The extensive destruction of arable lands by the process of lateral bank erosion is a major issue for the alluvial meandering type of rivers all around the world. Nowadays, land managers, stakeholders, and scientists are discussing how this process affects the surrounding landscapes. Usually, due to a land mismanagement of agroforestry activities or urbanization plans, river regulations are designed to reduce anthropogenic impacts such as bank erosion, but many of these regulations resulted in a degradation of habitat diversity. Regardless, there is a lack of information about the possible positive effects of meandering from the ecological point of view. Therefore, the main aim of this study was to investigate a 2.12 km long meandering sub-reach of Sajó River, Hungary, in order to evaluate whether the process of meander development can be evaluated as a land degradation processes or whether it can enhance ecological conservation and sustainability. To achieve this goal, an archive of aerial imagery and UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle)-surveys was used to provide a consistent database for a landscape metrics-based analysis to reveal changes in landscape ecological dynamics. Moreover, an ornithological survey was also carried out to assess the composition and diversity of the avifauna. The forest cover was developed in a remarkable pattern, finding a linear relationship between its rate and channel sinuosity. An increase in forest areas did not enhance the rate of landscape diversity since only its distribution became more compact. Eroding riverbanks provided important nesting sites for colonies of protected and regionally declining migratory bird species such as the sand martin. We revealed that almost 70 years were enough to gain a new habitat system along the river as the linear channel formed to a meandering and more natural state.
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