. Our results reveal that the contribution of SNS to species conservation is nuanced by taxon, vegetation type and management history. We found that the sacred groves have a small conservation advantage over the corresponding control sites. More specifically, there are more distinct sets of organisms amongst sacred groves than amongst control sites, and overall biodiversity, diversity per taxonomic group, and numbers of species from the European SCI list (Species of Community Interest) are all marginally higher in them. Conservationists regard the often small size of SNS as a factor limiting their conservation value. The sizes of SNS around the globe vary greatly, from a few square meters to millions of hectares. Given that those surveyed by us (ranging from 5 to 116 ha) are at the lower end of this spectrum, the small conservation advantage that we testified becomes important. Our results provide clear evidence that even small-size SNS have considerable conservation relevance; they would contribute most to species conservation if incorporated in networks.
Many have asserted that Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) play an important role in nature protection but few have assessed their conservation effectiveness for different taxa. We studied sacred groves in Epirus, NW Greece, where a large number of such SNS have been identified. Based on historical, ethnographic and ecological criteria, we selected eight of these groves and matching control sites and in them we studied fungi, lichens, herbaceous plants, woody plants, nematodes, insects, bats and passerine birds. Our results reveal that the contribution of SNS to species conservation is nuanced by taxon, vegetation type and management history. We found that the sacred groves have a small conservation advantage over the corresponding control sites. More specifically, there are more distinct sets of organisms amongst sacred groves than amongst control sites, and overall biodiversity, diversity per taxonomic group, and numbers of species from the European SCI list (Species of Community Interest) are all marginally higher in them. Conservationists regard the often small size of SNS as a factor limiting their conservation value. The sizes of SNS around the globe vary greatly, from a few square meters to millions of hectares. Given that those surveyed by us (ranging from 5 to 116 ha) are at the lower end of this spectrum, the small conservation advantage that we testified becomes important. Our results provide clear evidence that even small-size SNS have considerable conservation relevance; they would contribute most to species conservation if incorporated in networks.
Question: What are the woody vegetation encroachment patterns after agricultural land abandonment? Focusing on two parameters, woody plant species richness and vertical vegetation heterogeneity (number of different vegetation strata and their relative cover) we investigated: (a) the effect of forest encroachment following land abandonment; (b) the comparative importance of forest encroachment vis-a-vis topographic and climatic parameters, and finally; (c) the ecological importance of eight land-cover types encountered in abandoned agricultural landscapes. Location: The Balkan Peninsula (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece). Methods: We set up a standard methodology for 1 × 1 km site selection (70 sites) and data collection within 497 plots, along a well-defined forest encroachment gradient that reflects land abandonment in terms of woody vegetation cover. Results: The pattern that emerged was neither clear nor common for the Balkan region, regarding the effect of forest encroachment on the woody plant species richness in young forests, formed from 20 to 50 years after land abandonment. However, at national level, species diversity was significantly affected by elevation (Bulgaria and Croatia) and temperature (Croatia), with lower and cooler areas being richer. Elevation was of great importance in determining vertical vegetation heterogeneity. Woodlots, broad-leaved forests, hedges and shrublands held the highest woody species richness in comparison to the more open land-cover types, and vertical vegetation heterogeneity was higher in open forests and woodlots. Conclusions: We expect the expansion of broad-leaved forests following land abandonment to enhance woody species richness. However, other land-cover types that were found to be important for woody plants should be maintained. As woody plants play a key role in supporting overall biodiversity, by providing suitable habitat for many species, we consider the preservation of a mosaic of patches of different land-cover types essential for the conservation of both plant and animal species diversity. Young forests should be preserved at intermediate stages of succession, through intermediate disturbance activities, including medium intensity grazing and the enhancement of wild ungulates.
