Ecological engineering with high diversity vegetation patches enhances bird activity and ecosystem services in Philippine rice fields

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Journal Article
Regional Environmental Change, 2017, 17 (5), pp. 1355 - 1367
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© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. This study examines the potential for ecological engineering to enhance the beneficial ecosystem services provided by birds in tropical rice fields. Bird activities were monitored at six sites in the Philippines with high-diversity vegetation patches (HDVPs) established as an ecological engineering approach to restore ecosystem services. Adjacent plots of conventional rice were monitored as controls. Predatory birds (shrikes, Lanius spp., grassbirds, Megalurus palustris, and kingfishers, Halcyon spp.) were more active in the ecological engineering fields where they foraged for arthropods and snails among the rice plants. Pied trillers, Lalage nigra, and yellow vented bulbuls, Pycnonotus goiavier, foraged more in the HDVPs than in rice. These birds mainly responded to the availability of bamboo for perching in the HDVPs, although patch vegetation beneath the bamboo was also used for perching by some species. Aerial hunters such as swallows, Hirundo spp., avoided HDVPs likely because the tall vegetation and bamboo stakes represented an obstacle for their flight. Small changes in the design of HDVPs could avoid any negative effects on foraging by swallows and swifts. The results indicate that ecological engineering of rice paddies can have multiple benefits for farmers and the environment, including improved nutrition for farming communities, the creation of habitat for wildlife, and the enhancement of regulatory ecosystem services provided by insectivorous and snail-eating birds.
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