The precipitous decline of the ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana: Time to build on scientific evidence to inform conservation management
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In recent decades there has been a marked decline in most ortolan bunting Emberiza hortulana populations in temperate Europe, with many regional populations now extinct or on the brink of extinction. In contrast, Mediterranean and, as far as we know, eastern European popula-tions seem to have remained relatively stable. The causes of decline remain unclear but include: habitat loss and degradation, and related reduction in prey availability; climate change on the breeding grounds; altered population dynamics; illegal captures during migration; and environmental change in wintering areas. We review the current knowledge of the biology of the ortolan bunting and discuss the proposed causes of decline in relation to the different population trends in temperate and Mediterranean Europe. We suggest new avenues of research to identify the factors limiting ortolan bunting populations. The main evidence-based conservation measure that is likely to enhance habitat quality is the creation of patches of bare ground to produce sparsely vegetated foraging grounds in invertebrate-rich grassy habitats close to breeding areas. © 2012 Fauna & Flora Internationa.
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