Patterns of Orthoptera abundance and lesser kestrel conservation in arable landscapes
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- Rodríguez, C. & Bustamante, J. Biodivers Conserv (2008) 17: 1753. doi:10.1007/s10531-008-9381-9
The lesser kestrel Falco naumanni experienced a marked decline during the second half of the 20th century due to changes in land use that influenced breeding success by reducing the abundance and quality of prey. However, the factors governing spatial and temporal variation of prey abundance around lesser kestrel colonies has not yet been investigated. We sampled Orthoptera abundance in the main crop types and edge habitats surrounding six lesser kestrel colonies in southern Spain. Samplings focused on Orthoptera because they constitute the main prey during the nestling period. Only those Orthoptera species that are known to be preyed by lesser kestrels were considered in this study. We found differences in prey density among localities, and crop types. Semi-natural habitats such as grasslands, fallow land, and field margins held the highest densities. However, prey abundance showed a complex pattern that was not possible to explain solely on the basis of crop composition around colonies. Factors determining productivity in individual fields like soil type and productivity or biocide input, and mean size of agricultural fields contributed to explain this complex pattern of prey abundance. Our results highlight the key role of semi-natural and edge habitats in farmed landscapes as prey reservoirs and corridors. Higher conservation priorities for these habitats are suggested to benefit foraging lesser kestrels, but many other farmland species that also experienced steep population declines due to decreasing food supply resulting from modern agriculture.