The value of abandoned olive groves for blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) in a Mediterranean agroecosystem: a year-round telemetry study

  • July 6, 2016
  • by Assandri, G., Morganti, M., Bogliani, G. and Pulido, F

The European Common Agricultural Policy has promoted the intensification of productive olive orchards and the abandonment of the unproductive ones. This strategy has resulted in a significant loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functionality of this type of agroecosystem. Here, we studied the blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, a common frugivorous bird species, in an olive-dominated agroecosystem of southern Spain to assess the effects of the abandonment of olive groves and undergrowth structure on habitat selection in this species. By means of radiotelemetry, we determined habitat selection of blackcaps during both the breeding (N = 30) and the nonbreeding (N = 27) seasons of 2011 and 2012. We found that outside the breeding season, olive groves were widely used by blackcaps, which invariably preferred abandoned olive groves over intensively managed ones. Additionally, deciduous woods and poplar plantation were positively selected, whereas open habitats and Pinus forests were avoided. Generally, woody habitats without undergrowth or with herbaceous undergrowth were avoided. During the breeding season, the species selected mainly riverine habitats and poplar plantations, favoring habitats with well developed undergrowth. Our results suggest that the blackcap could benefit from maintaining patches of abandoned olive groves freely left to natural succession within intensive olive groves. In such a landscape, ecological services (i.e., seed dispersal provided by frugivorous birds) and functioning could also improve as a consequence of these measures.