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Birds, charcoal and cattle: Bird community responses to human activities in an oak forest landscape shaped by charcoal extraction

Maya-Elizarrarás, Elisa, Schondube, Jorge E.
Forest ecology and management 2015 v.335 pp. 118-128
Quercus, cattle, charcoal, forests, fuelwood, grazing, habitat conservation, habitats, humans, landscapes, migratory birds, shrubs, species diversity, summer, trees, tropics, Mexico
Oak forests around the world have been widely used to obtain firewood and produce charcoal and like other habitats have been affected by the increasing development of livestock activities. Oak forests from western Mexico are one of the five priority habitats for the conservation of birds at a continental level and are the repository of the highest number of endemic bird species in this megadiverse country. We studied how charcoal extraction and the use of oak forest for cattle grazing affect bird communities. We focused our work on oak forest patches with four different management units that include three successional stages that occur after most of the trees have been removed for charcoal production and cattle-grazing is conducted, and mature oak forest patches with little wood extraction and no cattle-grazing. We used unlimited radius point counts to survey avian communities, and compared their richness, composition, density, structure and similarity among the different management units. We found that resident bird species, summer migrants and Neotropical migrant bird species used the four management units differently. Resident bird species used all habitat units similarly. Winter migrants as a group were present in the different management units, however while some species used habitats with cattle, other species used habitats with no cattle-grazing. Finally, summer migrants used habitat units with tall trees and high values of tree and shrub richness, and tended to avoid the early successional unit. Both charcoal extraction and cattle grazing worked in synergy decreasing the species richness and the equity of the bird communities. Management strategies should include active conservation of undisturbed oak forest areas because they play an essential role to maintain resident bird species in the landscape.