Subsistence use of papyrus is compatible with wetland bird conservation
© 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Conservationists have historically advocated measures that limit human disturbance. Nevertheless, natural disturbances are important components of many ecosystems and their associated species are often adapted to such regimes. In consequence, conservation managers frequently simulate natural disturbance, particularly in temperate forest systems. This practice is less widespread and seldom studied in tropical regions, where biodiversity conservation and human activities are often thought to conflict. However, many tropical systems have been subject to natural and anthropogenic disturbance over evolutionary timescales, and disturbance may therefore benefit the species they host. Determining whether this is true is especially important in tropical wetlands, where human activities are essential for sustaining local livelihoods. Here we investigate the impacts of disturbance from human resource use on habitat–specialist bird species endemic to papyrus swamps in East and Central Africa. Bird densities were estimated using point counts and related to levels of human activity using physical characteristics of wetland vegetation as a proxy for disturbance. All species were tolerant to some degree of disturbance, with particular species occurring at highest density in intensely disturbed habitat. Species were generally more tolerant to disturbance in larger swamps. Our results suggest that low-intensity use of papyrus wetlands by people is compatible with the conservation of specialist bird species, and highlight the potential benefits of traditional human activities to conserve biodiversity in the tropics.
This work was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) CASE studentship (grant number NE/L501669/1) with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), with additional support from The Explorers Club, British Ornithologists' Union, Royal Geographic Society, John Muir Trust and Gilchrist Educational Trust.
This is the final version of the article. Available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 201, pp. 414 - 422