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Ecol Appl. 2006 Oct;16(5):1986-99.

Patterns of animal diversity in different forms of tree cover in agricultural landscapes.

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Department of Agriculture and Agroforestry, Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza, Turrialba, Costa Rica.


As tropical regions are converted to agriculture, conservation of biodiversity will depend not only on the maintenance of protected forest areas, but also on the scope for conservation within the agricultural matrix in which they are embedded. Tree cover typically retained in agricultural landscapes in the neotropics may provide resources and habitats for animals, but little is known about the extent to which it contributes to conservation of animal species. Here, we explore the animal diversity associated with different forms of tree cover for birds, bats, butterflies, and dung beetles in a pastoral landscape in Nicaragua. We measured species richness and abundance of these four animal taxa in riparian and secondary forest, forest fallows, live fences, and pastures with high and low tree cover. We recorded over 20,000 individuals of 189 species including 14 endangered bird species. Mean abundance and species richness of birds and bats, but not dung beetles or butterflies, were significantly different among forms of tree cover. Species richness of bats and birds was positively correlated with tree species richness. While the greatest numbers of bird species were associated with riparian and secondary forest, forest fallows, and pastures with >15% tree cover, the greatest numbers of bat species were found in live fences and riparian forest. Species assemblages of all animal taxa were different among tree cover types, so that maintaining a diversity of forms of tree cover led to conservation of more animal species in the landscape as a whole. Overall, the findings indicate that retaining tree cover within agricultural landscapes can help conserve animal diversity, but that conservation efforts need to target forms of tree cover that conserve the taxa that are of interest locally. Preventing the degradation of remaining forest fragments is a priority, but encouraging farmers to maintain tree cover in pastures and along boundaries may also make an important contribution to animal conservation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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