Hare abundance as an indicator for urbanisation and intensification of agriculture in Western Europe
Significant land-use changes have occurred in Western European rural regions since the 1950s, leading to standardisation of the landscape, and to the decline of the richness in terms of habitat for fauna and flora. This paper reports on a study of the dynamics of a typical landscape for these regions (North-Western part of Switzerland) at five periods of time (the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s) and its relation with the decrease of the population of the brown hare (Lepus europaeus). The socio-economical, ecological, climatic and geomorphologic states of 936 communes were described with 40 variables, obtained mostly from communal statistics, using a Geographical Information System (MapInfo). An Index of the Abundance of Hares (IAH) was calculated on 125 of these communes. Statistical analyses and PEGASE (a multivariate hierarchical divisive analysis method) were performed, using IAH as target variable, to identify the key-variables of the landscape for the hare. On basis of these key-variables, two scenarios for the future were constructed, leading both to negative consequences for the hare. Our procedure for analysing the landscape dynamics in relation to the population of brown hare proves to be original and useful. The result is a base of discussion for building a platform for the monitoring of the landscape and its capacity to be a suitable habitat for an animal. The brown hare was shown to be an appropriate part of a set of indicators to measure the intensification of the agriculture, the extension of urbanisation and the development of the road and rail networks. (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.