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Ground greening in vineyards promotes the Woodlark Lullula arborea and their invertebrate prey

Bosco, Laura, Arlettaz, Raphaël, Jacot, Alain
Journal of ornithology 2019 v.160 no.3 pp. 799-811
Araneae, Coleoptera, Passeriformes, ecosystems, ground vegetation, habitat preferences, habitats, herbicides, insectivores, invertebrates, landscapes, pitfall traps, plant communities, species richness, trophic levels, vegetation cover, vineyards, Southern European region
Vineyards are intensively managed monocultures, constituting homogeneously cultivated landscapes. They often have a mineral appearance, not only because they occur mostly in xeric biomes but also as a result of the herbicide treatments used to combat ground vegetation. However, new vineyard management practices are being developed that tolerate more vegetation cover on the ground, potentially having positive impacts on biodiversity. We have investigated the effects of ground greening on habitat preferences of the Woodlark (Lullula arborea), an emblematic, insectivorous passerine typical of vineyards in central and southern Europe. We first investigated the role of ground vegetation cover and plant species richness on habitat use by Woodlarks, while accounting for various additional habitat characteristics. Second, we assessed whether the dependence of Woodlarks on ground vegetation cover could be mediated by an increased occurrence of invertebrate prey. Ground-dwelling invertebrates were sampled with pitfall traps placed in vineyard fields visited by Woodlarks (presence fields) and in adjacent vineyards where Woodlarks had not been observed (pseudo-absence fields). We show that increased ground vegetation cover, plant species richness and wider inter-rows were the main drivers of Woodlark occurrence. Overall invertebrate prey abundance increased with ground vegetation cover. Similarly, the abundance and number of beetle and spider families were primarily driven by increased ground vegetation cover, plant species richness or wider inter-rows. We conclude that less intensive management, which involves the restricted use of herbicides and concomitantly favors a diverse plant community, promotes Woodlarks and their invertebrate prey, thus having a positive impact on vineyard biodiversity at multiple trophic levels.