Waterbird assemblages and associated habitat characteristics of farm ponds in the Western Cape, South Africa

Authors: Froneman, A.; Mangnall, M.J.; Little, R.M.; Crowe, T.M.

Source: Biodiversity and Conservation, Volume 10, Number 2, February 2001 , pp. 251-270(20)

Publisher: Springer

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Natural freshwater wetlands are among the most threatened habitats on Earth. Effective wetland biodiversity conservation can not, however, be evaluated without fully understanding the roles of artificial waterbodies as refuges for water-dependent plants and animals. Waterbird assemblages were examined on 59 farm ponds in the Elgin and Caledon districts of the Western Cape, South Africa. This study examines the relationship between waterbird use and habitat characteristics of farm ponds. Patterns of temporal and spatial variation of waterbird species richness and abundance were quantified in relation to the habitat characteristics of each pond. Cluster analysis and multiple regression analyses identified surface area of the farm ponds as an important variable determining the presence and abundance of many waterbird species. Structural diversity in terms of vegetation in and around the ponds was especially important in determining their usage by waterbirds. These variables were evaluated in terms of creating a mosaic of habitat types (by varying vegetation structure and pond topography), which may be a useful way to enhance waterbird diversity at farm ponds. This study concludes that the high number of farm ponds in the transformed habitat matrix of the Western Cape plays an important role in conserving waterbirds.

Keywords: South Africa; Western Cape; farm ponds; habitat characteristics; waterbirds

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7700, South Africa

Publication date: February 1, 2001

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