Dramatic decline of the bearded reedling in Spanish Mediterranean wetlands

The apparent stability of the bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus) in Spanish inland wetlands contrasts with its threatened status in Spanish coastal wetlands. The species has already disappeared from some coastal areas in Catalonia and its situation is critical in the region of Valencia. In 2013 we studied the breeding populations in three wetlands in Valencia using two methods: census by exhaustive search of individuals (territory mapping) and distance sampling using line transects. We estimated the trend of these populations from data obtained in previous censuses (2005 and 2006), and assessed their viability in the medium and short term using count–based population viability analysis (PVA). Results were alarming in the three studied wetlands, especially in the Albufera de Valencia, where only one breeding pair was found. The percentage of decrease of estimated pairs was similar in all wetlands: ca. 90% between 2005 and 2013. Results from the PVAs predicted a 90% probability of reaching the quasi–extinction threshold before 2024 or 2028 for the largest population of bearded reedling in the Valencia region, El Hondo, while for the Santa Pola population this threshold would be reached before 2016 or 2017. The parallel trend and generalized decline in the Spanish coastal wetlands suggests that these Mediterranean wetlands probably share some specific factors that have adversely affected their populations. Given that all these natural spaces are surrounded by intensively irrigated crops that are subjected to the intense use of pesticides, we hypothesize that these products could have had a detrimental effect on the bearded reedling. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the healthiest populations are situated in Iberian inland wetlands that are surrounded by dry crops where the use of pesticides is less intense.
Belenguer Barrionuevo, R., López–Iborra, G. M., Dies, J. I. & Castany i Alvaro, J., 2016. Dramatic decline of the bearded reedling, Panurus biarmicus, in Spanish Mediterranean wetlands. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation, 39.1: 17–27.