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Spatial Distribution and Diversity of Bird Communities in District Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

PJZ_54_2_745-750

Spatial Distribution and Diversity of Bird Communities in District Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Asif Sadam1*, Rahmat Ullah Khan1, Sajid Mahmood1 and Juma Gul2

1Department of Zoology, Hazara University, Mansehra, 21300, Pakistan

2Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Ecology of Tropical Islands, College of Life Sciences, Hainan Normal University, Haikou, China

ABSTRACT

Maintaining biodiversity in urbanized landscapes is the top most conservation priority. Urban development results in an increase in local extinction rates and eliminates the majority of native species. The pattern of rainfall is changing and frequency of extreme events increasing due to urbanization and rapidly increasing average global temperature. These changes are having observable impacts on biodiversity at species level and ecosystem level, in terms of distribution, composition and function. Mardan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has different habitats; it represents a useful ecological model to identify the effect of habitat heterogeneity on bird communities. We conducted the study to explore the local avian fauna and to compare its composition and diversity in different habitats. Bird species were identified employing point counts method in urban area; agricultural area with small forest chunk and water body. Twenty four point counts were plotted in three well-defined locations such that each location was divided into eight concentric rings of 10 m radius from 0-50 m with an onward interval of 50 m. Thirty five avian species belonging to 23 families and 10 orders were recorded. However, One Way Analyses of Variance (ANOVA) indicated significant (P < 0.05) differences in distribution of avian species among habitats. Results suggest that urban area fails to maintain high bird diversity than the adjacent agricultural area. The agricultural area showed the lowest proportion of exclusive species compared to urban area and water body, even though the heterogeneous aspects of the area favor local species richness.


Article Information

Received 07 March 2020

Revised 29 May 2020

Accepted 07 July 2020

Available online 15 March 2021

(early access)

Published 21 January 2022

Authors’ Contribution

This paper is extracted from the M. Phil thesis prepared by AS under the supervision of SM. RUK helped in data analysis, JG provided help in identification of plant flora of the study area.

Key words

Diversity, Urban, Agricultural, Water, Mardan

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.17582/journal.pjz/20200307110312

* Corresponding author: saddamasif2@gmail.com

0030-9923/2022/0002-0745 $ 9.00/0

Copyright 2022 Zoological Society of Pakistan



INTRODUCTION

Land development and various processes associated with urbanization present a major threat to biodiversity. Decline of urban biodiversity is often associated with alteration of habitats caused by urbanization (Laurance et al., 2011). Urbanization affects wildlife diversity by decreasing the provision of important resources related to food and habitat for shelter (Ferna´ndez-Juricic and Tellerı´a, 2000). The heterogeneous uniqueness of natural environment is one of the important factors that have resulted in an increase in avian diversity (Damen et al., 2017).

South American avifauna is predominantly well known for its high bird diversity, with more than 3000 species (Bierregaard, 1998). Indian subcontinent is very rich in avian diversity. Out of more than 9000 birds of the world, the Indian subcontinent has about 1,300 species (Grimmett et al., 2016).

Many ornithological studies have been performed in various parts of the world however; data from research on urban bird species are scattered and scarce. Most urban studies compared the avian population in the city center with the periphery of a single town. The results have shown that richness and diversity of bird species decline with increasing urbanization; the richness of bird species also tends to increase with decrease in urbanization (Schutz and Schulze, 2015).

Nuorteva (1971) compared the bird population of city center, neighboring agricultural lands and uninhabited forest in Finland. He recorded the highest number of avian species near rural houses and the lowest in the city. Muñoz-Sáez et al. (2017) recorded the highest population of granivorous and insectivorous species during winter in an agro ecosystem in central Chile. They found that overall bird species richness was favored by non-crop structure such as hedgerows.

If urbanization is eventually unavoidable at a given moment and place, city planners may manage artificial landscapes such as urban parks, so that they can attract a diverse range of ecologically important bird species. In this context and because of heterogeneous nature, Mardan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) represents a good model. We explored the local avian fauna as it was neglected for years and compared its composition and diversity in different habitats while focusing on ecological changes.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study area

