The response of a New Guinean avifauna to conversion of forest to small-scale agriculture
In comparison with other tropical forest land uses such as selective logging, little is known of the impacts on wildlife of the many forms of small-scale agriculture practised across the tropics. We present density estimates, derived using a point count distance sampling method, for 31 bird species in primary forest, old abandoned gardens and active/recently abandoned gardens at two altitudes in the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area (CMWMA), Papua New Guinea. There were clear habitat differences between the six habitat/altitude categories, with, for example, clines in tree sizes and canopy cover from highest values in primary forest to lowest values in current gardens. At lower altitudes, primary forest held highest densities of most species, whereas at higher altitudes, old abandoned gardens had greater densities of many birds, especially insectivores.canocowas used to ordinate bird species with respect to major habitat gradient axes. Major axes were associated with differences in bird responses to forest conversion as well as altitudinal differences in species composition. Most important was that several insectivores (especially monarchs, fantails, etc.) formed a cluster of species associated with intact, high-biomass forest. We suggest that most species reacted moderately to habitat changes currently occurring, and this may be due in part to the fact that only a small proportion of the landscape at CMWMA has been converted to agriculture (around 13% may be current or recently abandoned gardens). There were, however, species with comparatively low densities in agricultural habitats and these included several insectivores, the terrestrial Blue Jewel-babbler Ptilorrhoa caerulescens, and three out of four birds of paradise.
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