, Volume 132, Issue 1, pp 181-194
Date: 04 Nov 2012

Assessing the role of landscape connectivity in recent woodpecker range expansion in Mediterranean Europe: forest management implications

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Woodpecker species have significantly expanded their ranges in the last decades of the twentieth century in Mediterranean Europe, which seems to be closely related to forest maturation following large-scale decline in traditional uses. Here we assess the explicit role of forest landscape connectivity in the colonization of the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) and the Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) in Catalonia (NE Spain). For this purpose we combined data on breeding bird atlas (10 × 10 km; 1980–2000) and forest inventories (c. 1 × 1 km, 2000). Forest connectivity was measured through graph theory and habitat availability metrics (inter- and intra-patch connectivity) according to species median natal dispersal distances. The best regressions from a set of alternative models were selected based on AICc. Results showed that connectivity between areas of mature forests [diameter at breast height (dbh) ≥ 35 cm] affected Black Woodpecker colonization events. The probability of colonization of the Great Spotted Woodpecker was greater at localities near the sources of colonization in 1980 and with a high connectivity with other less developed forest patches (dbh < 35 cm). The spatial grain at which landscape connectivity was measured influenced the model performance according to the species dispersal abilities, with the species with the lower mobility (D. major) responding better to the forest connectivity patterns at finer spatial scales. Overall, it seems that both species could expand further in European Mediterranean forests in upcoming years but at slower rates if landscape connectivity according to species requirements does not continue to increase. Hence, a proactive and adaptive management should be carried out in order to preserve these species while considering the related major impacts of global change in Mediterranean Europe.

Communicated by J. Müller.