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Impact of agricultural abandonment of landscape structure, vegetation and farmland birds in SE Europe [AGRALE]

Runtime: 2010 - 2012
Funding: SEE-ERA.NET Plus


Rural depopulation and agricultural abandonment are particularly widespread in the mountainous regions of eastern and southern Europe, affecting directly landscape structure, and having often a negative impact on biological diversity. Our research handles this major conservation issue, attempting to investigate the impact of agricultural abandonment on landscape structure, vegetation, and bird diversity (with emphasis on farmland species), across four Balkan countries (regional scale). We will select 80 sites across four countries, in order to well-represent a gradient of land abandonment, based on the time and type of last agricultural land use. We will analyze the landscape structure of the selected sites, extracting informative landscape indices using GIS and Fragstats software. We will also sample vegetation and birds using standard field protocols (quadrats, point counts) and we will introduce our spatial and biotic data in a common database. We plan to compare the diversity patterns and the community structure of the two biological groups studied, across the land abandonment gradient, as reflected from the selected sites. We also plan to investigate the impact of land abandonment on landscape structure and how the latter is associated with the diversity patterns of the biological groups in question, linking the ecological with the species level of biological diversity (regression modeling and correlation analysis). Our research will result in at least two scientific publications and five announcements in conferences, whilst we will communicate our findings to policy makers and to the general public


  • University of Ioannina, Department of Environmental & Natural Resources Management (GR)
  • University of Zagreb, Division of Biology (HR)
  • Agricultural University of Tirana, Department of Natural Sciences (AL)
  • Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Central Laboratory of General Ecology / Department of Biodiversity (BG)


Thomas Wrbka (thomas.wrbka@univie.ac.at)

Division Head
Univ. Prof. Mag. Dr. Stefan Dullinger

Sonja Hartl

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