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Anthropogenic land‐use change shapes bird diversity along the eastern Himalayan altitudinal gradient

Citation

Penjor, Ugyen; Jamtsho, Rinzin; Sherub, Sherub (2021), Anthropogenic land‐use change shapes bird diversity along the eastern Himalayan altitudinal gradient, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cnp5hqc5v

Abstract

Globally, the conversion of natural forest into agricultural land and human settlement has altered avian diversity and structure often leading to functional and/or phylogenetic homogenisation. While the effects of land-use change on avian functional and phylogenetic diversity is well studied in the tropics, it is poorly understood and scarcely studied in the Himalayas, let alone in the eastern Himalayan bird communities.

This dataset comprises observations of 336 bird species from a replicated point-count transect survey conducted between 2019 and 2020 in Bhutan. We used a multispecies occupancy model to estimate occupancy probability while accounting for detection probability. The detection-corrected z-matrix was used to calculate functional and phylogenetic diversity. 

Our study shows that bird community occupancy along the elevational gradient is negatively associated with human land use (agriculture and settlement). Bird assemblages were functionally and phylogenetically clustered at higher elevations. Agriculture and settlement harboured higher functional and phylogenetic diversity whereas forests had phylogenetically diverse communities within functionally convergent traits.

The higher functional and phylogenetic diversity in agriculture and settlement suggests that bird diversity offers an opportunity for a broad range of ecosystem services. Protection of forests abutting human settlements and agriculture will help preserve higher phylogenetic diversity. We recommend that agricultural practices that safeguard and improve bird-friendly habitats should be promulgated. Educational programmes on the importance of the roles of birds should be implemented and integrating bird conservation with farm production will help conserve bird diversity in human-dominated landscapes. To enhance the conservation value of working landscapes in the Himalayas, avitourism can be explored further. 

Methods

We direct the readers to README.txt for the details. 

Funding

University of Oxford , Award: Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Zoology

Robertson Foundation

World Wildlife Fund, Award: EFN - Russell E. Train Fellowship

Tourism Council of Bhutan

Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford