Ecological engineering with high diversity vegetation patches enhances bird activity and ecosystem services in Philippine rice fields

Abstract

This study examines the potential for ecological engineering to enhance the beneficial ecosystem services provided by birds in tropical rice fields. Bird activities were monitored at six sites in the Philippines with high-diversity vegetation patches (HDVPs) established as an ecological engineering approach to restore ecosystem services. Adjacent plots of conventional rice were monitored as controls. Predatory birds (shrikes, Lanius spp., grassbirds, Megalurus palustris, and kingfishers, Halcyon spp.) were more active in the ecological engineering fields where they foraged for arthropods and snails among the rice plants. Pied trillers, Lalage nigra, and yellow vented bulbuls, Pycnonotus goiavier, foraged more in the HDVPs than in rice. These birds mainly responded to the availability of bamboo for perching in the HDVPs, although patch vegetation beneath the bamboo was also used for perching by some species. Aerial hunters such as swallows, Hirundo spp., avoided HDVPs likely because the tall vegetation and bamboo stakes represented an obstacle for their flight. Small changes in the design of HDVPs could avoid any negative effects on foraging by swallows and swifts. The results indicate that ecological engineering of rice paddies can have multiple benefits for farmers and the environment, including improved nutrition for farming communities, the creation of habitat for wildlife, and the enhancement of regulatory ecosystem services provided by insectivorous and snail-eating birds.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Josephine Alugbog, James Lopez, and the Alugbog family for collaborating during rice production at their farm in Colonia, Mindanao; Alberto Naredo, Reyuel Quintana, Vincent Vertudes, Arriza Arida, Quynh Vu, and Enoka Kudavidanage for advice and assistance throughout this study; Richard Smedley, Clare Jones, and Alexander Stuart for assistance in bird identification; and Chris Elphick and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on the manuscript. This project was funded by the Philippine Department of Agriculture—Bureau of Agricultural Research (Project: Developing ecological engineering approaches to restore and conserve ecosystem services for pest management for sustainable rice production in the Philippines), the German Ministry of Science and Education [Project: Land-use intensity and Ecological Engineering—Assessment Tools for risks and Opportunities in irrigated rice-based production systems (LEGATO)] and the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP).

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Correspondence to Finbarr G. Horgan.

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Figure S1

Average number of living plants (A) and number of mature fruits (B) in high-diversity vegetation patches at six sites during the 2014 wet season. The average height of plants at the sites are also indicated (C) with the dry weight (biomass) of rice shoots and panicles. Standard errors are indicated (N = 6 sites). Gray shading indicates time of bird observations at the sites (TIFF 16403 kb)

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Horgan, F.G., Ramal, A.F., Villegas, J.M. et al. Ecological engineering with high diversity vegetation patches enhances bird activity and ecosystem services in Philippine rice fields. Reg Environ Change 17, 1355–1367 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-0984-5

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Keywords

  • Conservation corridors
  • Ecological engineering
  • Diversified agriculture
  • Perches
  • Predation
  • Vegetables