Question: What are the woody vegetation encroachment patterns after agricultural land abandonment? Focusing on two parameters, woody plant species richness and vertical vegetation heterogeneity (number of different vegetation strata and their relative cover) we investigated: (a) the effect of forest encroachment following land abandonment; (b) the comparative importance of forest encroachment vis-a-vis topographic and climatic parameters, and finally; (c) the ecological importance of eight land-cover types encountered in abandoned agricultural landscapes. Location: The Balkan Peninsula (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece). Methods: We set up a standard methodology for 1 × 1 km site selection (70 sites) and data collection within 497 plots, along a well-defined forest encroachment gradient that reflects land abandonment in terms of woody vegetation cover. Results: The pattern that emerged was neither clear nor common for the Balkan region, regarding the effect of forest encroachment on the woody plant species richness in young forests, formed from 20 to 50 years after land abandonment. However, at national level, species diversity was significantly affected by elevation (Bulgaria and Croatia) and temperature (Croatia), with lower and cooler areas being richer. Elevation was of great importance in determining vertical vegetation heterogeneity. Woodlots, broad-leaved forests, hedges and shrublands held the highest woody species richness in comparison to the more open land-cover types, and vertical vegetation heterogeneity was higher in open forests and woodlots. Conclusions: We expect the expansion of broad-leaved forests following land abandonment to enhance woody species richness. However, other land-cover types that were found to be important for woody plants should be maintained. As woody plants play a key role in supporting overall biodiversity, by providing suitable habitat for many species, we consider the preservation of a mosaic of patches of different land-cover types essential for the conservation of both plant and animal species diversity. Young forests should be preserved at intermediate stages of succession, through intermediate disturbance activities, including medium intensity grazing and the enhancement of wild ungulates.
Increasing urbanisation is reported to have significant effects on bat communities, due to habitat modifications, light and noise pollution and reduced prey availability. Recent studies have indicated that species show varying responses to urbanisation, with a few able to exploit man-made structures and adjust to the new environmental conditions. This study aimed to identify how landscape composition influences bat diversity and community structure along the urbanisation gradient in a coastal Mediterranean city (Patras, Greece) and whether particular species benefit from the novel conditions. We conducted acoustic surveys along 45 transects during the post-breeding season for two years. The effect of land cover, the number of streetlamps (a proxy of artificial illumination), the presence of water bodies and weather conditions on bat activity, and community structure were investigated using Generalized Linear Mixed Models, and multivariate statistics respectively. Eight bat species and five species groups were identified. Bat communities were affected by urbanisation in general and diversity was low in the entire study area. The community was dominated by the synurbic species Pipistrellus kuhlii, which comprised more than 70% of the total bat activity recorded. A positive relationship between built-up areas and bat activity was found, probably because P. kuhlii usually forages around streetlamps in urban areas. In contrast, vegetation cover did not affect bat activity, even in the less urbanised areas. The remainder of the bat species were not frequently recorded and were mostly detected close to water bodies, highlighting their value for foraging bats and the need for their conservation.
Increasing urbanisation is reported to have significant effects on bat communities, due to habitat modifications, light and noise pollution and reduced prey availability. Recent studies have indicated that species show varying responses to urbanisation, with a few able to exploit man-made structures and adjust to the new environmental conditions. This study aimed to identify how landscape composition influences bat diversity and community structure along the urbanisation gradient in a coastal Mediterranean city (Patras, Greece) and whether particular species benefit from the novel conditions. We conducted acoustic surveys along 45 transects during the post-breeding season for two years. The effect of land cover, the number of streetlamps (a proxy of artificial illumination), the presence of water bodies and weather conditions on bat activity, and community structure were investigated using Generalized Linear Mixed Models, and multivariate statistics respectively. Eight bat species and five species groups were identified. Bat communities were affected by urbanisation in general and diversity was low in the entire study area. The community was dominated by the synurbic species Pipistrellus kuhlii, which comprised more than 70% of the total bat activity recorded. A positive relationship between built-up areas and bat activity was found, probably because P. kuhlii usually forages around streetlamps in urban areas. In contrast, vegetation cover did not affect bat activity, even in the less urbanised areas. The remainder of the bat species were not frequently recorded and were mostly detected close to water bodies, highlighting their value for foraging bats and the need for their conservation.
