The impact of fire and forest conversion into savanna on the bird communities of west Madagascan dry forests
Pons, P.; Wendenburg, C.
Animal Conservation 8(2): 183-193
We studied the influence of vegetation structure and tree phenology on bird communities along a gradient of tropical forest degradation in NW Madagascar. Birds were censused by point counts at Ankarafantsika, one of the largest remnants of the severely reduced dry deciduous forest. The original forest was dominated by foliage insectivores. A few years after wildfire, regrowth was dense, most forest bird species were still present and additional understorey species appeared. As a result, species richness and abundance per point count increased. In contrast, when forest was transformed into savanna, the avian assemblage became poor, dominated by granivores and aerial insectivores, with only seven species shared with the original forest. Foliage volume, grass volume and bare ground cover explained most of the bird community variation by means of canonical correspondence analysis. Birds tended to increase their habitat breadth along the forest-savanna gradient. An index of bird conservation value, including abundance, endemism and the threatened status of the species, was highest in burned forests (1.12), intermediate in unburned forests (1) and lowest in savanna (0.44). The results emphasise the urgent need to protect not only the undisturbed fragments, but also the burned dry forests, because of their high value for biodiversity.