Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 20, Issue 14, pp 3645–3662 | Cite as

Abandoned military training sites are an overlooked refuge for at-risk open habitat bird species

  • Jiří Reif
  • Pavel Marhoul
  • Oldřich Čížek
  • Martin Konvička
Original Paper


The European landscape is under pervasive attack of massive land use changes, such as agricultural intensification, urbanization and land abandonment. These changes resulted in population decline of birds living in open habitats. Despite a good understanding on the effects of these driving forces on bird populations, effective conservation actions are difficult to conduct as these forces are closely connected with socioeconomic development of particular countries and thus almost impossible to reverse. It is hence necessary to conserve refuge sites with a limited influence of these negative factors. We surveyed birds in 42 abandoned military training sites (AMTS) in a central European country, the Czech Republic, and we have found these sites are valuable, and to date overlooked, refuges for bird conservation. Birds of high conservation concern and open habitats birds (such as Miliaria calandra, Saxicola torquata or Lullula arborea) were more abundant in AMTS than predicted by their total population size in the Czech Republic. The most important characteristics predicting attractiveness of AMTS for birds of conservation concern were low altitude, low proportion of forest/dense scrubland, high proportion of sparse scrubland/bare ground and large area. Former military activity was beneficial for declining open habitat birds by maintaining moderate disturbance levels, which are rarely found elsewhere in current landscapes. Owing to reduction of armed forces across Europe AMTS provide continental-wide network of high-quality sites for bird conservation. Nevertheless, AMTS are subject to pressure from building activities or loss of openness due to overgrowth of forest or scrub plant communities.


Abundance Bird Disturbance Legal protection Military activity Protected area 



The authors wish to thank following colleagues for their help with bird census: Jaroslav Chloupek, Květoslav Fryšták, Kamil Hromádko, Jaroslav Koleček, Vojtěch Kodet, Vojtěch Kubelka, Dušan Rossi, Libor Schröpfer, Vlasta Škorpíková, David Storch, Roman Vacík, Ondřej Volf and Jakub Vrána. David Storch kindly commented on the design of the study. Michaela Koschová assisted with data management. Jan Zárybnický analysed CORINE landcover data kindly supplied by the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic. Two anonymous referees provided very helpful comments in improving an earlier draft of the manuscript. The study was supported by the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic (SP/2D3/153/08) and the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports of the Czech Republic (LC06073, VZ 6007665801).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiří Reif
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pavel Marhoul
    • 1
  • Oldřich Čížek
    • 3
    • 4
  • Martin Konvička
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Daphne-Institute of Applied EcologyPraha 3Czech Republic
  2. 2.Faculty of ScienceInstitute for Environmental Studies, Charles University in PraguePrahaCzech Republic
  3. 3.HuturHradec KrálovéCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  5. 5.Department of Ecology and ConservationInstitute of Entomology, Biology Centre, Czech Academy of SciencesČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic

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