, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 533-546
Date: 11 Feb 2009

Historic landscape change and habitat loss: the case of black grouse in Lower Saxony, Germany

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

The declines of many specialist bird species in the agricultural landscapes of Central Europe have resulted in small and isolated populations. In the case of the black grouse, a ground-nesting bird species with large spatial requirements, empiric evidence about underlying landscape changes is scarce. In this study, we examined land cover and land cover changes in a farmland-forest mosaic in eastern Lower Saxony, Germany and how they affect occurrence and persistence of black grouse. Spatial information came from historic topographic maps from 1958 to 1975. The results show profound conversions of habitat to forest and farmland but also an increase in settlement area. Habitat conversions and suburbanization were negative correlates of black grouse persistence. Habitat models from before and after a decline period differed in some of the predictors and suggest black grouse habitat to be more diverse before the land cover changes. Our study confirms that land use factors at a landscape scale extent contribute to explain black grouse occurrence and thus can complement important small scale factors like the quality and size of individual habitat patches. Results also show that landscape factors affect black grouse distribution predominantly from an area much greater than an individual black grouse home range. Our models may be further evaluated on present-day landscapes and might be used to evaluate large-scale habitat availability for black grouse.