Field data were collected from three different locations of Mardan district, located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. For field survey we chose three well defined environments: (1) Urban Area: The area is the part of Mardan city (34° 11’ 28.1688’’ N, 72° 4’ 15.2652’’ E), the area is well paved and densely populated with scant vegetation. Populus, Eucalyptus and Bakain are the main trees planted along the sides of the road. Besides that, fruit trees and ornamental trees are also present that provide food and nesting sites for bird species. The ground flora of herbs and shrubs is less developed compared to agricultural area and water body (Supplementary Table I). (2) Agricultural Area: The area is referred to cultivated lands located (34° 18’ 46.6488’’ N, 72° 9’ 1.1304’’ E) at a distance of 10 km from Mardan city. The area is the part of Gujrat Union Council bordering with Kata Khat Union Council and Bakhshali town. The area is not highly developed and populated and has more natural vegetation compared to urban area. Agricultural landscape includes two components viz., agricultural crops and tree species both local indigenous trees and ornamental trees that provide foraging and nesting habitat for many bird species. Besides that, ground flora of shrubs and herbs is present that also becomes the food of birds. The 20 acres Eucalyptus and Populus plantation, is also included in agricultural area (Supplementary Table I). (3) Water body: Ballar stream is the main water body of the area which is the combination of two streams Lund Khwar and Wach Khwar flowing from northeast to southwest which converge at Kamargai (34° 16’ 55.6716’’ N, 72° 10’ 7.7664’’ E). The stream flows along the Gujrat and Bakhshali town and discharges into Nala Kalpani (at Mardan). Nala Kalphani is a canal originating from river Swat. The banks of water body are surrounded by trees mainly Populus and Eucalyptus as well as ground flora of herbs and shrubs that make the source area for water birds (Supplementary Table I).

Survey method

For data collection bird surveys were conducted from August 2017 to August 2018. All twenty four sampling sites were explored by point counts method (Buckland et al., 2001). Eight sampling plots of 10-m radius from 0 to 50 m were drawn in each of three well defined environments; urban area (U), Agricultural area (A) and Water body (W). Counts were made early in the morning from 08:00-10:00 hours. Each sampling plot was surveyed twice a month. An onward distance of 50 m was maintained between all the sampling positions. Bird activity was observed for a period of 20 min at each sampling plot. Bird species observed or recorded outside the sampling points were not counted in order to minimize data-dependent problems. All the species were recorded by direct observation or by songs or calls within the habitat. Surveys were performed in breeding and non- breeding period till the appearance of spring and summer migrants. Bird counting was avoided in rainy and cloudy weather. The classification of bird species into trophic guilds was based on Manhaes and Loures-Ribeiro (2005) and Anderies et al. (2007) and field observations. The bird species were categorized into forest dependent, forest semi dependent and forest independent based on their degree of forest dependence which was established according to Anderies et al. (2005), da Silva (2015) and field observations.

Statistical analysis

Diversity and species richness in different habitats was calculated by Shannon-Weiner diversity index (Magurran, 1988). One way analyses of variance (ANOVA) were used to test the significant differences in distribution of avian population in different habitat types.

RESULTS

In total 35 bird species belonging to 23 families and 10 orders were recorded in all habitats of Mardan. Passeriformes was the main order, representing 47.82% families (n=11) and 51.42% species (n=18). Families representing leading number of species were Columbidae (n=4), Sturnidae (n=3) and Motacillidae (n=3) (Table I).

The agricultural habitat showed the highest species richness. Three migratory species white wagtail (Motacilla alba), white browed wagtail (Motacilla maderaspatensis) and Indian roller (Coracias benghalensis) were documented during breeding season that improved number of exclusive species and total species richness of agricultural area. Agricultural area had the lowest percentage 28.1% (n=9) of exclusive species. The percentage of exclusive species present in urban habitat was slightly larger 33.3% (n=7) than agricultural habitat (Table II). The species found in this area were dependent on human dominated environments, especially common myna (Acridotheres tristis), house sparrow (Passer domesticus), rock pigeon (Columba livia) and turtle dove (Streptopelia turtle). Exclusive species comprised 60% (n=21) of total avifauna. The water body was the habitat with highest percentage of exclusive species n=5 (41.6%) (Table II). The avian fauna of this particular habitat was the year round resident except little egret (Egretta garzetta), Indian pond heron (Ardeola grayii), white wagtail,white-browed wagtail and

 

Table I. Avifauna of District Mardan.

Order/Family

Common name

Scientific name

U/A/W

P

Fd

TG

Order: Passeriformes

Family:

