The value of abandoned olive groves for blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) in a Mediterranean agroecosystem: a year-round telemetry study

  • Giacomo Assandri
  • Michelangelo Morganti
  • Giuseppe Bogliani
  • Francisco Pulido
Short Communication


The European Common Agricultural Policy has promoted the intensification of productive olive orchards and the abandonment of the unproductive ones. This strategy has resulted in a significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functionality of this type of agroecosystem. Here, we studied the blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, a common frugivorous bird species, in an olive-dominated agroecosystem of southern Spain to assess the effects of the abandonment of olive groves and undergrowth structure on habitat selection in this species. By means of radiotelemetry, we determined habitat selection of blackcaps during both the breeding (N = 30) and the non-breeding (N = 27) seasons of 2011 and 2012. We found that outside the breeding season, olive groves were widely used by blackcaps, which invariably preferred abandoned olive groves over intensively managed ones. Additionally, deciduous woods and poplar plantation were positively selected, whereas open habitats and Pinus forests were avoided. Generally, woody habitats without undergrowth or with herbaceous undergrowth were avoided. During the breeding season, the species selected mainly riverine habitats and poplar plantations, favoring habitats with well-developed undergrowth. Our results suggest that the blackcap could benefit from maintaining patches of abandoned olive groves freely left to natural succession within intensive olive groves. In such a landscape, ecological services (i.e., seed dispersal provided by frugivorous birds) and functioning could also improve as a consequence of these measures.


Agricultural intensification Land abandonment Habitat selection Home range Permanent crops Poplar plantations 



We are grateful to all those that contributed to field work: Alessandro Franzoi, Rocco Tiberti, Eva Carpinelli, Elena Castoldi, Ugo Mellone, and data analysis: Christian Pasquaretta, Luigi Ranghetti, and Roberto Sacchi.

Thanks also to all the members of the Research Group “Vertebrate Biology and Conservation” at the Department of Zoology and Physical Anthropology of the Complutense University of Madrid, particularly to José Ignacio Aguirre, Álvaro Ramírez, Mateja Bulaic, and Jasper van Heusden. Mattia Brambilla provided useful comments on a first draft of the manuscript. We further would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for helping to improve the quality of the manuscript.

This work was financial supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MCINN Project CGL2009-12397, PI: Francisco Pulido).

Supplementary material

10344_2017_1082_MOESM1_ESM.docx (26 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  2. 2.MUSE. Sezione Zoologia dei VertebratiCorso della Scienza e del Lavoro 3TrentoItaly
  3. 3.Departamento de ZoologíaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain

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