Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 10, Issue 12, pp 2109–2127 | Cite as

The effects of agriculture and the availability of edge habitat on populations of Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris and on the diversity and composition of associated bird assemblages in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa

  • C.S. Ratcliffe
  • T.M. Crowe


We investigated the effects of agriculture and the availability of edge habitat on populations of Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris and associated avian diversity and species composition in woodland and grassland biomes in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Study sites within woodland biome had greater species diversity than those in grassland, whereas adjacent, high-quality, protected habitat in grassland sites, enhanced diversity within this biome. Both guineafowl populations and overall avian diversity declined with increasingly intensive agriculture and disappearance of edge habitat and associated, optimally fragmented habitat mosaic. Furthermore, traditional agriculture in the form of contouring in a pesticide-free environment, resulted in extensive edge habitat that appeared to provide additional food and cover for birds. This, in turn, caused an increase in overall bird diversity, and in guineafowl populations in particular. The widespread decline in Helmeted Guineafowl populations in the Midlands that started in the 1980s, and possibly the decline in species associated with this variegated landscape, was therefore caused by the loss of the habitat mosaic to intensive, modern, monoculture, crop agriculture. Maintaining species diversity and healthy guineafowl populations within these habitats requires the persistence or re-creation of a habitat mosaic and the resulting edge habitat on a landscape scale.

diversity edge habitat fragmentation guineafowl modern agriculture 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • C.S. Ratcliffe
    • 1
  • T.M. Crowe
    • 1
  1. 1.Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African OrnithologyUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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