, Volume 80, Issue 2, pp 203-209
Date: 03 Feb 2010

Can oil palm plantations become bird friendly?

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Abstract

Despite the increasing claims that structural complexity in agroforestry plantations is a key variable for enhancing bird biodiversity, few studies have experimentally manipulated the understory component of structural complexity. Here, we examined the impact of removing understory vegetation from oil palm plantations on the richness and abundance of birds in eastern Guatemala, testing if bird richness and abundance are positively affected by the presence of understory vegetation. Oil palm plantations with understory hold more bird richness and abundance than those lacking it. The experimental removal of this vegetation, equivalent to a reduction in complexity, decreases bird richness but not abudance. Our analysis shows clear effects of vegetation removal on bird richness, such that removal reduces richness and abundance to levels found in areas without understory. Hence, leaving or implementing structural complexity within plantations could satisfy the current need of making commodity production a cleaner industry, fulfilling both, the production of highly demanded commodities and the conservation of biodiversity in productive landscapes. Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is one of the most rapidly expanding crop in tropical regions, representing the major cause of loss of natural forests and of the decline of endangered species in several countries. Enhancing understory vegetation might reduce such negative effects. This is one of the few experimental tests about how a component of the vegetation and structural complexity of plantations affects birds.