Effects of land-use change on avian taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity in a tropical montane rainforest

Laura Rurangwa, Jesús Aguirre-Gutiérrez, Tom Matthews, Protais Niyigaba, Joseph Wayman, Joseph A. Tobias, Robert J. Whittaker

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Abstract

Aim: Although land use change is a leading cause of biodiversity loss worldwide, there is scant information on the extent to which it has affected the structure and composition of bird communities in the Afrotropical region. This study aimed to quantify the effects of habitat transformation on taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity in Afrotropical bird communities.

Location: Nyungwe landscape, a montane rainforest with adjoining farmland in south-west Rwanda.

Methods: Data on bird occurrence, abundance and functional traits were collected in 2017/18 using point counts. We also collected data on habitat and morphological traits for all bird species recorded. We quantified bird diversity using a range of metrics, including the inverse Simpson index, functional dispersion and the standardized effect size of mean nearest taxon distance.

Results: In comparison with primary forest areas, even low levels of land use change altered species composition and reduced species diversity. Although overall functional diversity and phylogenetic diversity were similar across land use types, we found a significant contraction of trophic and locomotory trait structures of bird communities in restored areas and cultivated areas, respectively. Soil moisture, elevation and lower vegetation height were major factors influencing taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic dimensions of bird communities, although their effects varied across these dimensions.

Main conclusions: The sensitivity of forest species to minor habitat disturbance emphasizes the value of conserving primary vegetation. Long-term conservation of bird communities in Afromontane ecosystems requires halting wide-scale destruction of primary forest, promoting vegetation heterogeneity in the ecological restoration of degraded habitats and adopting wildlife-friendly agricultural practices. Our results suggest that monitoring and conservation in these landscapes can be refined using taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity metrics to provide complementary information about the current and likely future impacts of land use change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1732-1746
Number of pages15
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Volume27
Issue number9
Early online date27 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
M.L.R acknowledges funding from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, National Geographic (WW‐086EC‐17, 4472), British Ecological Society (EA17/1169), Christ Church College, the School of Geography and the Environment‐University of Oxford, and fieldwork facilitation from the Wildlife Conservation Society‐Rwanda, and IPRC‐Kitabi. Collection of bird functional traits was supported by Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/I028068/1 and UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund grant ES/P011306/1 (JAT). We thank the Rwanda Development Board for kindly authorizing access to Nyungwe NP. We are grateful to Mutuyeyezu Fidèle, Ngirababyeyi Vénérand, Mureritesi Bosco, Kwizera Jacques and Tuyisingize Tite for assisting with avifauna and vegetation surveys; Salatière Munyengabe and Salom Iyakaremye for assisting with the camping life; and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript.

Funding Information:
M.L.R acknowledges funding from the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, National Geographic (WW-086EC-17, 4472), British Ecological Society (EA17/1169), Christ Church College, the School of Geography and the Environment-University of Oxford, and fieldwork facilitation from the Wildlife Conservation Society-Rwanda, and IPRC-Kitabi. Collection of bird functional traits was supported by Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/I028068/1 and UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund grant ES/P011306/1 (JAT). We thank the Rwanda Development Board for kindly authorizing access to Nyungwe NP. We are grateful to Mutuyeyezu Fid?le, Ngirababyeyi V?n?rand, Mureritesi Bosco, Kwizera Jacques and Tuyisingize Tite for assisting with avifauna and vegetation surveys; Salati?re Munyengabe and Salom Iyakaremye for assisting with the camping life; and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Diversity and Distributions published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Keywords

  • birds
  • functional diversity
  • land use change
  • Nyungwe forest
  • phylogenetic diversity
  • Rwanda
  • taxonomic diversity
  • tropical forest
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

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