Contrasting spatial and temporal responses of bird communities to landscape changes
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- Bonthoux, S., Barnagaud, JY., Goulard, M. et al. Oecologia (2013) 172: 563. doi:10.1007/s00442-012-2498-2
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Quantifying the impact of land-use changes on biodiversity is a major challenge in conservation ecology. Static spatial relationships between bird communities and agricultural landscapes have been extensively studied. Yet, their ability to mirror the effects of temporal land-use dynamics remains to be demonstrated. Here, we test whether such space-for-time substitution approaches are relevant for explaining temporal variations in farmland bird communities. We surveyed 256 bird communities in an agricultural landscape in southwest France at the same locations in 1982 and 2007, and quantified the same seven landscape descriptors for each period. We compared the effects of spatial and temporal landscape changes over this 25-year period on bird species distributions and three community-level metrics: species richness and two community indices reflecting birds’ specialisation regarding local vegetation structure (local CSI) and landscape composition (landscape CSI). Landscape heterogeneity decreased between 1982 and 2007 and crop area increased sharply at the expense of grassland as a result of agricultural intensification. We found that the correlations between temporal changes in bird distributions or community metrics and landscape components were less consistent than their spatial relationships in each year. This result advocates caution when using a space-for-time substitution approach to assess the effects of landscape changes on biodiversity. Additionally, community metrics showed contrasted responses to landscape changes. Species richness and local CSI for each period were negatively related to the area of crops and positively related to landscape heterogeneity. Conversely, the landscape CSI was positively related to the area of crop and negatively to landscape heterogeneity. To understand the ecological processes linked to changes in farm landscapes, our study underlines the need to develop long-term studies with bird and habitat data collected during several periods, and particularly to consider multiple community indices in monitoring change.