Value of a broken umbrella: abandoned nest sites of the black stork (Ciconia nigra) host rich biodiversity

Lõhmus A., Runnel K., Palo A., Leis M., Nellis R., Rannap R., Remm L., Rosenvald R. & Lõhmus P.
Biodiversity and Conservation
30: 3647–3664
Protecting habitats for charismatic vertebrates can provide an ‘umbrella’ for less conspicuous organisms, especially when these are threatened by the same processes. However, such a conservation scheme is vulnerable to the extirpation of the focal species. We studied wider biodiversity values in long protected black stork (Ciconia nigra) nest sites, which were abandoned by the bird and thus legally subject to de-listing. In 20 abandoned nest sites in Estonia, we (i) mapped breeding birds within 600 m from the stork nest, and (ii) carried out time-limited surveys of lichens, polypore fungi, vascular plants and bryophytes in 2-ha plots. The breeding bird assemblages (64 species recorded) included 19 red-listed species, and showed no clear aggregation to the immediate surroundings of the stork nest. We recorded 740 plant and fungal species, of which 134 (18%) were of conservation concern (nationally protected, red-listed or extremely rare). Across the 2-ha plots, the numbers of the species of conservation concern varied more than three-fold (maximum 42 species), being afected notably by dead wood accumulation over time and presence of nemoral broad-leaved trees. The results demonstrate that many abandoned nest sites of the black stork have broader biodiversity signifcance, both due to the bird’s habitat requirements and the natural development during the protection. Expanding the umbrella function to sites abandoned by a focal species, but intact from anthropogenic degradation, can thus be a cost-efective conservation approach due to its low additional administrative burden. In most jurisdictions, the assessment procedure for such situations should be formalized, however. Keywords: Biodiversity · Conservation dilemma · Cost-efectiveness · Forest protection · Passive restoration · Umbrella species.
Monday, 29 January 2024 14:09