The Indian Wire » Environment » Drastic decline in Bird species from Forests undertaking land-use changes, reveals a study in Western Himalayas

Drastic decline in Bird species from Forests undertaking land-use changes, reveals a study in Western Himalayas

In the long run, it seems Man has become responsible for predictable as well as unpredictable consequences of his actions when dealing with Nature.

It was already late when Man ascertained and acknowledged his actions to have harmed his surroundings because we were busy fighting wars, destroying other Nations, enforcing trade and what not.

Inherently, now we stand on the brink of our own destruction along with other beings of this planet. Several species are looking for ways to sustain and survive, others are attempting to adapt while a few have already lost the war with their kinds lost forever.

Our beloved Western Himalayas from India, have a similar story to squeak as many birds in the area are not chirping anymore.

Uttarakhand: A falling home for Birds

A home to several rare bird species with its lush Himalayan Temperate forests of Oaks, Deodars and Silver Pine, has been recorded for its moderate to drastic decline in Bird species across all major landscapes found in the hills in a new study.

Six land-use types studied for the purpose includes natural oak forest, degraded oak forest (lightly used), lopped oak forest (intensively used), pine forest, agricultural cultivation area and sites with buildings.

A bigger loss includes the pollinator birds and insectivores in degraded forests, monoculture areas and urbanized sites.

Habitat guilds (bird species with same preference of habitat) of these dense protected oak forests, those have adapted to modified habitats such as orchards and degraded forests, have seen a greater decline.

A low diversity of species residing in monoculture areas and urban sites has been found as well. Results of the study were published in Global Ecology and Conservation.

An approximate area of about 1,285 square kilometres between the altitudes of 1,700 and 2,400 metres was also covered.

According to first author of the paper: “We also noticed strong decline in some of the habitat guilds in the areas that experienced land-use change. Habitat guilds are groups of bird species that have common habitat preferences.”

“For instance, forest specialists include species which forage and breed only in dense protected oak forests at this altitude, while forest generalists can adapt to modified habitats such as orchards and degraded forests.”

Woodpeckers and its newly found niche in Ecosystem:

The same group of researchers published another paper studied the woodpeckers in the region to understand and derive their role as indicators of bird diversity and increased habitat degradation.

 “The cavities that woodpeckers make on trees are used by a number of other birds to nest in. This may be the primary reason how woodpeckers enhance the diversity in a region. Woodpeckers are known to abandon their cavities and even be chased away from their own cavity by other birds,” explains the author of the second paper.

Therefore, the higher the number of woodpeckers in an area, the higher will be the richness of all other birds.

The Oak Forest specialist species like Rufous-bellied woodpecker, greater yellow nape, rufous sibia, white-throated laughing thrush and black-faced warbler, were found to “drop out” first of the forests undertaken land-use changes.

The two species in specific i.e., rufous-bellied woodpecker and greater yellownape have done great job as indicators of entire forest quality. The reason lies in the fact that they reside in dense canopied forests with larger and taller trees on which they prefer to forage.

“With tourism and other anthropogenic activities increasing in the region, we are witnessing rapid invasion by non-native species. One would not expect to see pigeons and Black Kites in these altitudes, but with increasing concrete urban ghettos, these birds have become a common sight now.”

These results have an important implication on conservation attempts in biodiverse mountain landscapes with significant human imprint.

Why the grave decline in Birds when they can fly from dangers?

Researchers have indicated and blamed the land-use changes leading the depletion of water-table and drying of perennial springs in these hills.

“The loss of forests and intensification of land-use has led to a significant decrease in the abundance of important birds known to provide critical ecosystem functions and services such as pollination and pest control.” 

There is also a notable invasion by non-native species in the area.  With increasing concrete urban ghettos, birds such as pigeons and black kites have come to the region contesting and ruling these difficult spaces of harsh winter and pleasant summer.

It is time for the forest department to take note of this threat in making, restore the uninterrupted natural resources and habitat for these native species so that ecosystem can be at balance.

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