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Forest bird diversity and ski-runs: a case of negative edge effect

Year of publication2005
Author(s)Antonio Rolando
Co-authorsPaola Laiolo
Number of pages8
Purchase[email protected]
JournalAnimal Conservation
Magazine No.7
Publication typeJournal article
Among tourist activities in the Alps, winter sports have a prominent role because of the large scale of changes they cause at the habitat and landscape level.We have analysed whether ski resorts lead to significant threats to the avian diversity in the coniferous forests of the western Italian Alps, by comparing the bird communities of plots located in (1) the forest interior, (2) forest at the edge of ski-runs and (3) forest at the edge of pastures (the latter two are anthropogenic elements of forest fragmentation). Ski-runs produce a negative edge effect in the study forests: plots at their edges present lower bird species richness and Shannon diversity than those located in the forest interior or at the edges of pastures. In particular, birds typical of ecotone habitats seem to favour forest plots set at the edge of pastures. Ski-run-edges are linear landscape features that create high contrast edges; conversely, vegetation structure is more complex at the edge of pastures, attracting a rich and diverse avifauna. In the study area, pastures tend to be abandoned whereas winter sport resorts are increasing in extent. Accordingly, there is a need for coordinated management and cooperation between sport- and landmanagement agencies, in order to preserve native biodiversity while simultaneously managing land for sport activities.