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The role of native forest plantations in the conservation of Neotropical birds: the case of the Andean alder
- Castaño-Villa, Gabriel J., Estevez, Jaime V., Fontúrbel, Francisco E.
- Journal for nature conservation 2014 v.22 no.6 pp. 547-551
- Alnus acuminata, anthropogenic activities, birds, ecosystems, forest plantations, forest stands, forest types, habitat fragmentation, habitats, indigenous species, secondary forests, species diversity, threatened species, trees, tropics, Andes region
- The gradual increase in reforested areas worldwide, as a strategy for mitigating native forest loss, has stressed the need of assessing their real value as habitat for native species. Forest plantations, particularly those based on native species, could be valuable for conservation purposes, especially in heavily fragmented and disturbed ecosystems. We evaluated the value of a monoculture of a native tree species, the Andean alder (Alnus acuminata), for the conservation of avifauna in the Central Andes region, which is considered a bird species diversity hotspot but also suffers from high anthropogenic disturbance levels. Our results suggest that alder plantations are valuable for conservation from three points of view: (1) they have similar or greater bird species richness and abundance than secondary native forests; (2) low community similarities are found between this type of forest compared to secondary forest stands (with 27 species exclusive to alder plantations); and (3) three near threatened species (Odontophorus hyperythrus, Eriocnemis derbyi, and Cyanolyca viridicyanus). Further, 27 out of the 85 species found at the alder plantations were of least concern but showing decreasing population trends. While forest plantations do not replace native forests, they offer habitat for many bird species, some of them being of conservation concern (i.e., included in an IUCN threat category) or with decreasing populations. Hence establishing native species plantations among native forest remnants – especially in heavily fragmented landscapes – could have a positive effect in the conservation of threatened avifauna.