THE first bird census carried out in Sierra de las Nieves, in Malaga, has confirmed the presence of 82 species.
Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this park, in the heart of the Serrania de Ronda mountains, together with nearby Sierra de Grazalema and Los Alcornocales Natural Park, forms part of one of the major birding hotspots in Spain.
The Sierra de las Nieves National Park is also home to a biological and environmental diversity that includes the world’s largest area of Spanish fir (Abies pinsapo), a relict, endemic fir species.
The diversity of habitat is responsible for the high diversity of species, not just with birds, but also all fauna and flora, however, until now, an official bird census in the area had not taken place.
For the bird census to be carried out, biologists from the University of Malaga (UMA) Ignacio Barrionuevo and Laura Barroso installed 156 listening points during the spring of this year, at an altitude of between 1,000 and 1,700 metres, in order to collect data.
The study took into account the visual and sound records of the species present in the area and, subsequently, a statistical analysis that allows the biologist to estimate the relative abundance of each bird species detected.
“The study presents the first quantitative data on birds in this natural area and sets a first precedent for the future monitoring programme required by its protected status”, said Laura Barroso.
According to Barroso, monitoring is even more necessary in the case of mountain environments like Sierra de las Nieves, as they are very sensitive to global change.
In fact, in the preliminary analysis of the data collected in the southernmost mountain refuge in Europe, the biologists have deduced that there is a progressive absence of species due to the rise in temperatures.
The most abundant bird species detected was the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), with 324 specimens, followed by the redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus).
“Sadly, we have only been able to detect five skylarks (Alauda arvensis), perhaps the species most likely to be affected by warming in the higher areas and the loss of grassland,” Barroso said.
The scientists’ data were presented at Conserbio, a nature conservation congress, held in Malaga.