A new study, published in the journal Basic and Applied Ecology, explores the impact of viniculture on bird diversity and has detected a strong negative relationship between vineyard cover and both abundance and species richness of birds.
It is well known that farmland bird populations are declining in Europe as a result of agricultural intensification, loss of habitat, pesticide use and many more reasons besides, thanks to extensive surveys and studies conducted at a variety of spatial scales. However, the impact of viniculture has previously received very little attention, and so the findings of this study, conducted over two years in western France, are of great significance.
Assessing the contribution of vineyards to bird diversity at landscape scale, the team of researchers undertook plot-scale analyses of habitat selection in vineyards. They found that both abundance and species diversity declined considerably in areas of vineyard cover when compared to other natural or semi-natural habitats in the vicinity.
Of the 93 species detected at landscape scale, only 16 were frequent users of vine plots. Just two species — Skylark and Woodlark — responded positively to the presence of vineyards, and only Woodlark positively selected the vineyards as opposed to semi-natural habitats.
Of the 93 species monitored, Woodlark was the only to respond positively to the presence of vineyards (Photo: Darren Chapman)
The study concluded that, although wine-growing landscapes may be species-rich, fewer species use vineyards themselves, and at low levels of abundance. To preserve species' populations in such landscapes, active management needs to be applied. Planting or maintaining semi-natural wooded vegetation is one particular solution which may encourage generalist species, but this does not provide a fix for open farmland specialists.
Pithon J A, Beaujouan V, Daniel H, Pain G, Vallet J. 2016. Are vineyards important habitats for birds at local or landscape scales? Basic and Applied Ecology, doi:10.1016/j.baae.2015.12.004