Effects of forests, roads and mistletoe on bird diversity in monoculture rubber plantations.
ABSTRACT: Rising global demand for natural rubber is expanding monoculture rubber (Hevea brasilensis) at the expense of natural forests in the Old World tropics. Conversion of forests into rubber plantations has a devastating impact on biodiversity and we have yet to identify management strategies that can mitigate this. We determined the life-history traits that best predict bird species occurrence in rubber plantations in SW China and investigated the effects of surrounding forest cover and distance to roads on bird diversity. Mistletoes provide nectar and fruit resources in rubber so we examined mistletoe densities and the relationship with forest cover and rubber tree diameter. In rubber plantations, we recorded less than half of all bird species extant in the surrounding area. Birds with wider habitat breadths and low conservation value had a higher probability of occurrence. Species richness and diversity increased logarithmically with surrounding forest cover, but roads had little effect. Mistletoe density increased exponentially with rubber tree diameters, but was unrelated to forest cover. To maximize bird diversity in rubber-dominated landscapes it is therefore necessary to preserve as much forest as possible, construct roads through plantations and not forest, and retain some large rubber trees with mistletoes during crop rotations.
Project description:Birds both promote and prosper from forest restoration. The ecosystem functions birds perform can increase the pace of forest regeneration and, correspondingly, increase the available habitat for birds and other forest-dependent species. The aim of this study was to learn how tropical forest restoration treatments interact with landscape tree cover to affect the structure and composition of a diverse bird assemblage. We sampled bird communities over two years in 13 restoration sites and two old-growth forests in southern Costa Rica. Restoration sites were established on degraded farmlands in a variety of landscape contexts, and each included a 0.25-ha plantation, island treatment (trees planted in patches), and unplanted control. We analyzed four attributes of bird communities including frugivore abundance, nectarivore abundance, migrant insectivore richness, and compositional similarity of bird communities in restoration plots to bird communities in old-growth forests. All four bird community variables were greater in plantations and/or islands than in control treatments. Frugivore and nectarivore abundance decreased with increasing tree cover in the landscape surrounding restoration plots, whereas compositional similarity to old-growth forests was greatest in plantations embedded in landscapes with high tree cover. Migrant insectivore richness was unaffected by landscape tree cover. Our results agree with previous studies showing that increasing levels of investment in active restoration are positively related to bird richness and abundance, but differences in the effects of landscape tree cover on foraging guilds and community composition suggest that trade-offs between biodiversity conservation and bird-mediated ecosystem functioning may be important for prioritizing restoration sites.
Project description:Forest-to-rubber plantation conversion is an important land-use change in the tropical region, for which the impacts on soil carbon stocks have hardly been studied. In montane mainland southeast Asia, monoculture rubber plantations cover 1.5 million ha and the conversion from secondary forests to rubber plantations is predicted to cause a fourfold expansion by 2050. Our study, conducted in southern Yunnan province, China, aimed to quantify the changes in soil carbon stocks following the conversion from secondary forests to rubber plantations. We sampled 11 rubber plantations ranging in age from 5 to 46 years and seven secondary forest plots using a space-for-time substitution approach. We found that forest-to-rubber plantation conversion resulted in losses of soil carbon stocks by an average of 37.4±4.7 (SE) Mg C ha(-1) in the entire 1.2-m depth over a time period of 46 years, which was equal to 19.3±2.7% of the initial soil carbon stocks in the secondary forests. This decline in soil carbon stocks was much larger than differences between published aboveground carbon stocks of rubber plantations and secondary forests, which range from a loss of 18 Mg C ha(-1) to an increase of 8 Mg C ha(-1). In the topsoil, carbon stocks declined exponentially with years since deforestation and reached a steady state at around 20 years. Although the IPCC tier 1 method assumes that soil carbon changes from forest-to-rubber plantation conversions are zero, our findings show that they need to be included to avoid errors in estimating overall ecosystem carbon fluxes.
