Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 11, pp 2979–2995 | Cite as

Area mediated shifts in bird community composition: a study on a fragmented Mediterranean grassland

Original Paper


The effects of habitat fragmentation on birds have often been studied in forest specialist species. Here we aimed at comparing the response of open habitat birds within a range of habitat specialization. The study area was a Mediterranean pseudo-steppe, designated as important for conservation yet fragmented by tree encroachment. We defined bird species dependency on steppe-like habitat by a correspondence analysis, allowing us to distinguish between specialists, generalists and scrubland species. We studied species abundance in relation to fragment area, testing whether species representation in fragments differed from those in continuous habitat. This analysis showed a contrasted response to fragment size between “open habitat” specialist species and generalist ones. Open habitat species were under-represented in the smallest fragments, while generalist were over-represented in small fragments in comparison to their distribution in continuous habitats. We discuss how these results can be linked to species habitat requirements. We find that scrubland species seem to be favoured by encroachment of woody vegetation, as they are able to explore and use the wooded matrix; however specialist species are restricted to open patches and are sensitive to a reduction in patch size. This allows us to predict how different species can exhibit a different sensitivity to habitat fragmentation.


Breeding birds Community composition Conservation biology Habitat generalist Habitat specialist Mediterranean mountain Species distribution 



We would like to express our thanks to Roger Prodon and Michel Thévenot for their help in establishing the study, and Marc Leithead, Jacques Lepart, Jean-Louis Martin, Pascal Marty, Peter D. Vickery and one anonymous reviewer who gave us helpful comments on the manuscript. P. Caplat was funded by the BIOSCENE project (No.: EVK2-2001-00354), under the EU 5th Framework Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, supported by the European Commission. J. Fonderflick was partly founded by the DIVA French program “Public action, Agricrops and Biodiversity” (French Ministry for Rural Development and the Environment, CV 02000120). This study’s experiments comply with the current laws of France and European Union.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CEFE, C.N.R.S.Montpellier Cedex 2France
  2. 2.SupAgro Montpellier E.P.H.E., U.M.R. C.E.F.E. 5175MontpellierFrance

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