Understanding the feeding habits of wolves is essential for designing and implementing fundamental management processes across the range of the species. This is even more important within human-dominated areas, such as southern Europe, and more especially Greece. In this context, we analyzed 123 scat samples, collected between 2010 and 2012, from a mixed agricultural, forested and human-dominated area, centered on the municipality of Domokos in central continental Greece. We used standard laboratory procedures for scat analysis and calculated percentages of frequency of occurrence (FO%), average volume (AV%) and biomass index (BM%) to assess diet composition, and estimated prey selectivity. Domestic prey composed the bulk of wolf diet (FO%=73.5, AV%=84.8, BM%=97.2), wild ungulates were almost absent (FO%=0.5, AV%=0.8, BM%=1.2), whereas grass consumption was high in our area (FO%=19.5, AV%=11.0). The high dependence on livestock corroborates previous studies from Greece and other countries in southern Europe. Goat (FO%=46.0, AV%=61.2, BM%=64.9) was the main prey and was strongly selected, with sheep (FO%=11.5, AV%=9.0, BM%=11.2), pig carrion and cattle ranking behind (FO%=11.5, AV%=10.1, BM%=8.7 and FO%=4.5, AV%=4.5, BM%=12.4, respectively). No differences across seasons were detected, except from pig carrion, which increased during winter. The preference for goats is probably associated with its grazing behavior. High livestock consumption generally results in increased human-wolf conflict. Thus, substantial improvement of husbandry practices and restoration of wild ungulate populations are recommended to facilitate wolf-human coexistence in Greece.
Understanding the feeding habits of wolves is essential for designing and implementing fundamental management processes across the range of the species. This is even more important within human-dominated areas, such as southern Europe, and more especially Greece. In this context, we analyzed 123 scat samples, collected between 2010 and 2012, from a mixed agricultural, forested and human-dominated area, centered on the municipality of Domokos in central continental Greece. We used standard laboratory procedures for scat analysis and calculated percentages of frequency of occurrence (FO%), average volume (AV%) and biomass index (BM%) to assess diet composition, and estimated prey selectivity. Domestic prey composed the bulk of wolf diet (FO%=73.5, AV%=84.8, BM%=97.2), wild ungulates were almost absent (FO%=0.5, AV%=0.8, BM%=1.2), whereas grass consumption was high in our area (FO%=19.5, AV%=11.0). The high dependence on livestock corroborates previous studies from Greece and other countries in southern Europe. Goat (FO%=46.0, AV%=61.2, BM%=64.9) was the main prey and was strongly selected, with sheep (FO%=11.5, AV%=9.0, BM%=11.2), pig carrion and cattle ranking behind (FO%=11.5, AV%=10.1, BM%=8.7 and FO%=4.5, AV%=4.5, BM%=12.4, respectively). No differences across seasons were detected, except from pig carrion, which increased during winter. The preference for goats is probably associated with its grazing behavior. High livestock consumption generally results in increased human-wolf conflict. Thus, substantial improvement of husbandry practices and restoration of wild ungulate populations are recommended to facilitate wolf-human coexistence in Greece.
