Macroecology of north european wet grassland landscapes: Habitat quality, waders, avian predators and nest predation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionSustainability. 2021, 13 (15), . 10.3390/su13158138
Wet grassland degradation is a global issue that involves both altered land cover patterns and ecological processes, which affect the distribution and abundance of species. The sharp decline in European wader bird (Charadrii) populations is a good example. The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that the anthropogenic developmental stage of wet grassland habitats and landscapes drives avian nest predator abundance, and thus the predation pressure on nests, which is a major cause of wader bird declines. Using a macroecological approach we selected six wet grassland landscapes representing a gradient in both grassland habitat development and breeding wader population status in four European countries (Belarus, Iceland, Lithuania and Sweden). We (1) mapped wader and avian predator assemblages in multiple wet grassland patches in each landscape, (2) used artificial nests to estimate the relative rate of egg predation, and (3) analyzed relationships between nest predation pressure, corvid nest predators versus raptors, nest loss and the stage of wet grassland habitat and landscape development. We found (1) inverse relationships between the abundance of corvids and waders, as well as between wet grassland developmental stage and waders, and (2) a positive correlation between the probability of nest loss and the density of corvid birds. In conclusion, we found a clear macroecological pattern linking habitat quality, wader populations, nest predators and nest predation. These linkages stress the importance of including nest predation as a factor limiting wader bird populations, and that corvid control or management may be useful management tools.