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The impact of natural resource use on bird and reptile communities within multiple-use protected areas: evidence from sub-arid Southern Madagascar

Gardner, Charlie J., Jasper, Louise D., Eonintsoa, Christian, Duchene, Julio-Josepha, Davies, Zoe G.
Biodiversity and conservation 2016 v.25 no.9 pp. 1773-1793
birds, charcoal, conservation areas, forests, habitat destruction, indigenous species, livelihood, models, reptiles, shifting cultivation, species diversity, Madagascar
Multiple-use protected areas, in which sustainable levels of extractive livelihood activities are permitted, play an increasingly important role in the global protected area estate, and are expected to rise in prevalence. However, we know little about their effectiveness at conserving biodiversity. We surveyed bird and reptile communities in three areas across a forest disturbance gradient resulting from charcoal production and shifting cultivation within a multiple-use protected area in Madagascar’s sub-arid spiny forest. We scored individual species using a Conservation Value Index (CVI; a simple metric based on rarity, threat and distinctiveness), and estimated the total conservation value of each treatment by calculating the sum of frequency-weighted CVI scores across all present species. Bird and reptile community responses to forest disturbance were idiosyncratic. Bird richness was greatest in the moderate-disturbance treatment, but the low-disturbance treatment had the superior conservation value due to higher frequencies of locally-endemic species. Reptile richness was the same in low- and moderate-disturbance treatments, but the conservation value of the latter was greater. The high-disturbance areas had lowest richness and conservation value for both groups. For birds, increasing disturbance levels were accompanied by community turnover from high-value to low-value species, a pattern highlighted by CVI that is masked by assessing species richness alone. Although some endemic species appear to be resilient to degradation, multiple-use protected areas in Madagascar may lose biodiversity since most endemic species are forest-dependent. Stricter protected area models may be more appropriate in areas where much of the high-value biodiversity is sensitive to habitat degradation.