Tropical Birds of Southeast Asia

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Ground-feeding birds in Southeast Asia may be going extinct outside protected areas

Tropical forests are the most biodiverse ecosystem globally, however, extensive loss of tropical forests driven primarily by the expansion of agricultural land threatens the survival of forest species. Coupled with other anthropogenic disturbance such as logging, hunting and fires, the threat to biodiversity in these forests is amplified. While the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN has been tracking the different forms of threats to wildlife, the assessments tend to look at each form of threat separately.

These threats, are however, interconnected and the combined impact could be more severe than currently estimated. The researchers focused their study on quantifying the combined threats of deforestation and wildlife exploitation in Sundaland. At current rates, vanishing forests and enormous trapping pressures are likely to drive many of them to extinction in the near future.

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Their evaluation revealed that 89 per cent of the forest-dependent bird species studied had experienced an average habitat loss of 16 per cent due to deforestation, and they also estimated that wildlife exploitation had led to a 37 per cent decline in mean population on average. Among the bird species studied, the researchers also identified 77 'commercially traded' species that are more commonly exploited. They found that the estimated average decline for these exploited species was In addition, the assessment of the combined impact of deforestation and exploitation in the study suggests that a total of 51 species should be listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable -- nearly doubling the number currently listed by IUCN.

Dr David Edwards, from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, said: "Our study highlights the importance of considering the impact of major conservation threats in combination. Without urgent policy intervention to curb deforestation and slow the quantities of birds entering the cage bird trade, many species are likely to be lost. The combined impacts of deforestation, forest fragmentation and commercial exploitation are not unique to Southeast Asia.

Rampant land-use change and wildlife trade drive the decline in parrots from Latin America, Africa and Asia.

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A decline in richness and abundance of birds close to road edges has been observed in many studies and noise may have significant effects on avian communities in general Arevalo and Newhard ; Polak et al. Noise disturbance from this busy five-lane highway could therefore be the primary explanation for the decline in richness and abundance for most avian guilds at the edge Arevalo and Newhard , although this effect was confounded with vegetation changes in our study.

Traffic noise distracts birds, making them more vulnerable to predation, and disrupts the singing for pairing during the breeding season, which may have resulted in edge avoidance by some avian guilds Arevalo and Newhard ; Polak et al. Because our assessment is correlative, we encourage future studies to further evaluate noise at edges in an experimental fashion to confirm this mechanism e. Ware et al. Finally, the lack of an edge effect on raptors may be explained by their wide-ranging behaviour, with movements likely larger than the distance we surveyed from the forest edge.

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We reported few raptors 0. Minimal edge effects on foliage-gleaning insectivores may also be a result of life history traits of members in this guild, of which around half were small, non-forest specialists, including the Common Tailorbird Orthotomus sutorius , Common Iora Aegithina tiphia , and Plain Prinia Prinia inornata Round et al. In the case of granivore-insectivores, terrestrial insectivore-faunivores, and terrestrial insectivore-frugivores, we found no evidence of edge effects on their richness and abundance.

However, each of these guilds had only one species and their sample sizes were small. The responses of avian guilds to edges can vary both between and within regions Watson et al. Thus, while it is difficult to extrapolate the effects of forest edges on avian communities from one relatively small study area and one type of edge to other forests, this is the first detailed study of the edge responses of birds in Southeast Asia, and the only study to investigate a roadside edge.

Differences in vegetation structure and greater traffic noise made the forest edge less suitable for most avian guilds. Laurance et al. Consistent with this observation, our study revealed impacts of a five-lane highway Route , which runs adjacent to an intact forest landscape comprising three protected areas in Thailand, including our study area.

Planners should avoid road development in forests of high conservation value to reduce impacts on biodiversity; such development also effects carbon storage, soil erosion and water catchments.


Where avoidance is unavoidable, it may be possible to mitigate the impacts on forest bird communities by well-designed plantings of a dense buffer of fast-growing trees Van Renterghem et al. Natural barriers can reduce traffic noise as successfully as artificial noise barriers such as concrete walls, and natural noise barriers are likely to have less impact on the avian community in roadside habitats, although more detailed assessments of mitigation measures would likely be beneficial in this region. Trade-offs between development and conservation are unavoidable in many cases Bennett , so we encourage conservation planners to work with government agencies involved with road development and road maintenance projects to proactively minimize adverse impacts on avian communities in protected areas. Andersen DE. Survey techniques.

Raptor research and management techniques. Surrey: Hancock House Publishers; Arevalo E, Newhard K. Traffic noise affects forest bird species in a protected tropical forest. Rev Biol Trop. Factors determining the number and species of birds in road verges in the wheatbelt of Western Australia. Biol Conserv. Arnold TW. J Wildl Manag. Barbaro L, van Halder I. Linking bird, carabid beetle and butterfly life-history traits to habitat fragmentation in mosaic landscapes. Light environment and the impacts of foliage quality on herbivorous insect attack and bird predation. Roads, deforestation, and the mitigating effect of protected areas in the Amazon.

Bennett VJ. Effects of road density and pattern on the conservation of species and biodiversity. Curr Landsc Ecol Rep. Understory birds and dynamic habitat mosaics in Amazonian rainforests.

Tropical forest remnants: ecology, management, and conservation of fragmented communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; GLMMs in action: gene-by-environment interaction in total fruit production of wild populations of Arabidopsis thaliana. Revised version, part 2. Accessed 2 Nov Edge effects on the understory bird community in a logged forest in Uganda.

Conserv Biol. Effects of forest fragmentation on nocturnal Asian birds: a case study from Xishuangbanna, China. Zool Res.

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Mining matrix effects on West African rainforest birds. Department of Highways. Accessed 10 Oct Confounding factors in the detection of species responses to habitat fragmentation. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. Food resources and vegetation structure mediate climatic effects on species richness of birds. Glob Ecol Biogeogr. Species-specific edge effects on nest success and breeding bird density in a forested landscape. Ecol Appl. A field test of distance sampling methods for a tropical forest bird community. Gelman A, Hill J.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Sci Adv. Negative impact of traffic noise on avian reproductive success. J Appl Ecol. Influence of traffic mortality on forest bird abundance. Biodivers Conserv. Johns AD. Effect of selective logging on the ecology organization of a peninsular Malaysian rain forest avifauna. The future for Sundaic lowland forest birds: long-term effect of commercial logging and fragmentation.

Laurance SGW. Responses to understory rain forest birds to road edges in central Amazonia. Effects of road clearings on movement patterns of understory rainforest birds in central Amazonia. Reducing the global environmental impacts of rapid infrastructure expansion. Curr Biol. Effects of habitat disturbance on mixed species bird flocks in a tropical sub-montane rainforest. Levey DJ. Tropical wet forest treefall gaps and distributions of understory birds and plants. Characteristics of bird species using forest and agricultural land covers in southern Costa Rica. Edge responses of tropical and temperate birds.

Wilson J Ornithol. Global decline in large old trees.

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