Landscape Ecology

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 747–764 | Cite as

Multi-scale study of bird species distribution and of their response to vegetation change: a Mediterranean example

Research article


Land use changes operate at different scales. They trigger a cascade of effects that simultaneously modify the composition or structure of the landscape and of the local vegetation. Mobil animals, and birds in particular, can respond quickly to such multi-scalar changes. We took advantage of a long term study on the response of songbirds to land-use changes on four Mediterranean islands in Corsica and Sardinia to explore the benefits of a multi-scale analysis of the relationships between songbird distribution, vegetation structure and landscape dynamics. Field data and aerial photographs were used to describe the vegetation at three different scales. Birds were censused by point counts. We used statistical variance decomposition to study how bird distribution and vegetation at various scales were linked. We analysed multi-scale vegetation changes (floristic composition, plot vegetation type, and landscape structure) and their consequences on bird distribution with multivariate and non-parametrical tests. The distribution of most species was linked to at least two spatial scales. The weight of a given scale was consistent with life-history traits for species whose biology was well-known. In the examples studied, vegetation composition, vegetation type and landscape changes that resulted from land abandonment negatively affected birds depending on open or heterogeneous areas. Our results emphasize that multi-scale analyses can greatly enhance our understanding of bird distribution and of their changes. Management of these populations should take into account measures at various spatial scales depending on the sensitivity of the species.


Scale Land-use change Landscape Terrestrial bird community Variance decomposition Vegetation composition and structure Island 



We thank Isabelle Guyot and Jean-Claude Thibault for their help in collecting data and Jean-Pierre Ribeyre for his navigation skills. Thank you to Hervé Bobhot for his help with GIS softwares and spatial processing of aerial photographs. Lluis Brotons and Clelia Sirami provided valuable suggestions and comments to an earlier draft. This research was funded by the GRDE "Mediterranean and Mountain Ecosystems in a Changing World" a partnership between France and Spain.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CEFE UMR 5175Montpellier Cedex 5France

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