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.