Birds as indicators of wetland status and change in the North Rupununi, Guyana

Mistry, Jayalaxshmi; Berardi, Andrea and Simpson, Matthew (2008). Birds as indicators of wetland status and change in the North Rupununi, Guyana. Biodiversity and Conservation, 17(10) pp. 2383–2409.



In financially and human capacity poor countries, there is an important need to monitor the status of resource rich ecosystems in the face of growing extractive activities in simple and inexpensive ways. In this study we explore the potential of using birds as indicators of ecosystem change in the wetland systems of the North Rupununi, Guyana, where local communities rely heavily on wetland resources for their subsistence activities. This is done by (1) assessing what environmental factors determine bird communities at different spatial and temporal scales; and (2) identifying indicator groups and/or species for ecosystem status. We surveyed 31 wetland sites over 2 years, taking monthly recordings of both the environmental features of waterbodies using a modified version of the River Habitat Survey and bird species counts. Using multivariate analyses, we found that largescale habitat type, namely forest and savanna, and waterbody type, namely pond or main river channel, were the main factors affecting bird species distribution. At the smaller scale, habitat features around the waterbody and seasonality become important factors. We were able to identify lists of bird species associated with different waterbody types, and we present this as a checklist for future monitoring. We hope these findings can be integrated into the adaptive management and sustainable livelihood goals of the local stakeholders through linking monitoring with tourism and local school curriculum activities.

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