Impact of AGRricultural Abandonment on Landscape structure, vegetation and farmland birds in SE Europe

Acronym: AGRALE
Project ID: ERA 164
Funding including national funding and EC funding:
Total costs: 162,590 SEE-ERA.NET PLUS funding: 140,964
Project duration: 01.10.2010 / 30.09.2012

Rural depopulation and agricultural abandonment are particularly widespread in the mountainous regions of eastern and southern Europe, affecting directly landscape structure, and having often a negative impact on biological diversity. Our research handles this major conservation issue, attempting to investigate the impact of agricultural abandonment on landscape structure, vegetation, and bird diversity (with emphasis on farmland species), across four Balkan countries (regional scale). We will select 80 sites across four countries, in order to well-represent a gradient of land abandonment, based on the time and type of last agricultural land use. We will analyze the landscape structure of the selected sites, extracting informative landscape indices using GIS and Fragstats software. We will also sample vegetation and birds using standard field protocols (quadrats, point counts) and we will introduce our spatial and biotic data in a common database. We plan to compare the diversity patterns and the community structure of the two biological groups studied, across the land abandonment gradient, as reflected from the selected sites. We also plan to investigate the impact of land abandonment on landscape structure and how the latter is associated with the diversity patterns of the biological groups in question, linking the ecological with the species level of biological diversity (regression modeling and correlation analysis). Our research will result in at least two scientific publications and five announcements in conferences, whilst we will communicate our findings to policy makers and to the general public.

Partners involved:

University of Ioannina
Department of Environmental & Natural Resources Management
Seferi 2
30100 Agrinio, Greece
Prof. Vassiliki Kati

University of Zagreb
Division of Biology
Rooseveltov trg 6
10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Ms. Andreja Radovic

Agricultural University of Tirana
Department of Natural Sciences
Koder Kamza
1000 Tirana, Albania
Prof. Spase Shumka

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences
Central Laboratory of General Ecology/Department of Biodiversity
2 Yurii Gagarin
1113 Sofia, Bulgaria
Dr. Stoyan Nikolov

University of Vienna
Department of Conservation Biology, Vegetation & Landscape Ecology
Rennweg 14
1030 Vienna, Austria
Prof. Thomas Wrbka