Project description:Tropical forests in the Americas are undergoing rapid conversion to commercial agriculture, and many migratory bird species that use these forests have experienced corresponding populations declines. Conservation research for migratory birds in the tropics has focused overwhelmingly on shade coffee plantations and adjacent forest, but both cover types are now in decline, creating an urgent need to evaluate conservation opportunities in other agricultural systems. Here we compare how a community of 42 Neotropical migratory bird species and a subset of five conservation-priority species differ in usage and habitat associations among a secondary forest baseline and four expanding commercial plantation systems in Guatemala: African oil palm, teak, rubber, and mixed-native hardwoods. We found that mixed-native hardwood plantations supported the highest richness and diversity of all migrants and that the three hardwood plantation types generally outperformed oil palm in richness and diversity metrics. Despite this, oil palm supported high abundance of several common and widespread species also experiencing range-wide population declines and may therefore play an important role in conserving common species. Mature secondary forest hosted low abundance and diversity of the full migratory community, but high abundance and richness of conservation priority migrants along with native hardwood and teak plantations. Likewise, the percentage of forest cover on the landscape was positively associated with priority migrant abundance and richness but negatively associated with the abundance of migrants in general, highlighting how individual species within the broad group of Neotropical migratory landbirds respond differently to anthropogenic changes in land use. Across all cover types, the retention of tall overstory trees increased the abundance, richness, and diversity of all migrants, which indicates that vertical structural diversity and remnant trees are important habitat features for birds in agricultural landscapes. Our findings show that conservation opportunities exist in hardwood and oil palm plantations, though the species likely to benefit from conservation action will vary among plantation types. For the subset of conservation priority migrants, our results suggest that conservation efforts should combine strategies that retain and restore secondary forest, promote the adoption of native hardwood and teak plantations, and promote the retention of tall, remnant trees in agricultural landscapes.
Project description:The native forests of Borneo have been impacted by selective logging, fire, and conversion to plantations at unprecedented scales since industrial-scale extractive industries began in the early 1970s. There is no island-wide documentation of forest clearance or logging since the 1970s. This creates an information gap for conservation planning, especially with regard to selectively logged forests that maintain high conservation potential. Analysing LANDSAT images, we estimate that 75.7% (558,060 km2) of Borneo's area (737,188 km2) was forested around 1973. Based upon a forest cover map for 2010 derived using ALOS-PALSAR and visually reviewing LANDSAT images, we estimate that the 1973 forest area had declined by 168,493 km2 (30.2%) in 2010. The highest losses were recorded in Sabah and Kalimantan with 39.5% and 30.7% of their total forest area in 1973 becoming non-forest in 2010, and the lowest in Brunei and Sarawak (8.4%, and 23.1%). We estimate that the combined area planted in industrial oil palm and timber plantations in 2010 was 75,480 km2, representing 10% of Borneo. We mapped 271,819 km of primary logging roads that were created between 1973 and 2010. The greatest density of logging roads was found in Sarawak, at 0.89 km km-2, and the lowest density in Brunei, at 0.18 km km-2. Analyzing MODIS-based tree cover maps, we estimate that logging operated within 700 m of primary logging roads. Using this distance, we estimate that 266,257 km2 of 1973 forest cover has been logged. With 389,566 km2 (52.8%) of the island remaining forested, of which 209,649 km2 remains intact. There is still hope for biodiversity conservation in Borneo. Protecting logged forests from fire and conversion to plantations is an urgent priority for reducing rates of deforestation in Borneo.
Project description:Tropical agriculture is a major driver of biodiversity loss, yet it can provide conservation opportunities, especially where protected areas are inadequate. To investigate the long-term biodiversity capacity of agricultural countryside, we quantified bird population trends in Costa Rica by mist netting 57,255 birds of 265 species between 1999 and 2010 in sun coffee plantations, riparian corridors, secondary forests, forest fragments, and primary forest reserves. More bird populations (69) were declining than were stable (39) or increasing (4). Declines were common in resident, insectivorous, and more specialized species. There was no relationship between the species richness of a habitat and its conservation value. High-value forest bird communities were characterized by their distinct species composition and habitat and dietary functional signatures. While 49% of bird species preferred forest to coffee, 39% preferred coffee to forest and 12% used both habitats, indicating that coffee plantations have some conservation value. Coffee plantations, although lacking most of the forest specialists, hosted 185 bird species, had the highest capture rates, and supported increasing numbers of some forest species. Coffee plantations with higher tree cover (7% vs. 13%) had more species with increasing capture rates, twice as many forest specialists, and half as many nonforest species. Costa Rican countryside habitats, especially those with greater tree cover, host many bird species and are critical for connecting bird populations in forest remnants. Diversified agricultural landscapes can enhance the biodiversity capacity of tropical countryside, but, for the long-term persistence of all forest bird species, large (>1,000 ha) protected areas are essential.