Urbanization induces rapid landscape and habitat modifications leading to alterations in species distribution patterns and biodiversity loss. As pollinating insects such as butterflies are particularly susceptible to urbanization, it is important to pinpoint the factors that could enhance their diversity in the urban areas in order to design adequate management and conservation actions. Our study aims to investigate the influence of land cover and local habitat characteristics on the butterfly diversity patterns and community structure in a densely built city in the eastern Mediterranean region. We carried out butterfly surveys (line transects) in 45 randomly selected sites, distributed along an urbanization gradient. In each site, we assessed the surrounding landscape by measuring the land cover in a 200-m buffer zone, and the local habitat by estimating the available plant resources along each transect. Overall, 1805 individuals belonging to 41 butterfly species were recorded. Land cover was found to have the strongest influence on butterfly species richness, abundance and community structure. Although plant resources were sufficiently available within the whole study area, the butterfly community was significantly poorer in the more urbanized areas, indicating the potential role of habitat fragmentation and patch isolation. In contrast, butterfly diversity was significantly higher in the peri-urban area, underlying its conservation value for butterflies in the urban landscape. We attribute these findings to the degradation of the more urbanized areas due to long-term inadequate planning and the disorganized expansion of the city.
Urbanization induces rapid landscape and habitat modifications leading to alterations in species distribution patterns and biodiversity loss. As pollinating insects such as butterflies are particularly susceptible to urbanization, it is important to pinpoint the factors that could enhance their diversity in the urban areas in order to design adequate management and conservation actions. Our study aims to investigate the influence of land cover and local habitat characteristics on the butterfly diversity patterns and community structure in a densely built city in the eastern Mediterranean region. We carried out butterfly surveys (line transects) in 45 randomly selected sites, distributed along an urbanization gradient. In each site, we assessed the surrounding landscape by measuring the land cover in a 200-m buffer zone, and the local habitat by estimating the available plant resources along each transect. Overall, 1805 individuals belonging to 41 butterfly species were recorded. Land cover was found to have the strongest influence on butterfly species richness, abundance and community structure. Although plant resources were sufficiently available within the whole study area, the butterfly community was significantly poorer in the more urbanized areas, indicating the potential role of habitat fragmentation and patch isolation. In contrast, butterfly diversity was significantly higher in the peri-urban area, underlying its conservation value for butterflies in the urban landscape. We attribute these findings to the degradation of the more urbanized areas due to long-term inadequate planning and the disorganized expansion of the city.
Red Lists are very valuable tools in nature conservation at global, continental and (sub-) national scales. In an attempt to prioritise conservation actions for European butterflies, we compiled a database with species lists and Red Lists of all European countries, including the Macaronesian archipelagos (Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands). In total, we compiled national species lists for 42 countries and national Red Lists for 34 of these. The most species-rich countries in Europe are Italy, Russia and France with more than 250 species each. Endemic species are mainly found on the Macaronesian archipelagos and on the Mediterranean islands. By attributing numerical values proportionate to the threat statuses in the different national Red List categories, we calculated a mean Red List value for every country (cRLV) and a weighted Red List value for every species (wsRLV) using the square root of the country’s area as a weighting factor. Countries with the highest cRLV were industrialised (NW) European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Denmark, whereas large Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy had the lowest cRLV. Species for which a Red List assessment was available in at least two European countries and with a relatively high wsRLV (≥ 50) are Colias myrmidone, Pseudochazara orestes, Tomares nogelii, Colias chrysotheme and Coenonympha oedippus. We compared these wsRLVs with the species statuses on the European Red List to identify possible mismatches. We discuss how this complementary method can help to prioritise butterfly conservation on the continental and/or the (sub-)national scale.
Red Lists are very valuable tools in nature conservation at global, continental and (sub-) national scales. In an attempt to prioritise conservation actions for European butterflies, we compiled a database with species lists and Red Lists of all European countries, including the Macaronesian archipelagos (Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands). In total, we compiled national species lists for 42 countries and national Red Lists for 34 of these. The most species-rich countries in Europe are Italy, Russia and France with more than 250 species each. Endemic species are mainly found on the Macaronesian archipelagos and on the Mediterranean islands. By attributing numerical values proportionate to the threat statuses in the different national Red List categories, we calculated a mean Red List value for every country (cRLV) and a weighted Red List value for every species (wsRLV) using the square root of the country’s area as a weighting factor. Countries with the highest cRLV were industrialised (NW) European countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Denmark, whereas large Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Italy had the lowest cRLV. Species for which a Red List assessment was available in at least two European countries and with a relatively high wsRLV (≥ 50) are Colias myrmidone, Pseudochazara orestes, Tomares nogelii, Colias chrysotheme and Coenonympha oedippus. We compared these wsRLVs with the species statuses on the European Red List to identify possible mismatches. We discuss how this complementary method can help to prioritise butterfly conservation on the continental and/or the (sub-)national scale.
