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Insectivorous birds are known to play a decisive role for the natural control of herbivorous insects. However, particularly in the tropics, forest fragmentation has been suggested to cause a loss of insectivorous birds. Yet, it is unclear whether this hampers the trophic control of herbivorous insects with potential consequences for plants.

Insectivorous birds consume an estimated – million tons of prey annually

Therefore, we investigated the effect of increasing forest fragmentation on tritrophic interactions between insectivorous birds, herbivorous insects, and plants in a subtropical forest landscape, South Africa. We monitored the community composition of birds and estimated insectivorous bird abundances along a gradient of forest fragmentation. In the same sites, we installed bird exclosures on a common plant species Englerophytum natalense to assess effects of the trophic control of insectivorous birds on herbivorous insects and leaf area loss LAL.

Moreover, LAL was higher within bird exclosures than on control branches and increased with increasing forest fragmentation on the control branches. Altogether, forest fragmentation seems to hamper the trophic control of herbivorous insects by insectivorous birds through changes in the community composition. This, in turn, may interfere with tritrophic interactions and ecological processes. Please note: The publisher is not responsible for the content or functionality of any supporting information supplied by the authors.

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Insectivorous birds consume an estimated 400–500 million tons of prey annually

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The Value of Birds

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Once large seed-dispersing birds such as guans or cotingas are lost in an area, trees species with large seeds find it harder to recover. Regeneration becomes unlikely or impossible. Some of these links may have been lost before we even knew them. The disappearance of certain kinds of birds may let plant-eating insects run wild. These insects can be serious agricultural pests.

As roads and farms reach further into the Amazon, the forest is fragmenting into ever-smaller patches. Some species are inevitably lost, and with them the sometimes specific ecological links that they maintain. We had previously found that competition forces the loss of some species in small patches of Amazonian rainforest. These same forces of competition and habitat change mean fewer bird species in degraded forests and farmland too.

Maintaining the incredible diversity of birds is key to the success or failure of ambitious plans for sustainable tropical landscapes. Screen music and the question of originality - Miguel Mera — London, Islington.

Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Follow Topics Climate change Fracking Renewable energy. A yellow-shouldered grosbeak tucks into a katydid bush cricket lunch high in the rainforest canopy. Alexander C. Lees , Author provided. Lees , Manchester Metropolitan University. Author Alexander C. Lees Lecturer in tropical ecology, Manchester Metropolitan University. All rainforest birds are not equal In this new study we focused on seed dispersal and insect predation, two ecosystem processes where birds play important roles.

Bird specimens in the Goeldi Museum, Brazil, a rich vein of information for the researchers. The white-tailed cotinga disperses seeds on its flights between fruiting trees. It is entirely absent from agricultural areas. Lees Once large seed-dispersing birds such as guans or cotingas are lost in an area, trees species with large seeds find it harder to recover.