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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 811–828 | Cite as

Avian communities’ preferences in recently created agricultural wetlands in irrigated landscapes of semi-arid areas

  • David Moreno-Mateos
  • César Pedrocchi
  • Francisco A. Comín
Original Paper

Abstract

Numerous wetlands have been created spontaneously in the Ebro river basin as a consequence of new irrigation developments over the last 50 years. Water used for irrigating farmland drains into the lower parts of small valleys to form wetlands that are mostly dominated by common reed (Phragmites australis). Bird communities established in these wetlands are still simple, partly due to the lack of management to enable their ecological functions to improve. A knowledge of which environmental features favor these bird communities is essential in order to improve the design of newly created or restored wetlands associated to future irrigation developments. For this purpose, the habitat and vegetation features of 15 wetlands have been sampled. The structure of bird communities (richness, abundance and diversity) was monitored over 3 years during the breeding season and in winter at foraging and nocturnal roosting. The presence of bushes, height of stems and distance from large wetlands (>1 ha) proved to be the most influential variables on bird community structure and on most abundant species during the breeding season. Wetland area and compactness influenced species richness and the most abundant species during winter foraging and roosting. There was a maximum stem height at which only reed-dwelling birds remained. Uncontrolled winter burning had a severe negative effect upon these recently established populations. The ecological functions of newly created or restored wetlands, including those for run-off treatment in agricultural catchments, could be substantially improved taking into account simple guidelines from these results which relate bird community characteristics to wetland features.

Keywords

Waterbirds Winter birds Mediterranean Phragmites australis Winter burning 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by CICYT (REN2003-03040), Aragon Government—D.G. Investigación, Innovación y Tecnología—Research Group on Ecological Restoration (E 61), Instituto de Estudios Altoaragoneses-Diputación de Huesca and Comarca de Los Monegros. We thank Boletas Birdwatching Centre (J. J. Saiz) and D. Cazo for their help during the censuses and J. M. Rey Benayas (Alcalá de Henares University) for his statistical support.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Moreno-Mateos
    • 1
  • César Pedrocchi
    • 1
  • Francisco A. Comín
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología (CSIC)JacaSpain

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