In this study we investigate the environmental factors influencing butterfly communities and evaluate the Natura 2000 network’s effectiveness in representing butterfly species richness and abundance, taking as a case study the island of Cyprus. We sampled butterflies and 11 environmental factors in 60 randomly selected sites across four 500-m elevation zones, representing seven habitat types. Rural mosaics and riverine vegetation were the habitats with the highest diversity of butterflies. Within habitats, the number of flower heads was the most important factor favouring butterfly species richness and abundance and endemic butterfly richness, while soil humidity had a positive effect on species richness and abundance. Although the Natura 2000 network succeeds in including the majority of butterfly species and all Cyprian endemics, the transects sampled within the network did not support more butterfly species than those outside it, and were significantly poorer in terms of butterfly abundance and endemic butterfly species richness and abundance. We found a similar pattern for the Habitats Directive priority habitats, which held poorer overall and endemic butterfly communities than the other habitats. The effectiveness of existing protected area networks may need to be reassessed in regions such as the South East Mediterranean, to ensure that regionally important components of biological diversity are adequately protected. To this aim, our results suggest that new European and national policies as well as further inclusion of rural mosaics and riverine habitats in protected area networks are needed for effective butterfly conservation in Cyprus.
In this study we investigate the environmental factors influencing butterfly communities and evaluate the Natura 2000 network’s effectiveness in representing butterfly species richness and abundance, taking as a case study the island of Cyprus. We sampled butterflies and 11 environmental factors in 60 randomly selected sites across four 500-m elevation zones, representing seven habitat types. Rural mosaics and riverine vegetation were the habitats with the highest diversity of butterflies. Within habitats, the number of flower heads was the most important factor favouring butterfly species richness and abundance and endemic butterfly richness, while soil humidity had a positive effect on species richness and abundance. Although the Natura 2000 network succeeds in including the majority of butterfly species and all Cyprian endemics, the transects sampled within the network did not support more butterfly species than those outside it, and were significantly poorer in terms of butterfly abundance and endemic butterfly species richness and abundance. We found a similar pattern for the Habitats Directive priority habitats, which held poorer overall and endemic butterfly communities than the other habitats. The effectiveness of existing protected area networks may need to be reassessed in regions such as the South East Mediterranean, to ensure that regionally important components of biological diversity are adequately protected. To this aim, our results suggest that new European and national policies as well as further inclusion of rural mosaics and riverine habitats in protected area networks are needed for effective butterfly conservation in Cyprus.
Inferring species’ responses to climate change in the absence of long-term time series data is a challenge, but can be achieved by substituting space for time. For example, thermal elevational gradients represent suitable proxies to study phenological responses to warming. We used butterfly data from two Mediterranean mountain areas to test whether mean dates of appearance of communities and individual species show a delay with increasing altitude, and an accompanying shortening in the duration of flight periods. We found a 14-day delay in the mean date of appearance per kilometer increase in altitude for butterfly communities overall, and an average 23-day shift for 26 selected species, alongside average summer temperature lapse rates of 3°C per km. At higher elevations, there was a shortening of the flight period for the community of 3 days/km, with an 8.8-day average decline per km for individual species. Rates of phenological delay differed significantly between the two mountain ranges, although this did not seem to result from the respective temperature lapse rates. These results suggest that climate warming could lead to advanced and lengthened flight periods for Mediterranean mountain butterfly communities. However, although multivoltine species showed the expected response of delayed and shortened flight periods at higher elevations, univoltine species showed more pronounced delays in terms of species appearance. Hence, while projections of overall community responses to climate change may benefit from space-for-time substitutions, understanding species-specific responses to local features of habitat and climate may be needed to accurately predict the effects of climate change on phenology.
