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Traditional Farming and Key Foraging Habitats for Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Conservation in a Spanish Pseudosteppe Landscape

Guillermo Blanco, Jose L. Tella and Ignacio Torre
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 35, No. 2 (Apr., 1998), pp. 232-239
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2405122
Page Count: 8
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Traditional Farming and Key Foraging Habitats for Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax Conservation in a Spanish Pseudosteppe Landscape
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Abstract

1. Agricultural land devoted to low-intensity practices supports many declining bird species in Europe. The potential effects of intensification or abandonment of traditional farming practices are assessed from the point of view of the conservation of the chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax. 2. The study was conducted in Los Monegros (north-east Spain), in a pseudosteppe landscape of special relevance for this species. In this area traditional farming survives in the form of low-intensity arable systems including fallowing and extensive sheep grazing. 3. Foraging choughs showed a strong selection for field margins, avoided any remnant of the original scrubland and halophitic vegetation, and utilized other habitats maintained by traditional crop rotation (e. g. fallow, stubble) at different times of the year. 4. A highly complex pattern of habitat selection was found which was not only related to seasonal changes in habitat availability, but also differed between territorial pairs and the non-breeding population. This emphasizes the importance of taking all the different components of bird populations into account when analysing interactions between habitat selection and the annual farming cycle. 5. Chough habitat selection suggests that both agricultural intensification and land abandonment would have detrimental consequences for this species in Los Monegros. The maintenance of traditional farming is recommended, especially by promoting the use of long fallow rotations grazed extensively by livestock, encouraging the increase of grassland edges around landholdings and sand roads, and maintaining a low input of biocides. These management measurements could also favour most other endangered species of steppe birds, and could be supported by the establishment of Zonal Programmes under the CAP Agri-Environment Regulation (2078/92).

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