The importance of seasonal environmental factors in the foraging habitat selection of Alpine Ring Ouzels Turdus torquatus alpestris

Barras, Arnaud G.; Marti, Sophie; Ettlin, Sarah; Vignali, Sergio; Resano-Mayor, Jaime; Braunisch, Veronika; Arlettaz, Raphaël (2020). The importance of seasonal environmental factors in the foraging habitat selection of Alpine Ring Ouzels Turdus torquatus alpestris. Ibis, 162(2), pp. 505-519. Wiley 10.1111/ibi.12764

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Species inhabiting mountain ecosystems are expected to be particularly vulnerable to environmental change, yet information on their basic ecology is often lacking. Knowledge from field-based empirical studies remains essential to refine our understanding of the impact of current habitat alterations and for the consequential development of meaningful conservation management strategies. This study focuses on a poorly investigated and vulnerable mountain bird species in Europe, the Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus. Our aim was to identify the species’ key ecological requirements during the crucial period of nestling provisioning in the context of environmental change. We radiotracked and observed Alpine Ring Ouzels in a high-density population, investigating their pattern of foraging habitat selection in 2015 and 2017, and evaluated the transferability of these results over a wider geographical range across the SW Swiss Alps. Foraging birds selected, consistently in space and time, short grass swards (< 10 cm) with interspersed patches of accessible and penetrable soils, at intermediate moisture levels (around 40–65% volumetric water content). In Alpine ecosystems, this microhabitat configuration is typically widespread during the spring snowmelt, but extremely seasonal, with a rapid decrease in its availability over the course of the breeding season. This underlines the high vulnerability of the Ring Ouzel to environmental change: an earlier snowmelt could generate a temporal mismatch between the peak of the breeding effort and optimal foraging conditions; however, abandoning grazing activities on semi-wooded Alpine pastures may further decrease foraging habitat suitability through taller and denser grass swards, and subsequent woody vegetation encroachment. This study provides a mechanistic appraisal of the challenges Ring Ouzels will face in the future, as well as initial guidelines for targeted habitat management within timberline ecotones.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Conservation Biology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE)

UniBE Contributor:

Barras, Arnaud Gian; Marti, Sophie Alexandra; Ettlin, Sarah; Vignali, Sergio; Resano Mayor, Jaime; Braunisch, Veronika and Arlettaz, Raphaël

Subjects:

500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)

ISSN:

0019-1019

Publisher:

Wiley

Language:

English

Submitter:

Arnaud Gian Barras

Date Deposited:

25 Feb 2021 16:48

Last Modified:

25 Feb 2021 16:48

Publisher DOI:

10.1111/ibi.12764

BORIS DOI:

10.48350/152660

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/152660

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