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Effects of habitat type and intensity of use on the breeding birds of gravel pits in Poland
- Krynski, Kamil, Golawski, Artur
- Ecological engineering 2019 v.130 pp. 110-116
- agricultural land, avifauna, birds, breeding, breeding sites, gravel, gravel pits, habitats, raw materials, species richness, surface water, woodlands, Poland
- Natural sands and gravels have been a basic raw material for building ever since the dawn of civilisation. Even though the natural environment is transformed and may be degraded by gravel pits, these areas create wholly new conditions for the development of interesting assemblages of avifauna. This study was conducted in 2013–2016 in 64 gravel pits in east-central Poland. We examined whether gravel excavation led to the formation of habitats that support an avian community. We identified key factors affecting the richness, diversity and density of bird species, on the basis of which we were able to recommend practical conservation measures. The richness of species and their density were positively affected by the intensity of gravel pit exploitation: of prime importance were the extensively utilised gravel pits. The fewest species and the lowest density of birds were recorded in the most intensively exploited gravel pits, where the large sandy areas are an attractive breeding habitat for just a few species. The presence of emergent vegetation was found to be the most important factor influencing species richness and species diversity. This is the first comprehensive study to demonstrate the great value of gravel pits for breeding birds. We recommend that recultivation of these areas should aim at retaining the habitats of the most valuable bird species that utilised the gravel pit while it was operative. One-directional recultivation, be it the creation of woodland, farmland or a water body, should be avoided at all costs, because most of the bird species using the area before recultivation will abandon a homogeneous habitat. Another important task is to maintain or enable the existence of emergent vegetation around water bodies, as this has a considerable influence on birds.