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Plant Focus

Quercus macdougallii
A rare oak endemic to the Sierra Juárez in Oaxaca

Q. leucotrichophora Forest as a Bird Habitat in the Western Himalayas

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Ghazala Shahabuddin and Tarun Menon

Published May 2021 in International Oaks No. 32: 75–88

Abstract

The Western Himalayas harbor high floral and faunal diversity due to diverse biogeographical influences and steep altitudinal gradients that nurture numerous forest types. Quercus leucotrichophora (banj oak) forests (1,500 m to 2,200 m.a.s.l.) form part of the moist, temperate, broadleaf forest biome located in the middle elevations of the Western Himalayas. Based on our research in Q. leucotrichophora forests from 2013 to 2019, we describe their avifauna with reference to taxonomic and functional diversity, seasonality, habitat specialization, and endemism. We then describe our recent findings on the influence of anthropogenic disturbances on oak forest birds in this human-dominated landscape. Over six years of observation we have recorded as many as 135 species of birds in this forest habitat, including year-round residents, summer migrants (breeders), winter migrants and passage migrants. An overwhelming proportion of forest birds (78.5%) are insectivores – both obligate and facultative. The abundance and diversity of insects and other invertebrates can be attributed to the complex branching pattern of oak, the lush canopy of oak forest, the moist duff layer and general plant diversity of these forests. Between 37% and 44% of the bird species recorded in oak forest are hardwood forest specialists in this elevational range and between 51% and 63% are forest generalists. There are a total of 17 Himalayan endemics and 4 narrow endemics that occur only in the Central-Western Himalayas. Bird abundance and diversity are adversely affected by Q. leucotrichophora forest degradation; insectivores and forest specialists were found to be most vulnerable. Reduction in canopy cover, landscape proportion of forest, vertical stratification and understory shrub density, as a result of forest degradation, most strongly affect forest birds. It is necessary to implement sustainable extraction measures and maintain old, protected oak stands if this diverse avifaunal assemblage is to be conserved.

Keywords

forest birds, species diversity, hardwood forest, alpine, threats, disturbance

References

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