Seasonal variation and crop diversity shape the composition of bird communities in agricultural landscapes in Nepal

Hem Bahadur Katuwal, Jeevan Rai, Kyle Tomlinson, Bhagawat Rimal, Hari Prasad Sharma, Hem Sagar Baral, Alice C. Hughes, Rui Chang Quan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Farmland birds are declining globally due to anthropogenic activities, with particularly few studies in Asian agricultural landscapes. Various studies have examined the impacts of landscape heterogeneity on farmland bird composition, but few have considered seasonal changes in bird diversity and examined functional feeding guild assemblages. Here, we disentangle the impact of seasonal variation (summer, monsoon, and winter), cropping practice (mixed crop, monocultural-crop, and fallow land), crop type (rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, and other crops), landscape heterogeneity, and the number of houses and trees on the richness and abundance of farmland birds and their feeding guilds conducted within human-dominated agricultural landscapes of lowland Nepal. We established 116 transects (farmland = 100, forest = 8, and river = 8), and each transect was visited nine times from April 2018 to December 2019, with forests and river transect to test the dissimilarities in bird composition between those habitats and farmlands. We recorded 201 bird species in farmland, 133 in the forest, and 131 in river habitats. Bird composition on farmlands showed more dissimilarity with forest than river transects. We recorded nine globally, and 26 nationally threatened birds in farmlands. Seasonal variation and cropping practice significantly influenced the richness of all farmland birds and resident birds only, whereas species abundances vary by season only. We recorded higher species richness in the winter season and mixed crop fields but greater abundance in the monsoon and monoculture crop fields. Farmland bird richness increased with increasing tree numbers but decreased with increasing house numbers. Sugarcane fields had the highest bird richness within crop species, whereas rice fields had the greatest abundance. Seasons and cropping practice also shaped the assemblages of feeding guilds differently. In the context of increasing crop intensification globally, our study suggests that the governments in this region should encourage farmers to cultivate mixed crops and simultaneously restrict the urbanization of farmlands to protect bird diversity. Seasonality should be factored into analyses aimed at understanding bird diversity in agricultural landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107973
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Volume333
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Aug 2022

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