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Lesser Kestrel Foraging Habitats in Special Protection Areas in Agro-ecosystems

Galanaki and Kominos, T and Jones, MJ (2017) Lesser Kestrel Foraging Habitats in Special Protection Areas in Agro-ecosystems. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology A, 7 (7). pp. 479-492. ISSN 2161-6256

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Abstract

The European Union (EU) Wild Birds Directive recognises that the most serious threats to wild birds’ conservation in Europe are habitat loss and degradation, and hence, habitats of threatened and migratory species must be protected with the establishment of the network of the special protection areas (SPAs) for migratory and endangered bird species in the EU member states. The major European population of the lesser kestrel Falco naumanni, a migratory falcon listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, occurs in low-input farming systems in the Mediterranean basin, including Greece. The aim of this study was to identify foraging habitats of lesser kestrels and relate them to the delimited SPAs in the agro-ecosystems of Greece, where the stronghold of the species population for Greece occurs. Foraging habitat preferences were assessed using Poisson regression models (PRMs). SPAs were examined on whether they can effectively protect foraging habitats for breeding lesser kestrels in the study area. Foraging lesser kestrel abundance was positively associated with grasslands and non-irrigated land (dry cereals), and negatively associated with irrigated land (wet cotton), scrubland and woodland. Electricity facilities were used as foraging perches by lesser kestrels. The current SPAs cover a small percentage of the species’ foraging sites and cannot be considered coherent enough to support and protect the foraging habitats of lesser kestrels and other priority species in the agro-ecosystems of the study area. Proposals for effective conservation of low-input farming systems, supporting priority species, are also presented.

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