Do saltpans offer the ideal conditions for waterbirds?

We recommend the paper “Interspecific variations in shorebird responses to management practices on protected Mediterranean saltpans” recently published in the Biological Conservation magazine and signed by several authors of, among others, the Centre d’Ecologie Functionelle et Evolutive of Montpellier (CEFE-CRNS), INRA and LPO.

The study is carried out in two old saltpans, Pesquiers saline and Vieux saline located east of the French Mediterranean Coast. Both are included in the RAMSAR convention and are located within the Port Cros National Park. The paper analyzes three years of censuses (2014-2016) of waterfowl plus physicochemical data taken regularly in both saltpans, considering 9 species of which 8 are regular breeders. The variables measured were water level, salinity and oxygen concentration. The authors use a hierarchical model to relate the counts with the three physicochemical variables sampled. The results show how the dominant hypersalinity conditions in both saltpans are suboptimal conditions for most species, suggesting that the concentrations of waterbirds are determined by the lack of alternatives in the surroundings rather than by the suitability of the site.

The authors recommend that management should be aimed at creating a mosaic of habitat within the salt pans since there is a lot of intraspecific variability in the response to the measured variables. Finally, they conclude that a large number of waterbirds in isolated saltpans can be a misleading perception of their ecological suitability and that, the management of these places must also consider conflicts and complementarity in the habitat uses of the species.

Reference: Jean-Yves Barmagaud, Julien Papaïx, Aurélien Audevard, Matthieu Lascève, Stanislas Wroza and David Geoffroy. 2019. Interspecific variations in shorebird responses to management practices on protected Mediterranean saltpans. Biological Conservation 237: 470-479.

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