Progetto comune di ricerca

Studio mutlidisciplinare della specie Burhinus oecdinemus (Aves: Charadriiformes: Burhinidae),in Marocco per la valutazione dei cambiamenti climatici nell'hotspot di biodiversita del mediterraneo

Responsabili di progetto
Mariella Baratti, Mohamed Aourir
MAROCCO - CNRST - Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique et Technique
CNR/CNRST biennio 2018-2019 2018-2019
Scienze del sistema terra e tecnologie per l'ambiente
Area tematica
Scienze del sistema Terra e tecnologie per l'ambiente
Stato del progetto

Proposta di ricerca

The Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot is a priority area for conservation worldwide in terms of both animal and plant species richness. Observational records and climatic models showed that the areas have a clear tendency to become warmer and drier at a rate that is increasing in recent times. This could have significant effects on bird distribution, which can be particularly important for species with fragmented populations. The stone curlew (Burhinus oecdinemus L.) is an interesting model species to investigate the impacts of the ongoing climate change on the biodiversity of the Mediterranean hotspot. The stone curlew is a steppe bird breeding under quite different climatic condition (continental, Mediterranean and semi-arid); its Palaearctic distribution is quite fragmented and several populations are localized on Mediterranean islands (Cramp & Simmons 1983). It is classified as "LC" in the IUCN Red List but it is included in the list of European birds of conservation concern (BirdLife International 2017). Its population decline, which began in the second half of the 19th century, was particularly evident between 1970 and 1990 throughout its Palearctic range, since suitable breeding habitats were lost due to agricultural intensification (Delany et al. 2009). For this reason in some regions the species is classified as "vulnerable" (Italy) or "endangered" (Canary Archipelago). In the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot, which includes the Macaronesian islands, the species is politypic, with four subspecies: B. o. oedicnemus, partial migrant distributed in southwestern Europe. B. o. saharae, probably resident or partial migrant, occurring in North Africa and in the eastern Mediterranean; B. o. insularum and B. o. distinctus, resident in the Canary Archipelago. Recently, some of us (Mori et al. 2014, 2017) studied the level of genetic differentiation among the populations inhabiting Canary Islands, Southern Europe and Tunisia. These studies emphasized in particular the genetic distinctiveness of Canary Island populations and a complex pattern of gene flow between populations belonging to the Mediterranean basin.
In this project, we will use a multidisciplinary approach to collect information regarding stone curlew populations breeding in Morocco. In the area, data on the breeding ecology of the species are also rather scarce (Hanane 2010), but its investigation should provide useful information on the adaptive limits of the species. The range of environmental conditions used by Moroccan stone curlew to breed, will be studied considering both climatic conditions and anthropic pressure. This analysis, together to molecular investigations, will be helpful to better understand and predict the effects of global changes on the demography and distribution of the species, The genetic structure of Moroccan populations is totally unknown. Morocco represents a particularly suitable area within the Maghrebian region, because it is far enough from the boundary of the nominate subspecies, and, according to the literature, clearly belonging to the saharae subspecies (Vaughan & Vaughan-Jennings, 2005). Being quite near to Canary Islands, the geographic position of Morocco is also strategic to test the degree of distinctiveness of Macaronesian subspecies (Mori et al. 2017).
The multidisciplinary approach adopted in this project is crucial for achieving its objectives and it will be possible for the complementary expertise of the two partners. Indeed, the two partners will combine genetic and behavioural studies (Italy) and morphological/ecological analyses (Morocco). Besides, the molecular zoology lab of the Italian principal investigator, together with the experience in behavioural investigations on the species of the colleagues from the University of Pisa (Caccamo et al. 2012, Dragonetti et al. 2013, 2015, Giunchi et al. 2015), will support the competences of the Moroccan team regarding the ecology and behaviour of local stone curlew populations. The interdisciplinary approach that it will generate by exploiting the scientific skills and technical capacities of the associated teams, will allow students in the two partner countries to benefit from the scientific and methodological exchanges, which will take place during this cooperation.
The data implementation obtained with this project could have significant implication for conservation, as the stone-curlew mainly inhabits (pseudo) steppe and agricultural lands, which represent some of the most degraded and exploited terrestrial habitats at least in Europe.

Caccamo C, Pollonara E, Baldaccini NE, Giunchi D (2011). Ibis 153:707-720.
Dragonetti M, Caccamo C, Corsi F, Farsi F, Giovacchini P, Pollonara E, Giunchi D (2013). The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125:34-49.
Dragonetti M, Rodríguez-Godoy F, Giunchi D (2015). In: 10th Conference of the European Ornithologists' Union. University of Extremadura, Badajoz, p. 365.
Giunchi D, Caccamo C, Mori A, Fox JW, Rodríguez-Godoy F, Baldaccini NE, Pollonara E (2015).Journal of Ornithology 156:991-998
Hanane S (2010). Wader Study Group Bulletin 117:163-166.
Mori A, Baldaccini NE, Baratti, M, Caccamo, C, Dessì-Fulgheri, F, Grasso, R, Nouira, S, Ouni, R, Pollonara, E, Rodriguez-Godoy, F, Spena, M T, Giunchi, D (2014). Ibis, 156: 687-692.
Mori A, Giunchi D, Rodríguez-Godoy F, Grasso R, Baldaccini NE, Baratti M (2017). Conservation Genetics, 18:197-209

Obiettivi della ricerca

-Investigating breeding habitat selection and its effect on the population dynamics of the species in order to evaluate the impact of environmental changes on the demography and distribution of the species in the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot. To this aim we will measure a series of habitat metrics (e.g. vegetation cover, soil characteristics) on nest sites and control sites in two areas, sited in two climatically contrasting regions. The two reproductive populations will be sampled during the 2018 and 2019 breeding seasons in the semi-arid steppe of the Souss plain and Bas- Drâa with an arid to semi-desert climate. These data will be integrated with data collected with the same method in other Mediterranean areas -Understanding the differentiation level and connectivity among Stone-curlew's populations in the Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot, by adding data on the two populations from Morocco, a crucial area in the distribution range of the species. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA data will be integrated with morphological and bioacoustical investigations and compared with those already obtained by us for several Mediterranean and Canary populations Developing an effective collaboration between between Italian and Moroccan institutions, with an effective transfer of information and technical skills, possibly by means of specific training for students involved in the project.

Ultimo aggiornamento: 10/12/2023