Abstract

The degradation of natural wetlands has significant effects on the ecosystem services they provide and the biodiversity they sustain. Under certain conditions, these negative effects can be mitigated by the presence of artificial wetlands. However, the conservation value of artificial wetlands needs to be explored further. In addition, it is unclear how certain anthropogenic variables, such as road networks and hunting reserves (i.e., areas where hunting of birds is prohibited) affect biodiversity in both artificial and natural wetlands. Here, we use data from thirteen artificial and six natural wetlands in Cyprus, to assess their similarities in bird species diversity and composition, and to quantify the relationship between species diversity and the density of road networks, hunting reserves, wetland size, and wetland depth. We found that while on average natural wetlands have more species and support higher abundances, certain artificial wetlands have the potential to support similarly diverse communities. Overall, regardless of the type, larger wetlands, with shallower waters tend to be more biodiverse. The same is true for wetlands surrounded by a higher percentage of hunting reserves and a lower density of road networks, albeit the effect of road networks was weaker. We conclude, from our results, that although the conservation value of natural wetlands is higher, artificial wetlands have the potential to play a complimentary role in the conservation of bird communities, assuming those wetlands have the right characteristics (e.g., in terms of size and depth) and assuming that the disturbances resulting from high-impact human-activities (e.g., hunting) are minimized.

Giosa E, Mammides C, Zotos S (2018) The importance of artificial wetlands for birds: A case study from Cyprus. PLoS ONE 13(5): e0197286. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197286