Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 152, Issue 3, pp 681–693 | Cite as

Endangered subspecies of the Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus witherbyi and E. s. lusitanica) in Iberian Peninsula have different genetic structures

  • Laura KvistEmail author
  • Suvi Ponnikas
  • Eduardo J. Belda
  • Ignacio Encabo
  • Emilio Martínez
  • Alejandro Onrubia
  • José M. Hernández
  • Pablo Vera
  • Júlio M. Neto
  • Juan S. Monrós
Original Article


In the Iberian Peninsula, populations of two subspecies of the Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus have become increasingly fragmented during the last decades when suitable habitats have been lost and/or the populations have gone extinct. Presently, both subspecies are endangered. We estimated the amount of genetic variation and population structure in order to define conservation units and management practices for these populations. We found that the subspecies lusitanica has clearly reduced genetic variation in nuclear and mitochondrial markers, has a drastically small effective population size and no genetic differentiation between populations. In contrast, the subspecies witherbyi is significantly structured, but the populations still hold large amounts of variation even though the effective population sizes are smaller than in the non-endangered subspecies schoeniclus. We suggest several management units for the Iberian populations. One unit includes subspecies lusitanica as a whole; the other three units are based on genetically differentiated populations of witherbyi. The most important genetic conservation measure in the case of lusitanica is to preserve the remaining habitats in order to at least maintain the present levels of gene flow. In the case of the three management units within witherbyi, the most urgent conservation measure is to improve the habitat quality to increase the population sizes.


Genetic diversity Effective population size Microsatellite mtDNA Population structure 


Auf der Iberischen Halbinsel wurden die Populationen von zwei Rohrammer-Unterarten Emberiza schoeniclus in den letzten Jahrzehnten, als geeignete Habitate verloren gingen und/oder Populationen ausstarben, zunehmend fragmentiert. Derzeitig sind beide Unterarten gefährdet. Wir schätzten die Höhe der genetischen Variation und die Populationsstruktur um daraus Einheiten für den Schutz und Managementpraktiken für diese Populationen zu bestimmen. Wir fanden heraus, dass die Unterart lusitanica eine deutlich reduzierte genetische Variation in nukleären wie mitochondrialen Markern, eine dramatisch geringe effektive Populationsgröße und keine genetische Differenzierung zwischen Populationen aufweist. Im Gegensatz dazu ist die Unterart witherbyi deutlich strukturiert, aber die einzelnen Populationen beinhalten immer noch große Anteile der Gesamtvariation, wenngleich die effektiven Populationsgrößen kleiner sind als die der nicht gefährdeten Unterart schoeniclus. Wir schlagen mehrere Management-Einheiten für die Iberischen Populationen vor. Eine Einheit beinhaltet die Unterart lusitanica als Ganzes; die anderen drei Einheiten basieren auf den genetisch differenzierten Populationen der Unterart witherbyi. Die allerwichtigste Schutzmaßnahme aus genetischer Sicht im Falle der Unterart lusitanica ist die Bewahrung der verbleibenden Habitate um zumindest das derzeitige Maß an Genfluss zu erhalten. Im Falle der drei Management-Einheiten der Unterart witherbyi ist die dringlichste Schutzmaßnahme die Verbesserung der Habitate um die Populationsgrößen zu erhöhen.



This project would not have been possible without the help of many people, among them A. Rodríguez, D. Bigas, P. Vicens, J. Segura, M. Suárez, J. L. Martínez, V. Urios, M. Rebassa, C. Torralvo, J. L. Hernández, M. Carregal, P. Alcázar, J. L. Cantó, J. Ramírez,, D. Alonso, J. Arizaga, F. Arcos, H. Rguibi, Acciona-Trasnmediterranea, and many others who helped us with the difficult task of sampling Reed Buntings and who sent us their samples. We apologize if we have forgotten someone. “Arcea Xestión de Recursos Naturais S.L.” was of inestimable value in obtaining most of the samples from Galicia in 2008, in getting funding from the “Xunta de Galicia”, and in helping us with the discussion of the results. We would like to thank the authorities of Daimiel National Park, Marjal Pego-Oliva Natural Park, S’Albufera de Mallorca Natural Park, Delta de L’Ebre Natural Park, “Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Rural de Castilla La Mancha”, “Servicio de Conservación de la Diversidad del Gobierno de Navarra”, “Dirección Xeral de Conservación da Natureza de la Xunta Galicia and “Servei de Conservació de la Biodiversitat de la Generalitat Valenciana” for the facilities to work in protected areas and for the appropriate permits to obtain the samples. The people from these protected areas were always very nice and helped us with the fieldwork. This study was funded by projects CGL2005-02041/BOS of the “Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia” of Spain, and SC000207, Orden 14-12-2005 of the “Consejería de Medio Ambiente y Desarrollo Rural de la Junta de Castilla La Mancha”, Spain, through the “Ayudas para la realización de actuaciones de apoyo a la conservación de las áreas y recursos naturales protegidos, Orden 14-12-2005”. The “Dirección Xeral de Conservación da Natureza de la Xunta de Galicia”, Spain, funded part of the fieldwork in NW Iberian Peninsula during the development of the Recovery plan for Emberiza schoeniclus lusitanica in Galicia. The experiments comply the current laws of the countries (Spain, Portugal and Finland) where they were done.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Kvist
    • 1
    Email author
  • Suvi Ponnikas
    • 1
  • Eduardo J. Belda
    • 2
  • Ignacio Encabo
    • 3
  • Emilio Martínez
    • 4
  • Alejandro Onrubia
    • 5
  • José M. Hernández
    • 6
  • Pablo Vera
    • 3
  • Júlio M. Neto
    • 7
    • 8
  • Juan S. Monrós
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  2. 2.IGIC, Universidad Politécnica de ValenciaGandíaSpain
  3. 3.Institute “Cavanilles” of Biodiversity and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of ValenciaValenciaSpain
  4. 4.Lugar de Gondariño n 13APontevedraSpain
  5. 5.Fundación MigresAlgecirasSpain
  6. 6.Ciudad RealSpain
  7. 7.Department of Animal EcologyLundSweden
  8. 8.CIBIO/UP-Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos GenéticosUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal

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