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Countryside biogeography: Utilization of human-dominated habitats by the avifauna of southern Costa

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    ABSTRACT: Reconciling the aims of feeding an ever more demanding human population and conserving biodiversity is a difficult challenge. Here, we explore potential solutions by assessing whether land sparing (farming for high yield, potentially enabling the protection of non-farmland habitat), land sharing (lower yielding farming with more biodiversity within farmland) or a mixed strategy would result in better bird conservation outcomes for a specified level of agricultural production. We surveyed forest and farmland study areas in southern Uganda, measuring the population density of 256 bird species and agricultural yield: food energy and gross income. Parametric non-linear functions relating density to yield were fitted. Species were identified as "winners" (total population size always at least as great with agriculture present as without it) or "losers" (total population sometimes or always reduced with agriculture present) for a range of targets for total agricultural production. For each target we determined whether each species would be predicted to have a higher total population with land sparing, land sharing or with any intermediate level of sparing at an intermediate yield. We found that most species were expected to have their highest total populations with land sparing, particularly loser species and species with small global range sizes. Hence, more species would benefit from high-yield farming if used as part of a strategy to reduce forest loss than from low-yield farming and land sharing, as has been found in Ghana and India in a previous study. We caution against advocacy for high-yield farming alone as a means to deliver land sparing if it is done without strong protection for natural habitats, other ecosystem services and social welfare. Instead, we suggest that conservationists explore how conservation and agricultural policies can be better integrated to deliver land sparing by, for example, combining land-use planning and agronomic support for small farmers.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(2):e54597. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Windbreaks often form networks of forest habitats that improve connectivity and thus conserve biodiversity, but little is known of such effects in the tropics. We determined bird species richness and community composition in windbreaks composed of remnant native vegetation amongst tea plantations (natural windbreaks), and compared it with the surrounding primary forests. Fifty-one, ten-minute point counts were conducted in each habitat type over three days. Despite the limited sampling period, our bird inventories in both natural windbreaks and primary forests were nearly complete, as indicated by bootstrap true richness estimator. Bird species richness and abundance between primary forests and windbreaks were similar, however a difference in bird community composition was observed. Abundances of important functional groups such as frugivores and insectivores did not vary between habitat types but nectarivores were more abundant in windbreaks, potentially as a result of the use of windbreaks as traveling routes, foraging and nesting sites. This preliminary study suggests that natural windbreaks may be important habitats for the persistence of bird species in a production landscape. However, a better understanding of the required physical and compositional characteristics for windbreaks to sustain bird communities is needed for effective conservation management.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(7):e70379. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The effects of habitat fragmentation and their implications for biodiversity is a central issue in conservation biology which still lacks an overall comprehension. There is not yet a clear consensus on how to quantify fragmentation even though it is quite common to couple the effects of habitat loss with habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Here we address the spatial patterns of species distribution in fragmented landscapes, assuming a neutral community model. To build up the fragmented landscapes, we employ the fractional Brownian motion approach, which in turn permits us to tune the amount of habitat loss and degree of clumping of the landscape independently. The coupling between the neutral community model, here simulated by means of the coalescent method, and fractal neutral landscape models enables us to address how the species-area relationship changes as the spatial patterns of a landscape is varied. The species-area relationship is one of the most fundamental laws in ecology, considered as a central tool in conservation biology, and is used to predict species loss following habitat disturbances. Our simulation results indicate that the level of clumping has a major role in shaping the species-area relationship. For instance, more compact landscapes are more sensitive to the effects of habitat loss and speciation rate. Besides, the level of clumping determines the existence and extension of the power-law regime which is expected to hold at intermediate scales. The distributions of species abundance are strongly influenced by the degree of fragmentation. We also show that the first and second commonest species have approximately self-similar spatial distributions across scales, with the fractal dimensions of the support of the first and second commonest species being very robust to changes in the spatial patterns of the landscape.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(6):e66495. · 3.73 Impact Factor