In recent decades, the establishment of plantations to produce biomass for energy, known as short rotation coppice (SRC), has been increasing in many countries in Europe. As with other tree plantations, these stands could enhance the structural diversity of intensively managed farmlands and consequently lead to an increase in animal diversity. In this study, we examined the effects of hybrid poplar SRCs on breeding bird richness, diversity and abundance in Northern Italy. We recorded bird species and estimated their abundances using point counts. We then analysed the relationships between landscape composition and bird abundances, as well as community composition, using canonical correspondence analysis. The results showed that birds abundances in SRCs were generally lower than in woodland and arable land (SRC: 1.30 birds/km2, woodland: 2.57, arable land: 1.89), and the same was true for species richness (SRC: 7.06 species/km2, woodland: 12.90, arable land: 9.13) and species diversity (Shannon Indices in SRC: 0.951, woodland: 1.606, arable land: 1.241). Half of the species found in SRC are considered farmland birds, a group whose species richness was significantly higher than that of forest and generalist species. Our research suggests that a system with rotational harvesting of mixed age and structure stands enhances habitat heterogeneity and consequently could support bird communities. In particular, SRCs and reforestations seem to play an important role for some birds by providing them with complementary or supplementary habitat for foraging and nesting.
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Vol. 107 • No. 1