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Research GELIFES Conservation Ecology Group

Global land-use effects on harriers

Both Group - Research
Research People Publications

Farmland birds and long-distance migrants dramatically declined during the last decades due to agricultural intensification and habitat loss in breeding and wintering areas. To protect these groups of birds, detailed knowledge on ecological requirements of species during their entire annual cycle is needed. The Montagu´s Harrier is a migratory farmland bird and an excellent key species to study the relationship between habitat use in agricultural landscapes and individual fitness. Together with the Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation we study the ways these elegant harriers can adapt to the enormous challenges caused by the large scale changes they experience in the agricultural habitats during their annual cycle. In collaboration with the University of Amsterdam, we can use new technology to follow individual birds in great detail, allowing us to look through the eyes of the birds to the landscape.

We will capitalize on a unique dataset of high quality tracking data of individuals along a gradient from extensive to intensive agricultural landscapes in four European countries. This project aims at determining the causal link between reproductive output, individual space use and prey selection in a landscape context varying in intensification and prey availability. We will scale up to the entire annual cycle to study the same individual birds also at the African wintering grounds. Field work in Senegal enables to link individual habitat use and fitness consequences to temporally varying food sources in winter habitats, again differing in agricultural intensification.

By combining work at two continents, we focus carry-over effects of agricultural intensification of wintering ranges on survival and reproduction. Because harriers and many other species rely on the sustainable land use by humans and ecosystem stability depends on biodiversity, this project will contribute to the larger theme of the ecological foundation of a sustainable society.

PhD student:
  • Almut Schlaich
  1. Both C. et al (2012), J. Avian Biol. 43:193-197, doi:10.1111/j.1600-048X.2012.05721.x
  2. Burger C et al (2011), Plos One 8:e83176, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083176
Last modified:01 March 2017 4.46 p.m.