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Human activities shape diversity pattern: a new explanation

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A crucial step in conserving biodiversity is to identify areas containing disproportionate representation of species, and assess actors affecting diversity patterns of species. Previous studies on various taxonomic groups in Himalayan elevational gradients and elsewhere showed that climatic, energetic, and geographic mechanisms play vital roles in determining gradient of species richness. However, a study by KIAS Scientist, Dr. Prakash K. Paudel, at Center for Conservation Biology has shown that human activities are no less important than climatic factors.

A research paper entitled “Conservation status affects elevational gradient in bird diversity in the Himalaya: A new perspective“, is published in Global Ecology and Conservation on 30 October 2014.

Abstract of research:

Understanding diversity patterns along altitudinal gradients, and their underlying causes are important for conserving biodiversity. Previous studies have focused on climatic, energetic, and geographic variables (e.g., mid-domain effects), with less attention paid to human-induced habitat modifications. We used published data of bird distributions along an elevational gradient (0–4900 m) in the Nepalese Himalaya and interpolated species presence between elevational limits. The relationship between species richness and environmental variables was analyzed using generalized linear models. A low plateau relationship between bird richness and elevation was observed, with a main peak at intermediate elevations (2800 m). Across the total gradient, interpolated bird species richness had a unimodal relationship to maximum monthly precipitation and a linear response to seasonal variation in temperature, proportion of forest cover, and proportion of protected area. In lower elevations (0–2800 m), interpolated species richness had a positive and linear response to the proportion of Ramsar sites and a unimodal response to habitat heterogeneity. At higher elevations (2900–4900 m), interpolated bird richness had a positive linear response to monthly variation in temperature and a negative linear response to proportion forest cover. We conclude that factors related to human management are important drivers of elevational gradients in bird species richness.

The research is freely accessible here under a Creative Commons License ‘by-nc-nd’