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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

The use of socio-economy in species distribution modelling: Features of rural societies improve predictions of barn owl occurrence

Zmihorski, Michal; Kowalski, Marek; Cichocki, Jan; Rubacha, Slawomir; Kotowska, Dorota; Krupi, Dominik; Rosin, Zuzanna M.; Salek, Martin; Part, Tomas


Variation of habitats and resources important for farmland birds seems to be only partly captured by ordinary statistics on land-use and agricultural production. For instance, densities of rodents being prey for owls and raptors or structures of rural architecture providing nesting sites for many species are central for bird diversity but are not reported in any official statistics. Thus, modelling species distributions, population abundance and trends of farmland birds may miss important predictive habitat elements. Here, we involve local socio-economy factors as a source of additional information on rural habitat to test whether it improves predictions of barn owl occurrence in 2768 churches across Poland. Barn owls occurred in 778 churches and seemed to prefer old churches made of brick located in regions with a milder climate, higher share of arable land and pastures, low road density and low levels of light pollution. Including data on local unemployment, the proportion of elder citizens, commune income per citizen, the share of citizens with high education and share of farmers among working population improved the model substantially and some of these variables predicted barn owl occurrence better than several land-use and climate data. Barn owls were more likely to occur in areas with high unemployment, a higher proportion of older citizens in a local population and higher share of farmers among working population. Importantly, the socio-economy variables were correlated with the barn owl occurrence despite all climatic, infrastructure and land-use data were present in the model. We conclude that the socio-economy of local socie-ties may add important but overlooked information that links to spatial variation in farmland biodiversity. (C) 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Agriculture; Conservation; Modelling; Owls; Socioeconomy; Statistical analyses

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2020, Volume: 741, number: 1, article number: 140407
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    SLU Authors

      • Rosin, Zuzanna

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