Inferring species’ responses to climate change in the absence of long-term time series data is a challenge, but can be achieved by substituting space for time. For example, thermal elevational gradients represent suitable proxies to study phenological responses to warming. We used butterfly data from two Mediterranean mountain areas to test whether mean dates of appearance of communities and individual species show a delay with increasing altitude, and an accompanying shortening in the duration of flight periods. We found a 14-day delay in the mean date of appearance per kilometer increase in altitude for butterfly communities overall, and an average 23-day shift for 26 selected species, alongside average summer temperature lapse rates of 3°C per km. At higher elevations, there was a shortening of the flight period for the community of 3 days/km, with an 8.8-day average decline per km for individual species. Rates of phenological delay differed significantly between the two mountain ranges, although this did not seem to result from the respective temperature lapse rates. These results suggest that climate warming could lead to advanced and lengthened flight periods for Mediterranean mountain butterfly communities. However, although multivoltine species showed the expected response of delayed and shortened flight periods at higher elevations, univoltine species showed more pronounced delays in terms of species appearance. Hence, while projections of overall community responses to climate change may benefit from space-for-time substitutions, understanding species-specific responses to local features of habitat and climate may be needed to accurately predict the effects of climate change on phenology.
Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) is a protected species with an Inadequate-Bad (U2) conservation status in Greece. Our study explores its seasonal range use pattern, demography and habitat selection in a site of the Natura 2000 network, Timfi Mountain. To this aim, we examined 1168 observations obtained from six seasonal surveys (2002: four seasons, 2014 and 2017: autumn) and performed an ecological-niche factor analysis (ENFA), using 16 environmental and human-disturbance variables. The species had an annual range of 6491 ha (25% of the study area), followed the typical range-use pattern, and presented the minimum core area during the rutting season (autumn). Timfi Mt hosted 469 individuals in 2017 (the largest population in Greece), increasing by 3.55 times since 2002. The species selected higher altitudes during summer and autumn, pinewoods over broad-leaved woods as winter grounds, and it avoided south-facing slopes. Our results supported the anthropogenic risk avoidance hypothesis; the species always selected remote areas away from roads, human settlements, and hunting grounds. In Greece, 40% of its distribution area falls within hunting ban areas (16.5% of the country). A national conservation policy is needed towards maintaining and increasing roadless areas and hunting-ban areas within Balkan chamois range nationwide.
Balkan chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra balcanica) is a protected species with an Inadequate-Bad (U2) conservation status in Greece. Our study explores its seasonal range use pattern, demography and habitat selection in a site of the Natura 2000 network, Timfi Mountain. To this aim, we examined 1168 observations obtained from six seasonal surveys (2002: four seasons, 2014 and 2017: autumn) and performed an ecological-niche factor analysis (ENFA), using 16 environmental and human-disturbance variables. The species had an annual range of 6491 ha (25% of the study area), followed the typical range-use pattern, and presented the minimum core area during the rutting season (autumn). Timfi Mt hosted 469 individuals in 2017 (the largest population in Greece), increasing by 3.55 times since 2002. The species selected higher altitudes during summer and autumn, pinewoods over broad-leaved woods as winter grounds, and it avoided south-facing slopes. Our results supported the anthropogenic risk avoidance hypothesis; the species always selected remote areas away from roads, human settlements, and hunting grounds. In Greece, 40% of its distribution area falls within hunting ban areas (16.5% of the country). A national conservation policy is needed towards maintaining and increasing roadless areas and hunting-ban areas within Balkan chamois range nationwide.
