Marques, A.T., Moreira, F., Alcazar, R., Delgado, A., Godinho, C., Leitão, D., Rocha, P., Sequeira, N., Palmeirim, J. & Silva, J.P. (2020) Changes in grassland management and linear infrastructures associated to the decline of an endangered bird population.Scientific Reports, 10, . DOI:10.1038/s41598-020-72154-9 (IF2019 3,998; Q1 Multidisciplinary Sciences)
European grassland birds are experiencing major population declines, mainly due to changes in farmland management. We analyzed the role of habitat availability, grazing management and linear infrastructures (roads and power lines) in explaining spatial and temporal variation in the population density of little bustards (Tetrax tetrax) in Portugal, during a decade in which the species population size halved. We used data from 51 areas (totaling ca. 1,50,000 ha) that were sampled in two different periods (2003–2006 and 2016). In 2003–2006, when the species occurred at high densities, habitat availability was the only factor affecting spatial variation in bustard density. In the 2016 survey, variation in density was explained by habitat availability and livestock management, with reduced bird numbers in areas with higher proportions of cattle. Population declines across the study period were steeper in areas that initially held higher densities of bustards and in areas with a higher proportion of cattle in the total stocking rate. Areas with higher densities of power lines also registered greater density declines, probably due to avoidance behavior and to increased mortality. Overall, our results show little bustards are currently lacking high quality grassland habitat, whose persistence depends on extensive grazing regimes and low linear infrastructure densities.