The effects of road networks and habitat heterogeneity on the species richness of birds in Natura 2000 sites in Cyprus
Mammides C., Kadis C., Coulson T.
The large European supra-national network of protected areas, known as Natura 2000, is considered to be the cornerstone of the European Union’s efforts to conserve its biodiversity. The effective management of these areas requires a good understanding of how human-induced ecosystem change, evident in these sites, affects habitats and species of interest. In this study, we examine the factors that influence the presence of birds in thirty-eight Natura 2000 sites in Cyprus. Using structural equation modeling (SEM), we test the direct and indirect effects of human population density, road networks and hunting on the overall species richness of birds and the species richness of four additional bird categories: (1) forest and shrubland species, (2) farmland species, (3) wetland species and (4) species listed in the Annex I of the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC). Other potentially important factors such as size of the area, habitat diversity, percentage of the area covered by migratory corridors and mean altitude, are also incorporated into the analyses. Our results show that road networks have negative effects on four of the five bird categories tested while area and habitat diversity positively influence all categories. These findings have significant conservation implications for the management of the Natura 2000 sites in the EU.