… In Portugal
After the arduous field work we were able to apply the Common Methodology, develop by all CERES partners, in order to characterize the quality and structural connectivity of our Ecological Relevant Units (ERUs), at the distinct landscape matrices, in the Mediterranean region!
The presence of vegetation habitats in the Riparian Woody ERUs, such as dead wood and microhabitats at trees, standing dead trees, laying dead trunks, large living trees and living trees with dendromicrohabitats is particularly relevant for the global habitat quality of the Riparian Woody ERUs in the Forest production matrix (Figure 1).
Figure 1 – Characterization of the ERU-BPI partial scores for the Vegetation Structure, Vegetation Habitats, Associated Habitats and Management categories , by ERU type (RW - Riparian woody; RH - Riparian herbaceous; FW - Forest woody; FH - Forest herbaceous) and by dominant landscape matrix (IA - Intensive agriculture; FP - Forest production; EA - Extensive agriculture).
Concerning the structural connectivity ana
lysis, and for both agricultural study areas of the Mediterranean region (Almonda and Sorria), the Riparian Woody structural connectivity is higher than the Forest Woody connectivity, although both have values below 5% (Figure 2).
Figure 2 - ERU structural connectivity, in percentage of connected potential ERU area (EC(IIC)/AL) (%), along a gradient of thresholds distance (m), in the Intensive agriculture matrix of the two study areas. RW IA Almonda - Riparian Woody ERUs of the Almonda study area; RW IA Sorraia - Riparian Woody ERUs of the Sorraia study area; FW IA Almonda - Forest Woody ERUs of the Almonda study area; FW IA Sorraia - Forest Woody ERUs of the Sorraia study area.
When comparing the riparian structural connectivity among the three different dominant matrices, the Forest production matrix stood out as having a much higher overall percentage of connected area (Figure 3).
Figure 3 - Riparian ERU structural connectivity, in percentage of connected potential ERU area (EC(IIC)/AL) (%), along a gradient of distance thresholds (m), in the three dominant matrices of the two study areas (Almonda and Sorraia).
After this structural connectivity analysis, we concluded that large Riparian Woody ERUs seem to lose relevance for the overall connectivity as the threshold distance increases (thresholds distance simulate biological dispersal ability), but should be the priority for connectivity improvement when small threshold distances are considered.
The next step will be to relate the biological data collected in the 2020 field campaigns with the habitat quality information and the structural and spatial configurations of the ERUs, in order to achieve functional connectivity models able to identify areas to prioritize connectivity restoration for target biological species in the Mediterranean region.
… In Spain (Castilla y León)
From CESEFOR we have applied the Common Methodology to study the connectivity of the habitats of the brown bear (Ursus arctos). The study area is located in the Cantabrian mountain range of the Iberian Peninsula and more specifically between the Port of Manzanal and the provincial limit between León and Lugo in Piedrafita, which contains a very high proportion of the distribution of the Cantabrian brown bear.
With this study, we want to determine the most critical locations for maintaining the connectivity of the species' habitat and provide practical guidance as well as management recommendations for the best incorporation of connectivity in the management of the species and the forest territory through which its habitat is distributed. So far, the flow (connectivity) maps of the potential connections have been generated and the location of the connectors or corridors is being analysed.
From the Fernando González Bernáldez Foundation, we are going to begin field work to analyze the maturity / quality of forest stands within the study area defined by CESEFOR and evaluate the connectivity for a species with smaller ranges of movement (coleoptera).
Our work will be complementary to that carried out by CESEFOR, providing an added value of the role that mature forests play in connectivity, using the Common Methodology, and Biodiversity Potential Index to evaluated forest stand biodiversity.
For the analysis of the maturity and quality of the stands, seven mixed forest stands were chosen (quercus petrea, taxus bacata, alnus glutinosa, among others).