Mountain birds in decline in Europe

CREAF and ICO (Catalan Ornithological Institute) researchers Sergi Herrando and Lluís Brotons have participated in a study that shows populations of birds described as “mountain specialists” to have fallen by 10% in a decade in Europe. The situation is even more alarming in the Pyrenees and elsewhere in the Iberian Peninsula, where mountain bird populations fell by 21%.

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Photo: Àngel Biosca i Farré. The beautiful Monticola saxatilis

Published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology in late 2018, a new study shows, for the first time, that populations of birds termed “mountain specialists” have fallen by 10% in Europe since the turn of the century. Climate and land use change could be the main factors in this decline, which is sharper than the mean decrease in populations of more generalist or lowland birds. There is particular cause for concern in the case of the Pyrenees and other mountains in the Iberian Peninsula, where mountain bird populations have plummeted by 21%. Among the researchers involved in the study are Lluís Brotons and Sergi Herrando, both of whom are linked with CREAF, the ICO and other research institutions. Their work included defining what, in ecological terms, constitutes a high-altitude mountain habitat as far as birds are concerned, and establishing which species of mountain birds could be classified as specialists (those found exclusively in mountain areas) and which as generalists (those that also commonly breed in lowlands).

The study examined the populations of 44 species of mountain birds in the Iberian Peninsula, central Europe, Fennoscandia and the UK between 2002 and 2014. The data analysed in the case of the Catalan Pyrenees and Montseny included information from the SOCC (Catalan Common Bird Survey) citizen science project, which the ICO and the Catalan Government’s Ministry for Territory and Sustainability have been running for years. For Spain as a whole, the researchers used data from the SACRE bird monitoring project. They found mountain bird population trends to differ from area to area…

Read full article on the CREAF blog