Land use change poses as the top threat for biodiversity decline, and road sprawl as a key driver behind it globally. According to the recent Landscape Fragmentation Indicator (LFI), Greece is less fragmented than the rest of Europe but presents higher rates of fragmentation increase. We developed the Roadless Fragmentation Indicator (RFI) to monitor fragmentation in more natural ecosystems. The RFI calculates the percentage of land that is covered by roadless areas (RAs), defined as land patches over 1 km2 that are over 1 km away from the nearest road. We produced the roadless map of Greece, concluding to 1115 RAs ranked by size (1–256 km2) and to a national RFI of less than 5%. The RFI reflected naturalness, was significantly higher in the Natura 2000 network, and was more sensitive in less fragmented zones. Six mountains (0.51% of Greek land) have remained largely roadless (RAs ≥ 50 km2) and should be protected as such. We call for a straightforward roadlessness policy under a “European Roadless Rule” that would legally protect at least 2% of European land as road-free area. We also call for no further unjustified road sprawl in more natural and least fragmented ecosystems, as a measure to be integrated in all sectors of EU policy and particularly in the spatial planning of development projects. We recommend a five-step roadlessness guideline to be implemented in the European Union, including Greece, as a measure to effectively address biodiversity decline.
Land use change poses as the top threat for biodiversity decline, and road sprawl as a key driver behind it globally. According to the recent Landscape Fragmentation Indicator (LFI), Greece is less fragmented than the rest of Europe but presents higher rates of fragmentation increase. We developed the Roadless Fragmentation Indicator (RFI) to monitor fragmentation in more natural ecosystems. The RFI calculates the percentage of land that is covered by roadless areas (RAs), defined as land patches over 1 km2 that are over 1 km away from the nearest road. We produced the roadless map of Greece, concluding to 1115 RAs ranked by size (1–256 km2) and to a national RFI of less than 5%. The RFI reflected naturalness, was significantly higher in the Natura 2000 network, and was more sensitive in less fragmented zones. Six mountains (0.51% of Greek land) have remained largely roadless (RAs ≥ 50 km2) and should be protected as such. We call for a straightforward roadlessness policy under a “European Roadless Rule” that would legally protect at least 2% of European land as road-free area. We also call for no further unjustified road sprawl in more natural and least fragmented ecosystems, as a measure to be integrated in all sectors of EU policy and particularly in the spatial planning of development projects. We recommend a five-step roadlessness guideline to be implemented in the European Union, including Greece, as a measure to effectively address biodiversity decline.
Global environmental goals mandate the expansion of the protected area network to halt biodiversity loss. The European Union’s Natura 2000 network covers 27.3% of the terrestrial area of Greece, one of the highest percentages in Europe. However, the extent to which this network protects Europe’s biodiversity, especially in a biodiverse country like Greece, is unknown. Here, we overlap the country’s Natura 2000 network with the ranges of the 424 species assessed as threatened on the IUCN Red List and present in Greece. Natura 2000 overlaps on average 47.6% of the mapped range of threatened species; this overlap far exceeds that expected by random networks (21.4%). Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation (non-exclusive subsets of Natura 2000 sites) overlap 33.4% and 38.1% respectively. Crete and Peloponnese are the two regions with the highest percentage of threatened species, with Natura 2000 sites overlapping on average 62.3% with the threatened species’ ranges for the former, but only 30.6% for the latter. The Greek ranges of all 62 threatened species listed in Annexes 1 and II to the Birds and Habitats Directives are at least partially overlapped by the network (52.0%), and 18.0% of these are fully overlapped. However, the ranges of 27 threatened species, all of which are endemic to Greece, are not overlapped at all. These results can inform national policies for the protection of biodiversity beyond current Natura 2000 sites.
