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Avian Ecological Functions and Ecosystem Services in the Tropics

Avian Ecological Functions and Ecosystem Services in the Tropics

(p.321) Chapter Eleven Avian Ecological Functions and Ecosystem Services in the Tropics
Why Birds Matter
Çağan H. ŞekercioğluEvan R. Buechley
University of Chicago Press

Although most bird species avoid agricultural areas, nearly a third of all birds regularly to occasionally use such habitats, often providing important ecosystem services like pest control, pollination, and seed dispersal. Combining literature review with large-scale analyses of the ecological characteristics of the world’s birds, I compared tropical bird species that prefer forests, agricultural areas or both, with respect to body mass, diet, range and population size, frequency, conservation status, habitat and resource specialization. Compared to primary forests, species richness of large frugivorous and insectivorous birds (especially terrestrial and understorey species) often decline in agroforests. In contrast, nectarivores, small-to medium insectivores (especially migrants and canopy species), omnivores, and sometimes granivores and small frugivores do better, frequently by tracking seasonal resources. However, changes in guild species numbers do not necessarily translate to changes in relative abundance, biomass or function, and more studies are needed to quantify these important measures. These findings indicate that the replacement of forests and agroforests with simplified agricultural systems can result in shifts towards less specialized bird communities with altered proportions of functional groups. These shifts can reduce avian ecosystem function and affect the ecosystem services provided by birds in agroforests and other agricultural landscapes.

Keywords:   agricultural areas, agroforests, ecosystem services, frugivores, granivores, insectivores, nectarivores, omnivores, primary forests, species richness

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