CIE Spotlight: Species’ traits affect the occurrence of birds in a native timber plantation landscape

Greg H.
Greg H.

Authors: Pryde, E. C.; Nimmo, D. G.; Holland, G. J.; Watson, S. J.

Source: ANIMAL CONSERVATION, 19 (6):526-538, DEC 2016

Brief summary of the paper: Many of the world’s terrestrial environments are dominated by production land-uses, making the incorporation of production landscapes into conservation strategies critical for halting global biodiversity declines. Two challenges for developing such strategies are: (1) determining species’ capacity to survive in production land-uses; and (2) understanding why some species can survive, while others cannot.

The interaction between biological traits of organisms and their response to disturbances may assist in resolving these challenges. We compared species and trait composition of 41 lowland rainforest birds among unlogged and forestry production land-uses on New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea.

At least 92% of forest species occurred in mature, native Eucalyptus plantation and regrown logged forest. However, composition changes demonstrated successive loss of some species (medium- and large-bodied frugivores, forest specialists) with increasing intensity of disturbance, indicating that forestry management practices can affect the functional composition of forest birds.

In contrast to many continental studies where endemism confers susceptibility to disturbance, we found endemic island species widely distributed across all land-uses, reflecting their capacity for colonizing new environments. Ecological traits can help to explain species’ responses to landscape management, however, the type and intensity of disturbance and biogeography of the region affect the traits–disturbance interaction.

Our study indicates that native plantations may be able to assist with biodiversity conservation while providing production values, but only if they are judiciously managed in concert with unlogged and regrown logged forest reserves.