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Aves, 46/4 | 2009 | 149-163

  Study of the Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius) habitat in the Walloon Region (southern Belgium) from the Regional Forest Inventory data
Lehaire, F., Monticelli, D., Paquet, J.-Y., Delahaye, L., Claessens, H. & Rondeux, J.

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Article summary

Middle Spotted Woodpecker is one of the key species for which understanding the relationship with its habitat can have important implications for improving biodiversity-friendly management of hardwood forests. This species is considered as an indicator of a forest ecosystem comprising a high proportion of mature trees and a botanical composition chiefly associated with oaks. For the last two decades, the Middle Spotted Woodpecker distribution range is expanding remarkably in the Walloon Region while, in contrast, other populations are either decreasing in the south-east of Europe or remain stable elsewhere in Europe. The study of this expansion range within the Walloon Region and of the forest habitats used therein is necessary to better assess the ecological requirements of the species. Based on more than 3,000 location data collected in the framework of the Atlas of breeding birds between 2001 and 2007, our study aimed at comparing forest habitats occupied by Middle Spotted Wood peckers between three geographically distinct areas, defined on the basis of the temporal evolution of the species’ distribution in the Walloon Region: the old distribution range, described from 1973-1977 and corresponding to the Ardennes and the Lorraine regions (southern Belgium), the transition range, defined in 1991-1992 and corresponding to the Fagne-Famenne region, and the expansion range, described in 2001-2007 and corresponding to the area colonized further north in the Loess region and Condroz. Overall, 418 woodpecker locations were crossed with 41 forest habitat variables available as part of the Regional Forest Inventory of the Walloon Region (IPRFW). Preliminary results suggest that, in agreement with previously known environmental requirements, forest stands presenting high densities in oak trees have been colonized by the Middle Spotted Woodpecker during its recent range expansion. However, the species is also expanding towards areas with a lower proportion of beech trees compared to the old distribution range, with a marked preference for forest stands presenting a high tree diversity. We conclude that the Middle Spotted Woodpecker may exhibit a certain flexibility regarding its habitats requirements in Walloon forests, which led us to suggest several recommendations aimed at promoting the conservation of the species and of the forest biodiversity in general.

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