Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 12, pp 3459–3469 | Cite as

Unraveling the importance of rice fields for waterbird populations in Europe

  • Gregorio M. Toral
  • Jordi Figuerola
Original paper


Rice fields are an alternative habitat for waterbirds and provide food and shelter for many avian species, but there is a lack of information about how the use of rice fields translates into population level effects. The aim of this study was to test the relationship between the use of rice fields by European waterbirds and trends in their populations. We tested this relationship during the autumn migration season and during the breeding season. Based on counts conducted over the last 23 years in natural marshes and areas of rice fields in Doñana (SW Spain), an index of rice field use was constructed for 76 bird species, which was then compared to these species’ European population trends obtained from the literature. A positive relationship was found between waterbird population trends and the use of rice fields during autumn migration season. Our study suggests that changes in the Common Agriculture Policy in Europe leading to reductions in areas of rice cultivation may have important effects on waterbirds. The restoration of former marsh areas and the maintenance of rice cultivation would seem to be more environmentally friendly approaches than the use of these areas to grow alternative crops or solar farms.


Agriculture Doñana Migration Shorebird Wetland 



The Junta de Andalucía funded this study via the project contract “Las aves acuáticas de Doñana y el cultivo del arroz: la interacción entre la agricultura y la conservación de las zonas húmedas”. Gregorio M. Toral was funded by an I3P-CSIC grant for the formation of Researchers. The “Equipo de Seguimiento de Procesos Naturales” belonging to the Doñana Biological Station (C.S.I.C.) has been collecting the census data used in this study for many years.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wetland Ecology, Doñana Biological StationSevilleSpain

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