Lopes, P.C., Palmeirim, J.M. & Leal, A.I. (2023) Small shrubby patches increase bird taxonomic and functional richness of wood-pastures.Agroforestry Systems, 97, 1511-1523. DOI:10.1007/s10457-023-00873-9 (IF2022 2,2; Q3 Forestry)
Wood-pastures are semi-natural systems that combine a grazed grassland with a tree layer. Shrubs are often controlled, mostly to improve grazing potential, resulting in a reduction of the available ecological niches. From a conservation perspective, it is thus important to identify management practices that counter this reduction. Our overall objective was to determine the value of small shrubby patches to increase the richness of wood-pasture bird communities. As study model we used Mediterranean oak wood-pastures in southern Portugal, locally known as montados. Birds and environmental variables were sampled in 50 m radius plots of wood-pasture with and without small shrubby patches (128–3748 m2, covering less than 0.5% of the study area), in winter (n = 54) and spring (n = 65). Species assemblages’ composition changed between seasons, but in both seasons the assemblages in plots with and without patches were statistically different. Seven species were statistically associated to the presence of patches, in winter and spring, increasing the richness of the respective assemblages. A comparison of the functional composition of communities of patches and matrix revealed that patches increased richness of landscapes by boosting the presence of species with functional traits uncommon in the ecologically simplified matrix. Their presence is promoted by resources added by the patches (e.g. nesting sites, protection, food), but the ranges of individual birds in general extended well beyond the patches. This study demonstrated that the presence of few and small shrubby patches can significantly enrich the bird communities of wood-pastures, both taxonomically and functionally, indicating that promoting them is a cost-effective management measure for these valuable systems.