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Ecology. 2008 Apr;89(4):944-51.

Landscape constraints on functional diversity of birds and insects in tropical agroecosystems.

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Agroecology, University of Göttingen, Georg-August-Universitat, Waldweg 26, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Ecology. 2008 Jun;89(6):1775.


In this paper, we analyze databases [corrected] on birds and insects to assess patterns of functional diversity in human-dominated landscapes in the tropics. A perspective from developed landscapes is essential for understanding remnant natural ecosystems, because most species experience their surroundings at spatial scales beyond the plot level, and spillover between natural and managed ecosystems is common. Agricultural bird species have greater habitat and diet breadth than forest species. Based on a global data base, bird assemblages in tropical agroforest ecosystems were composed of disproportionately more frugivorous and nectarivorous, but fewer insectivorous bird species compared with forest. Similarly, insect predators of plant-feeding arthropods were more diverse in Ecuadorian agroforest and forest compared with rice and pasture, while, in Indonesia, bee diversity was also higher in forested habitats. Hence, diversity of insectivorous birds and insect predators as well as bee pollinators declined with agricultural transformation. In contrast, with increasing agricultural intensification, avian pollinators and seed dispersers initially increase then decrease in proportion. It is well established that the proximity of agricultural habitats to forests has a strong influence on the functional diversity of agroecosystems. Community similarity is higher among agricultural systems than in natural habitats and higher in simple than in complex landscapes for both birds and insects, so natural communities, low-intensity agriculture, and heterogeneous landscapes appear to be critical in the preservation of beta diversity. We require a better understanding of the relative role of landscape composition and the spatial configuration of landscape elements in affecting spillover of functionally important species across managed and natural habitats. This is important for data-based management of tropical human-dominated landscapes sustaining the capacity of communities to reorganize after disturbance and to ensure ecological functioning.

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