ARSF project WM06/15 led by Francesca Moreira, Pedro Leitao and Patrick Osborne. Site: Castro Verde, Portugal.
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This research forms part of a multi-scale study on habitat selection by steppe birds in Portugal. Our aim is to assess the environmental features that are important in habitat selection for two cereal steppe bird species - Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) and Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) - at a fine spatial scale (patch level), in the Special Protection Area of Castro Verde (Birds Directive 79/409/CEE), in South Portugal. Bird sampling is focusing on the breeding habitat selection. Bird occurrence and abundance data will be recorded using the point count method on a systematic sampling grid of 300 x 300m with the aim of assigning observations to 10 x 10 m pixels. All locations are being recorded using GPS and DGPS. We propose to use co-registered CASI, ATM and LiDAR data to study local scale habitat use within fallow fields (a key habitat for cereal-steppe birds) and within cereal fields (where patchiness could be a strong predictor of use). Relevant aspects that could influence bird populations are topography, vegetation height, density and percentage cover, presence of shrubs, floristic composition, soil type and moisture. LiDAR will provide topographic and vegetation height data, ATM will collect data on soil, while vegetation type, phenology and vigour will be measured using CASI. After ground-truthing and validation, the remotely sensed data will be used to predict the species��� distributions and to identify key parameters in habitat selection. The results at all spatial scales will be used for conservation planning and management.