Project description:BACKGROUND:One major consequence of economic development in South-East Asia has been a rapid expansion of rubber plantations, in which outbreaks of dengue and malaria have occurred. Here we explored the difference in risk of exposure to potential dengue, Japanese encephalitis (JE), and malaria vectors between rubber workers and those engaged in traditional forest activities in northern Laos PDR. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS:Adult mosquitoes were collected for nine months in secondary forests, mature and immature rubber plantations, and villages. Human behavior data were collected using rapid participatory rural appraisals and surveys. Exposure risk was assessed by combining vector and human behavior and calculating the basic reproduction number (R0) in different typologies. Compared to those that stayed in the village, the risk of dengue vector exposure was higher for those that visited the secondary forests during the day (odds ratio (OR) 36.0), for those living and working in rubber plantations (OR 16.2) and for those that tapped rubber (OR 3.2). Exposure to JE vectors was also higher in the forest (OR 1.4) and, similar when working (OR 1.0) and living in the plantations (OR 0.8). Exposure to malaria vectors was greater in the forest (OR 1.3), similar when working in the plantations (OR 0.9) and lower when living in the plantations (OR 0.6). R0 for dengue was >2.8 for all habitats surveyed, except villages where R0?0.06. The main malaria vector in all habitats was Anopheles maculatus s.l. in the rainy season and An. minimus s.l. in the dry season. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE:The highest risk of exposure to vector mosquitoes occurred when people visit natural forests. However, since rubber workers spend long periods in the rubber plantations, their risk of exposure is increased greatly compared to those who temporarily enter natural forests or remain in the village. This study highlights the necessity of broadening mosquito control to include rubber plantations.
Project description:Rapid land-use change in the tropics causes dramatic losses in biodiversity and associated functions. In Sumatra, Indonesia, lowland rainforest has mainly been transformed by smallholders into oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) and rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) monocultures, interspersed with jungle rubber (rubber agroforests) and a few forest remnants. In two regions of the Jambi province, we conducted point counts in 32 plots of four different land-use types (lowland rainforest, jungle rubber, rubber plantation and oil palm plantation) as well as in 16 nearby homegardens, representing a small-scale, traditional agricultural system. We analysed total bird abundance and bird abundance in feeding guilds, as well as species richness per point count visit, per plot, and per land-use system, to unveil the conservation importance and functional responses of birds in the different land-use types. In total, we identified 71 species from 24 families. Across the different land-use types, abundance did not significantly differ, but both species richness per visit and per plot were reduced in plantations. Feeding guild abundances between land-use types were variable, but homegardens were dominated by omnivores and granivores, and frugivorous birds were absent from monoculture rubber and oil palm. Jungle rubber played an important role in harbouring forest bird species and frugivores. Homegardens turned out to be of minor importance for conserving birds due to their low sizes, although collectively, they are used by many bird species. Changes in functional composition with land-use conversion may affect important ecosystem functions such as biological pest control, pollination, and seed dispersal. In conclusion, maintaining forest cover, including degraded forest and jungle rubber, is of utmost importance to the conservation of functional and taxonomic bird diversity.
