Characteristics of Bird Community Response to Land Use Change in Tropical Peatland in Riau, Indonesia

In Vulnerability and Transformation of Indonesian Peatlands
Chapter: 3
Book Chapter
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Tropical peatlands have increasingly been targeted for logging or conversion to plantations in recent years. Tropical peatlands are unique ecosystems rich in biodiversity, but they have not attracted as much researcher attention as tropical forests, for example. There is still limited understanding of the ecological significance of peatland disturbance, or of the ecological resilience of peatland ecosystems. This study focuses on birds as indicator species in peatland ecologies. It compares bird communities in peatlands and non-peat lowlands in terms of: (1) species richness; (2) feeding guilds; and (3) responses to disturbance. Our research team analyzed bird communities in peatlands under several different land uses in Riau in comparison to those living in non-peat lowlands in Sumatra Island. We found that species richness in natural forests was lower in peatlands than in non-peat lowlands. The Jackknife estimator of species richness was 77.2 in natural forests on peatland, whereas on non-peat lowland, it was 114.8 and 241. Compared to non-peat lowland forests, the number of terrestrial insectivore and woodpeckers was lower in peatlands. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) analysis showed that the bird community composition in peatland forests is unique compared to non-peat lowland forests, as they showed completely different lines of avifauna. Nevertheless, avifauna in disturbed sites on peatland were close to avifauna in disturbed non-peat lowland sites, which indicates that the disturbance of peatland would lead to homogenization of avifauna and loss of uniqueness, which in turn, leads to loss of biodiversity. Bird community composition in peatlands was very sensitive to land use change. Shifts in the community composition along the disturbance, as measured by Euclidean distances in the NMDS plot between each disturbed habitat and natural forest, were greater in peatland than in non-peat lowland. Although our knowledge and data of peatland ecologies are limited, it seems likely that certain peatland avifauna can only survive in natural peat swamp forest.