i. Corvidae

House crow

Rufous treepie

Corvus splendens

Dendrocitta vagabunda

68/64/0

18/38/0

**

*

S

D

O*

O*

ii. Pycnonotidae

Red vented bulbul

Pycnonotus cafer

20/32/0

***

D

Fr

iii. Dicruridae

Black drongo

Dicrurus macrocercus

12/25/0

*

D

In

iv. Sturnidae

Common myna

Jungle myna

Bank myna

Acridotheres tristis

Acridotheres fuscus

Acridotheres ginginianus

52/32/0

12/16/0

16/25/22

**

NS

NS

S

D

S

O*

O*

O*

v. Passeridae

House sparrow

Eurasian tree sparrow

Passer domesticus

Passer montanus

62/16/0

12/25/0

***

*

S

D

O*

O*

vi. Laniidae

Long tail shrike

Lanius schach erythronotus

4/22/0

***

S

In

vii. Leiothrichidae

Afghan babbler

Argya huttoni

0/20/0

***

D

In

viii. Motacillidae

White wagtail

White browed wagtail

Grey wagtail

Motacilla alba

Motacilla maderaspatensis

Motacilla cineria

9/22/17

12/18/6

0/0/15

NS

NS

***

S

I

I

In

In

In

ix. Muscicapidae

White tailed stonechat

Saxicola leucurus

0/10/0

***

S

In

x. Hirundinidae

Barn swallow

Bank swallow

Hirundo rustica

Riparia riparia

36/22/0

44/24/48

*

NS

I

I

A*

A*

xi. Alaudidae

Oriental skylark

Alauda gulgula

0/14/0

***

I

In

Order: Columbiformes

Family:

i. Columbidae

Collar dove

Laughing dove

Feral pigeon

Turtle dove

Streptopelia decaocto

Spelopelia senegalensis

Columba livia

Streptopelia turtur

8/16/0

11/25/0

42/11/0

36/0/0

***

*

**

**

D

D

S

I

Gr

Gr

Gr

Gr

Order: Bucerotiforme

Family:

i. Upupidae

Eurasian hoopoe

Upupa epops

4/23/0

NS

D

In

Order: Strigiformes

Family:

i. Strigidae

Spotted owlet

Athene brama

0/9/0

***

D

In/C

Order: Charadriiformes

Family:

i. Charadriidae

ii. Scolopacidae

Red wattled lapwing

Common greenshank

Vanellus indicus

Tringa nebularia

0/22/15

0/0/21

*

***

I

I

In

In

Order: Pelecaniformes

Family:

i. Ardeidae

Little egret

Egretta garzetta

0/18/30

NS

S

C/In

Order: Accipitriformes

Family:

i. Accipitridae

Black kite

Milvus migrans

64/9/0

***

S

C

Order: Gruiformes

Family:

i. Rallidae

Water hen

Amaurornis phoenicurus

0/0/19

***

I

In

Order: Anseriformes

Family:

i. Anatidae

Duck

Anas platyrchynchos

0/19/32

*

I

In

Order: Coraciiformes

Family:

i. Coraciidae

ii. Meropidae

iii. Alcedinidae

Indian roller

Green bee-eater

Kingfisher

Pied kingfisher

Coracias benghalensis

Merops orientalis

Halcyon smyrensis

Ceryle rudis

0/26/0

6/24/5

0/15/20

0/0/34

***

NS

*

***

D

D

S

I

In

A*

C/In

C

 

ANOVA results: NS, non-significant (P > 0.05); significant (*) P < 0.05, (**) P < 0.01, (***) P < 0.05 : U/A/W Number of observations in the urban/agricultural/water habitats. Fd, degree of forest dependence; independent, S, semi-dependent; D, dependent; TG, trophic guilds; In, insectivore; Cr, carnivore; Fr, frugivores; Gr, granivore; O*, omnivore; Cr/In, carnivore/insectivore; A*, aerial insectivore.

 

bank swallow (Riparia riparia). The bank myna (Acridotheres ginginianus) was recorded in large flocks only during the breeding season, colonizing the cavities on the bank of water body. The bank swallow showed a gradual decline in numbers from winter to summer season.

Insectivorous and omnivorous species were the dominant trophic guilds of agricultural habitat (Fig. 1). Omnivorous species distributed equally in agricultural and urban habitats, whereas the ratio of insectivorous species considerably declined in urban area. In water body the dominant trophic guilds were insectivore (invertebrate eaters). The bird species preying upon small birds and insects were recorded equally in agricultural area and water body. In agricultural habitat spotted owlet (Athene brama) preyed upon small birds and also included insects in its diet as a major food source. Due to the cutting of trees in agricultural area the spotted owlet disappeared from further observations. Aerial insectivores moved equally between agricultural habitat and urban habitat but their preferred nesting sites were located in urban habitat and banks of water body. Granivorous species were the predominant trophic guild of urban habitat, the ratio of this guilds considerably decreased in agricultural habitat (Fig. 2).

 

Table II. Species richness and exclusive species.

Habitat

Total species

Exclusive species

Percentage (%)*

Percentage (%)**

Urban

21

7

60

33.3

Water

12

5

34.2

41.6

Agricultural

32

9

91.4

28.1

 

(%)* Percentage in relation to total number of species; (%) ** Percentage of exclusive species in relation to the total number of species in each habitat.

