, Volume 14, Issue 6, pp 1421-1432

Have recent changes in forest structure reduced the Estonian black stork Ciconia nigra population?

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Abstract

The black stork Ciconia nigra is listed as a focal species for guiding forest management in Estonia, where forestry has recently intensified and the stork population has suffered a twofold decline. We explored a possible link between the decline of the population and man-induced changes in forest structure, by analysing nesting of the species in relation to forest cover, edge effects and stand structure. Although the storks had distinct habitat preferences (old remote stands near rivers and a certain distance far from ecotones in well-forested landscapes), these were hardly reflected in site re-occupancy and productivity. Therefore, changes in forest structure are probably not responsible for the population decline, although preferences for specific forest environments may limit the range of potential nest sites. The results indicated that edge avoidance cannot be considered a species-specific feature over large areas and clear habitat preferences are not necessarily related with the present success of a population. We also suggest that lists of focal species should be regularly updated and validated in the field.