Title Effects of extractive use on forest birds in Western Himalayas: Role of local and landscape factors
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsMenon T, Sridhar H, Shahabuddin G
Date Published09/2019

Rural populations in developing countries depend on forests for fuelwood, fodder and other non-timber forest products. Such dependence has significant effects on faunal diversity and composition, primarily due to alteration of vegetation structure. While earlier studies have assessed the consequences of extractive activities for forest fauna, very few simultaneously acknowledge the role of landscape context, which includes agricultural land-uses and managed forests. This study was carried out in oak-dominated forests located in the middle elevations of the Western Himalayas to investigate effects of extractive activities on avifaunal communities, taking into account the role of landscape composition. Birds were sampled at 74 sites, six times each, over two seasons using fixed-radius point counts. We analysed avian species richness, abundance, composition and guild abundances (based on foraging and habitat preference) as a function of vegetation structure and proportion of dense oak forest around each site. Our results suggest that extractive activities in forests can result in reduced species richness, abundance and altered composition of forest avifauna, brought about by changes in vegetation structure. We also find that these effects may be intensified by the loss of dense oak forests in the landscape. Insectivorous birds and forest specialists were most sensitive to extractive activities and landscape composition. Decreasing canopy cover and proportion of oak forest in the landscape had strong negative effects on insectivorous and forest specialist species. Other local factors such as vertical stratification and understory density also had effects on these avian guilds. Our study indicates that in order to conserve bird species in an increasingly human-dominated landscape of the Western Himalayas, it may be necessary to control extractive activities that affect forest structure as well as retain protected forest stands within a continuum of harvested forest and agricultural landscapes.