University of Jyväskylä

Protected areas inadequate to maintain bird diversity

The primary aim of protected areas such as forest reserves is to maintain biological diversity. However, protected areas are not independent but are rather shaped in constant interaction with their surroundings. Intensifying forest management is potentially decreasing the biodiversity of protected areas.

Biological diversity is often measured as the number of species in a given area. However, the number is not necessarily adequate to describe the state of a species community: all species, both specialists and generalists, are considered equal when counting their number even though the purpose of the protected area is to preserve specialised species. Species also affect the functioning of their communities, that is, the use of resources in the environment and consequently the productivity of the ecosystem. Therefore, biodiversity studies should also include other metrics that measure, for example, functional diversity and specialisation.

Surrounding areas have an impact

The research group led by Professor Mikko Mönkkönen studied the ability of forest reserves in Northern Finland to maintain specialised and functionally diverse bird communities. The researchers observed that the numbers of old-forest specialists were smaller in reserves with high logging activity in their surroundings. High logging activity was also associated with the decline of functionally similar species, which may affect the functioning of ecosystems. In contrast, the most important factor affecting species richness was the quality of the forest reserves.

The results show that the Finnish forest reserves are not able to maintain biologically diverse bird communities if logging is heavy around them. This also suggests that intensifying forest management resulting from the bioeconomy trend may have negative impacts on bird diversity within protected areas.

The study was published in PLOS ONE on 26 September 2017.

Further information: MSc Matti Häkkilä, +358 405 176 856

The original article: Häkkilä M, Le Tortorec E, Brotons L, Rajasärkkä A, Tornberg R, Mönkkönen M (2017) Degradation in landscape matrix has diverse impacts on diversity in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12(9): e0184792.

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