Human activities may generate geometrical landscape (i.e. composed of rectilinear and repetitive landscape units) structures that can significantly influence the spatial distribution of birds. While bird distribution in various landscape types has been extensively studied, the role played by landscape configuration and composition in different facets of bird diversity remains unclear. Here, these two main components of landscape characteristics (i.e. configuration and composition) are disentangled and their relative influence on three different facets of bird assemblages: taxonomic and functional characteristics, and the presence of rare species, is tested. We chose four large coastal salinas of Western France as a relevant model of geometrical and human-dominated landscapes where each landscape unit can be easily identified and mapped. The landscape characteristics of these sites were mapped and quantified. Then, terrestrial breeding birds were sampled in 172 point-counts using a standardized protocol. 69 diurnal terrestrial bird species were detected and considered in analyses (waterbirds and owls excluded). Landscape composition was found to have a higher influence on bird communities than landscape configuration, which fits with the “landscape composition hypothesis”. More specifically, the most “extreme” landscapes — those with low terrestrial surface areas, low landscape richness and diversity, low cohesion, and very patchy landscapes with complex geometrical shapes — host the lowest bird taxonomic abundance, richness and diversity and functional richness, but are characterized by the presence of rare species (mainly wetland specialist species, e.g. Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus and species with restricted ranges e.g. Bluethroat Luscinia svecica namnetum). Our results suggest that conservation plans in such geometrical and human-dominated habitats should not only focus on one aspect of landscape characteristics or one aspect of biological diversity but also consider the adverse effects of landscape characteristics on these different facets.
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Vol. 51 • No. 1