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The response of birds and mixed-species bird flocks to human-modified landscapes in Sri Lanka and southern India

Goodale, Eben, Kotagama, Sarath W., Raman, T.R. Shankar, Sidhu, Swati, Goodale, Uromi, Parker, Samuel, Chen, Jin
Forest ecology and management 2014 v.329 pp. 384-392
agroforestry, birds, conservation buffers, flocks, habitats, landscapes, plantations, secondary forests, India, Sri Lanka
While there is no substitute for undisturbed forest, secondary forests and agroforests are increasingly common in tropical areas and may be critical to conservation plans. We compared the diversity and abundance of birds and the characteristics of mixed-species bird flocks in forests inside protected reserves to “buffer” areas, consisting of degraded forests and non-native timber plantations at reserve boundaries, and to agricultural areas. We monitored a network of 57 transects placed over an altitudinal gradient (90–2180masl) in Sri Lanka and southern India, collecting 398 complete flock observations and 35,686 observations of birds inside and outside of flocks over twoyears. Flocks were rarely found in agricultural areas. However, the density of flocks in buffer areas was similar to that in forests, although buffer flocks were smaller in average flock size and differed significantly in composition, as measured by the proportion of species that were classified, from the literature, as forest interior or open-landscape species. While flock composition was distinct between agricultural, buffer and forest areas, the differences in the composition of flocks was not as great as the differences between the overall communities in these different habitats. Considering buffer transects alone, pine plantations retained fewer forest interior species in flocks than did forests, and small areas of agriculture and abandoned agriculture attracted open-landscape species. Though clearly not equivalent to protected forests, degraded forests and agroforests in buffer areas still hold some conservation value, with forest species found particularly in mixed-species flocks in these human-modified habitats.