Ornithological communities as indicators of recent transformations on a regional scale: Sicily’s case

La Mantia T., Bonaviri L., Massa B.

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A study on the Sicilian avifauna changes and its existing connections with the land use variations has been carried out from the 80s till today. We compared the Sicilian ornithological data acquired from the atlas maps with the regional land use maps data. We examined the land use variations and the distribution changes of some bird species on a regional level. To this aim, we analyzed the spatial distribution data of the birds in the period from 1984-1992 and 1993-2006. Moreover we examined the land use data of the period going from 1987-1988 and 1993-2000. After a preliminary analysis, we selected target species linked to different environments. Forest: Great spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major, Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus, Long-eared Owl Asio otus, Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea, Marsh Tit Poecile palustris siculus ; scrub and bush: Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, arable and grazing land: Greater short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla, Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra; complex systems, olive grove and almond trees: European Roller Coracias garrulus, Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator. The distribution changes of these species in the examined periods were significant and they were not linked to the demography of the species nor to the major or minor level of exploration of the island. According to the results, it is obvious that, for these species, there is a clear connection between the land use changes and the distribution variations. Other species manifested changes that seemed to be linked to demographic trends, which involved the distribution of these species (for example the diffusion of the Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus). None of the existing changes could be unequivocally related to climate change.