Conservation value of forest plantations for bird communities in western Kenya
Farwig, N.; Sajita, N.; Boehning-Gaese, K.
Forest Ecology and Management 255(11): 3885-3892
Tree plantations of native and exotic species are frequently used to compensate for forest loss in the tropics. However, these plantations may support lower species diversity and different communities than natural forest. We therefore investigated bird communities in stands of natural forest, different types of tree plantations and secondary forest in Kakamega Forest, western Kenya. We compared birds differing in habitat specialisation, i.e. forest specialists, generalists, and visitors. We recorded significant differences in mean species richness and number of individuals among the different forest types. Stands of natural forest and plantations of indigenous tree species comprised more species and individuals than plantations of exotic tree species and secondary forest. This was caused by a significant decline of forest specialists and generalists from natural forest and indigenous plantations to exotic plantations and secondary forest. Species composition of the bird communities did not differ between natural forest stands and plantations of a mixture of indigenous tree species, but clearly changed between natural forest and plantations of single tree species. These findings demonstrate that natural forest areas are needed for the conservation of forest bird diversity, but that plantations with a mixture of indigenous tree species can have similarly high conservation value.