 

 

All 35 avian species were analyzed by one way analysis of variance in which 26 species showed significant (P < 0.05) differences in distribution of avian population among habitats. (Table I). The frequency of forest dependent species was higher in agricultural habitat due to the presence of small forest fragments. Forest independent species reached the highest proportion in water body such as pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis), water hen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) and common greenshank (Tringa nebularia) recorded exclusively in water body. The percentage of forest semi dependent species considerably decreased from 48% in agricultural area to 20% in water body (Fig. 2). Two species white wagtail and white browed wagtail recently expanded their range to urban habitat. On the other hand green bee-eater (Merops orientalis), Eurasian hoopoe (Upupa epops), little egret, bank swallow, white wagtail, white browed wagtail, jungle myna and bank myna did not show significant difference (P > 0.05) in distribution pattern among habitats. Agricultural area was far most stable in degree of forest dependence (Fd) (Fig. 2). The agricultural area showed the highest species richness VPi (3.07), followed by the urban area VPi (2.5). The lowest species richness VPi (2.41) was documented in the water body.

 

DISCUSSION

Thirty five bird species were recorded; at least 25 were recorded in more than one habitat. Bird communities in different existing landscapes were dominated by only a few bird species. Many species recorded in the study area were of low frequency, due to their small population size. The results are similar to reported by Godoi et al. (2016) from riparian forest in western Brazil where the study area had been severely affected by human activities and had lower bird wealth and abundance. Similarly, in the present study small forest plantation in agricultural area was substantially reduced by human activities. Old trees were cut down due to which spotted owlet was not recorded in subsequent surveys. Hostetler and Knowles-Yanez (2003) reported that urban expansion contributed to the loss of biodiversity due to the proportional decrease in vegetation structure. Melles et al. (2003) investigated that forest fragments near urban landscape provided resource area for many alien birds and were the home to many resident birds. In Mardan city surroundings small forest fragments still exist that provide nesting sites and other food resources for urban bird communities, especially for the birds that do not reproduce in the city as the case with Afghan babbler and jungle myna that reproduce outside the city of Mardan.

All habitats of Mardan have specific characteristics to attract avian species. The agricultural area maintained the natural features in the district. Although the area is currently bounded by man-made landscape or by developed areas. The 20 acres forest plantation had given the advantage to most forest dwelling species and facilitated the exchange of these species to adjacent areas, mainly in the neighborhood of water body.

Generalist bird species were predominant in the urban area. Evan et al. (2011) found that generalist species that feed on different resources were comparatively better supported by urban habitats than specialist species nesting on the ground. Since less specialized omnivores and insectivores were also higher in number, studies revealed that these trophic guilds were more successful in urban areas where natural habitats had been substantively impacted by urbanization (Fernández-Juricicet al., 2000; Dum et al., 2009) that resulted in an increase in developed areas (Arroyo-Solís et al., 2013).

Manhaes and Loures-Ribeiro (2005) reported the lowest percentage of exclusive species in urban area (14.3%) while the water body showed the highest percentage of exclusive species in southeast Brazil. During the present study water body supported the highest percentage of exclusive species (41.6%) whereas the lowest percentage of exclusive species was documented in agricultural area.

Urban area supported more resident species that used nesting sites year after year. Washburn et al. (2016) studied bird diversity and composition in Chicago and found that avian species were more common in top roof habitat in urban area as the green roof habitat with native vegetation offered foraging sites to most bird species.

Similarly, agricultural area shared many species with urban area and also provided refuge and food sources to many urban bird species. Thus, agricultural area had the lowest percentage of exclusive species.

The study confirms that the maintenance of trees, bushes and grass seeds in agricultural area and in the surroundings of water body serves to be a haven for bird communities in Mardan district. Burghardt et al. (2009) reported that in southeastern Pennsylvania native plants and landscapes positively influenced the avian and lepidopteran carrying capacity and provided a mechanism for reducing biodiversity losses in human-dominated landscapes. Therefore, enrichment of vegetation structure within an urban area shall enhance diversity and abundance of avian communities.

CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The urban area does not support high bird diversity compared to the nearby agricultural environment, because heterogeneity in the habitat supports local species richness. Therefore, to maintain high bird diversity in the city, it is necessary to develop more natural sites and to encourage tree plantation and green areas. The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should initiate conservation policies to promote awareness in general public and to discourage habitat destruction, cutting of large indigenous trees and improving the vegetation structure in all habitats. Such decisions will be helpful in the maintenance of these habitats for conservation of avifauna.

Supplementary material

There is supplementary material associated with this article. Access the material online at: https://dx.doi.org/10.17582/journal.pjz/20200307110312

Statement of conflict of interest

The authors have declared no conflict of interest.

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