NEW PAPER: Functional diversity of butterfly and bird communities in Southern Transylvania

BY JAN HANSPACH

Just a few days ago the December issue of Ecosystem Health and Sustainability went online. Two things are interesting in that issue. First, a new paper from our Romania project has been published there, and second, the cover features one of the villages in our study area.

Cover of the December issue of the journal. I took the picture when we were doing bear sign surveys in 2012 and shows the village of Biertan.

Cover of the December issue of the journal. I took the picture when we were doing bear sign surveys in 2012. It shows the village of Biertan. The fortified church of Biertan is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In the paper we studied how trait composition of butterfly and bird communities relates to environmental variables in order to get a more mechanistic understanding of what drives biodiversity in this farming landscape. This is particularly interesting because currently this landscape is subject to land use changes – agricultural intensification in some places and abandonment of pastures and arable fields in other areas which will have substantial biodiversity effects. We found in our study that functional diversity strongly correlated with taxonomic diversity and that land use type was the strongest driver of butterfly trait composition (especially correlating with life history strategies) and that amounts of woody vegetation were most strongly linked to bird traits (especially nesting and foraging strategies). Importantly, both land abandonment and intensification would therefore directly influence bird and butterfly communities via their functional traits. Maintaining a small-scale mosaic of different land cover types and gradients of woody vegetation throughout the landscape would be desirable to maintain a high functional diversity in the region in the future.

This paper is part of a special feature on “Ecosystem Management in Transition in Central and Eastern Europe” in which we have already published another paper (see our recent blog post here).

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