ecology of grassland bird

Hay meadows decline across Europe because of changes in agricultural practices. Recurrent floods contribute to maintain extensive practices and limit the expansion of alternative land use types. For this reason, floodplains have now become refugia for grassland bird species. However, floodplains are subject to various climatical or socio-economical factors that modify their capacity to host self-sutaining populations of grassland birds. This research program investigated habitat selection of grassland birds and their response in terms of distribution and abundance to these factors on the Loire river basin. It has developed in two sub-projects.

     The first one investigated the ecology and modelled the distributions of the 4 passerines dominating the avian community of these floodplain meadows (Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, Corn bunting Emberiza calandra, Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava). The operational objective was to produce a functional map of grassland habitats using remote sensing and to test the relative effect of climatical, hydrological and ecological (trophic resources) factors on passerine abundance and richness.

     The second sub-project investigated the ecology, the distribution and the population genetics of the Corncrake. This species is strongly declining in France in spite of conservation measures. Yet, little was known about the actual status of French populations relative to populations from the other EU countries and Eastern countries.



Related publications

  • Fourcade Y., Richardson D.S., Secondi J. 2019. No evidence for a loss of genetic diversity despite a strong decline in size of a European population of the corncrake Crex crex. Bird Conservation International. DOI:
  • Fourcade Y., Besnard A.G., Beslot E., Hennique S., Mourgaud G., Berdin G., Secondi J. 2018. Habitat selection in a dynamic seasonal environment: Vegetation composition drives the choice of the breeding habitat for the community of passerines in floodplain grasslands. Biological Conservation 228: 301-309
  • Fourcade Y., Besnard A.G., Secondi J. 2017. Evaluating interspecific niche overlaps in environmental and geographic spaces to assess the value of umbrella species. Journal of Avian Biology. DOI: 10.1111/jav.01153
  • Fourcade Y., Richardson D.S., Keiss O., Budka M., Green R.E., Fokin S., Secondi J. 2016. Corncrake conservation genetics at a European scale: The impact of biogeographical and anthropological processes. Biological Conservation. 198: 210–219.
  • Besnard A.G., Fourcade Y., Secondi J. 2016 Measuring difference in edge avoidance in grassland birds: the Corncrake is less sensitive to hedgerow proximity than passerines. Journal of Ornithology, 157: 515-523.
  • Besnard A.G., Davranche A., Maugenest S., J-B. B., Vian A., Secondi J. 2015 Vegetation maps based on remote sensing are informative predictors of habitat selection of grassland birds across a wetness gradient. Ecological indicators 58, 47-54.
  • Fourcade Y., Keiss O., Richardson D.S., Secondi J. 2014 Continental-scale patterns of pathogen prevalence: a case study on the corncrake. Evolutionary Applications 7, 1043-1055.
  • Fourcade Y., Engler J.O., Roedder D., Secondi J. 2014 Mapping species distributions with MAXENT using a geographically biased sample of presence data: A performance assessment of methods for correcting sampling bias. Plos One 9(5).
  • Besnard A.G., Secondi J. 2014 Hedgerows diminish the value of meadows for grassland birds: Potential conflicts for agri-environment schemes. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment 189, 21-27.
  • Fourcade Y., Engler J.O., Besnard A.G., Roedder D., Secondi J. 2013 Confronting expert-based and modelled distributions for species with uncertain conservation status: A case study from the corncrake (Crex crex). Biological Conservation 167, 161-171.
  • Besnard A.G., La Jeunesse I., Pays O., Secondi J. 2013 Topographic wetness index predicts the occurrence of bird species in floodplains. Diversity and Distributions 19, 955-963.