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Land-use change to subsistence farming has negligible impact on birds in Zimbabwe
  • J Stephen Pringle,
  • Ngoni Chiweshe,
  • Martin Dallimer
J Stephen Pringle
University of Leeds Faculty of Environment

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Ngoni Chiweshe
CIRAD Zimbabwe
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Martin Dallimer
University of Leeds
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Habitat alterations that often accompany land-use change are one of the major drivers of global biodiversity losses. In Africa, these threats are especially severe, as this continent has the most rapidly growing of all human populations. Inevitably, increasing areas of land are being transformed for agriculture, including drought-prone drylands in southern and central Africa, despite often having poor soils. In Zimbabwe, a land reform programme provided a unique opportunity to study the biodiversity response to abrupt habitat modification in an extensive dryland area of mixed grassland and woodland savannah. Small-scale subsistence farms were created rapidly during 2001-2002 in formerly semi-natural savannah. We measured the changing compositions of bird communities in transformed and untransformed land over an 8-year period, commencing one decade after subsistence farms were established. Over the study period, repeated counts were made along identical transects in order to assess species' population changes that may have resulted from trait-filtering responses to habitat disturbance. We recorded significantly increased abundances in both land-use areas, accompanied by increases in species diversity and functional redundancy. Temporal trends showed increased abundances across all feeding guilds, and in species of virtually all sizes. Influxes of new species did not increase functional traits' diversity, and no species with distinctive traits appear to have been lost as a result of land-use change. Nearly two decades after habitat transformation, the bird communities in the transformed and untransformed areas had become more similar in composition. The broadly benign impact on birds of land conversion into subsistence farms is attributed to the relatively low-level of human activities and disturbance in the transformed land, and the large regional pool of non-specialist bird species.
15 Sep 2021Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
16 Sep 2021Submission Checks Completed
16 Sep 2021Assigned to Editor
23 Sep 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
02 Nov 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
05 Nov 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
05 Jan 20221st Revision Received
06 Jan 2022Submission Checks Completed
06 Jan 2022Assigned to Editor
06 Jan 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
19 Jan 2022Editorial Decision: Accept