Global environmental goals mandate the expansion of the protected area network to halt biodiversity loss. The European Union’s Natura 2000 network covers 27.3% of the terrestrial area of Greece, one of the highest percentages in Europe. However, the extent to which this network protects Europe’s biodiversity, especially in a biodiverse country like Greece, is unknown. Here, we overlap the country’s Natura 2000 network with the ranges of the 424 species assessed as threatened on the IUCN Red List and present in Greece. Natura 2000 overlaps on average 47.6% of the mapped range of threatened species; this overlap far exceeds that expected by random networks (21.4%). Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation (non-exclusive subsets of Natura 2000 sites) overlap 33.4% and 38.1% respectively. Crete and Peloponnese are the two regions with the highest percentage of threatened species, with Natura 2000 sites overlapping on average 62.3% with the threatened species’ ranges for the former, but only 30.6% for the latter. The Greek ranges of all 62 threatened species listed in Annexes 1 and II to the Birds and Habitats Directives are at least partially overlapped by the network (52.0%), and 18.0% of these are fully overlapped. However, the ranges of 27 threatened species, all of which are endemic to Greece, are not overlapped at all. These results can inform national policies for the protection of biodiversity beyond current Natura 2000 sites.
Wind energy is the leading renewable technology towards achieving climate goals, yet biodiversity trade-offs via land take are emerging. Thus, we are facing the paradox of impacting on biodiversity to combat climate change. We suggest a novel method of spatial planning that enhances windfarm sustainability: investments are prioritized in the most fragmented zones that lie outside the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. We showcase it in Greece, a biodiversity hotspot with a strong climate policy and land conflict between conservation and wind energy schemes. The analysis indicates that the suggested investment zone supports wind harnessing 1.5 times higher than the 2030 national goal, having only marginally lower (4%) wind speed. It performs well for the conservation of the annexed habitats and species of the two Nature Directives and it greatly overlaps with the Important Bird Areas (93%) and the roadless areas (80%) of Greece. It also greatly overlaps (82%–91%) with the exclusion zones suggested according to three sensitivity maps for bird conservation. Since land use change triggers biodiversity decline, we underline the necessity of such approaches for meeting both climate and biodiversity goals and call for a greater environmental policy convergence towards biodiversity conservation and no net land take.
Wind energy is the leading renewable technology towards achieving climate goals, yet biodiversity trade-offs via land take are emerging. Thus, we are facing the paradox of impacting on biodiversity to combat climate change. We suggest a novel method of spatial planning that enhances windfarm sustainability: investments are prioritized in the most fragmented zones that lie outside the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. We showcase it in Greece, a biodiversity hotspot with a strong climate policy and land conflict between conservation and wind energy schemes. The analysis indicates that the suggested investment zone supports wind harnessing 1.5 times higher than the 2030 national goal, having only marginally lower (4%) wind speed. It performs well for the conservation of the annexed habitats and species of the two Nature Directives and it greatly overlaps with the Important Bird Areas (93%) and the roadless areas (80%) of Greece. It also greatly overlaps (82%–91%) with the exclusion zones suggested according to three sensitivity maps for bird conservation. Since land use change triggers biodiversity decline, we underline the necessity of such approaches for meeting both climate and biodiversity goals and call for a greater environmental policy convergence towards biodiversity conservation and no net land take.
Sacred groves in Greece are usually forest remnants with large trees around chapels, protected through centuries by Orthodox religion. We examined the comparative ecological value of 20 oak-dominated sacred groves vs managed oakwoods, in terms of their habitat characteristics and avian communities (passerines and woodpeckers). Sacred groves have maintained a more pronounced old-growth character than managed oakwoods in terms of average Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) and tree height. Besides holding significantly greater bird species richness and abundance, they supported greater functional richness, phylogenetic diversity, and phylogenetic bird species variability. Bird communities in sacred groves were more heterogeneous and showed greater avian specialization levels than in managed woods. Generalized Linear Models showed that the main factor positively affecting all aspects of bird diversity was DBH, while the abundance of dead trees increased bird abundance. Our results underline the importance of maintaining large-sized trees in forest management practices to support bird diversity and decrease biotic homogenization. Since the new European Biodiversity Strategy explicitly requires all remaining European primary and old-growth forests to be strictly protected by 2030, we argue that sacred groves,