Project description:The increased demand for palm oil has led to an expansion of oil palm concessions in the tropics, and the clearing of abundant forest as a result. However, concessions are typically incompletely planted to varying degrees, leaving much land unused. The remaining forests within such concessions are at high risk of deforestation, as there are normally no legal hurdles to their clearance, therefore making them excellent targets for conservation. We investigated the location of oil palm plantations and the other major crop - rubber plantations in southern Myanmar, and compared them to concession boundaries. Our results show that rubber plantations cover much larger areas than oil palm in the region, indicating that rubber is the region's preferred crop. Furthermore, only 15% of the total concession area is currently planted with oil palm (49,000?ha), while 25,000?ha is planted outside concession boundaries. While this may in part be due to uncertain and/or changing boundaries, this leaves most of the concession area available for other land uses, including forest conservation and communities' livelihood needs. Reconsidering the remaining concession areas can also significantly reduce future emission risks from the region.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Ecological adaptation to host taxa is thought to result in mistletoe speciation via race formation. However, historical and ecological factors could also contribute to explain genetic structuring particularly when mistletoe host races are distributed allopatrically. Using sequence data from nuclear (ITS) and chloroplast (trnL-F) DNA, we investigate the genetic differentiation of 31 Psittacanthus schiedeanus (Loranthaceae) populations across the Mesoamerican species range. We conducted phylogenetic, population and spatial genetic analyses on 274 individuals of P. schiedeanus to gain insight of the evolutionary history of these populations. Species distribution modeling, isolation with migration and Bayesian inference methods were used to infer the evolutionary transition of mistletoe invasion, in which evolutionary scenarios were compared through posterior probabilities. RESULTS:Our analyses revealed shallow levels of population structure with three genetic groups present across the sample area. Nine haplotypes were identified after sequencing the trnL-F intergenic spacer. These haplotypes showed phylogeographic structure, with three groups with restricted gene flow corresponding to the distribution of individuals/populations separated by habitat (cloud forest localities from San Luis Potosí to northwestern Oaxaca and Chiapas, localities with xeric vegetation in central Oaxaca, and localities with tropical deciduous forests in Chiapas), with post-glacial population expansions and potentially corresponding to post-glacial invasion types. Similarly, 44 ITS ribotypes suggest phylogeographic structure, despite the fact that most frequent ribotypes are widespread indicating effective nuclear gene flow via pollen. Gene flow estimates, a significant genetic signal of demographic expansion, and range shifts under past climatic conditions predicted by species distribution modeling suggest post-glacial invasion of P. schiedeanus mistletoes to cloud forests. However, Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) analyses strongly supported a scenario of simultaneous divergence among the three groups isolated recently. CONCLUSIONS:Our results provide support for the predominant role of isolation and environmental factors in driving genetic differentiation of Mesoamerican parrot-flower mistletoes. The ABC results are consistent with a scenario of post-glacial mistletoe invasion, independent of host identity, and that habitat types recently isolated P. schiedeanus populations, accumulating slight phenotypic differences among genetic groups due to recent migration across habitats. Under this scenario, climatic fluctuations throughout the Pleistocene would have altered the distribution of suitable habitat for mistletoes throughout Mesoamerica leading to variation in population continuity and isolation. Our findings add to an understanding of the role of recent isolation and colonization in shaping cloud forest communities in the region.
Project description:While the area of plantation forest increased globally between 2010 and 2015, more than twice the area of natural forests was lost over the same period (6.5 million ha natural forest lost per year versus 3.2 million ha plantation gained per year). Consequently, there is an increasing need to understand how plantation land use affects biodiversity. The relative conservation value of plantation forests is context dependent, being influenced by previous land use, management regimes and landscape composition. What is less well understood, and of importance to conservation management, is the consistency of diversity patterns across regions, and the degree to which useful generalisations can be provided within and among bioregions. Here, we analyse forest birds in Ireland, France and Portugal, representing distinct regions across the Atlantic biogeographic area of Europe. We compared taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity of bird communities among conifer plantations and semi-natural oak forests, and assessed correlations between species traits and forest type across these regions. Although bird composition (assessed with NMDS ordination) differed consistently between plantation and oak forests across all three regions, species richness and Shannon diversity did not show a consistent pattern. In Ireland and France, metrics of taxonomic diversity (richness and Shannon diversity), functional diversity, functional dispersion and phylogenetic diversity were greater in oak forests than plantations. However, in Portugal taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity did not differ significantly between forest types, while functional diversity and dispersion were statistically significantly greater in plantations. No single bird trait-forest type association correlated in a consistent direction across the three study regions. Trait associations for the French bird communities appeared intermediate between those in Ireland and Portugal, and when trait correlations were significant in both Ireland and Portugal, the direction of the correlation was always opposite. The variation in response of bird communities to conifer plantations indicates that care is needed when generalising patterns of community diversity and assembly mechanisms across regions.