Revue : Plos One

When Common Birds Became Rare: Historical Records Shed Light on Long-Term Responses of Bird Communities to Global Change in the Largest Wetland of France

Auteurs :

Galewski T., Devictor V.

* Auteur correspondant : Thomas Galewski (e-mail)

Résumé :

Many species have suffered large population declines due to the anthropogenic influence on ecosystems. Understanding historical population trends is essential for informing best efforts to preserve species. We propose a new method to reconstruct the past structure of a regional species pool, based on historical naturalist literature. Qualitative information collected from annotated checklists and reports can be relevant to identify major long-term community changes. We reviewed ornithological literature on the Camargue, the largest wetland in France. We reconstructed the entire breeding bird community from 1830 to 2009 and translated historical data into semi-quantitative data. This data permitted a calculation of a Community Commonness Index to measure the average level of abundance of species in a community. The Community Specialization and Community Temperature Indices were used to evaluate the potential long-term impact of land-use and climate changes on the composition of the regional bird species pool. We found a decrease in average abundance and specialization between 1950 and 1989, suggesting that changes in land-use negatively impacted the structure and composition of the local bird community by reducing species abundance and removing habitat-specialists (e.g. Southern Grey Shrike, Greater Shorttoed Lark). These results are likely to be linked with a major loss of natural habitats in the Camargue between 1942 and 1984 when natural areas and traditional farmland were converted into intensive cultivated lands. We also found fluctuations among species with high versus low temperature preference. However, long-term effects of climate change on the bird community might be blurred by the impact of land-use changes. Overall, our results contrast with those obtained from well-monitored colonial waterbirds showing long-term increases. Our results plead for a more regular use of historical naturalist data when examining long-term changes in species communities as they allow the establishment of an older temporal point of reference and consideration of species not covered by traditional monitoring schemes.

Référence bibliographique complète :

Galewski T., Devictor V. 2016. When Common Birds Became Rare: Historical Records Shed Light on Long-Term Responses of Bird Communities to Global Change in the Largest Wetland of France. Green AJ, editor. PLOS ONE 11:e0165542. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165542