The High Andean peatlands are peat-accumulating wetlands dominated by cushion-forming plants and are embedded in a matrix of puna grasslands above 4,000 m. These ecosystems are an essential source of water and evergreen vegetation for wild and domestic animals and are considered sensitive to environmental alterations. We studied the birds' habitat and microhabitat preference in peatlands and their surrounding grasslands in the Cordillera Real, Bolivia. We established 3 parallel transects around 12 peatlands: (1) in peatland, (2) at 100-200 m from the peatland edge, considered as the transition habitat between peatlands and grasslands, and (3) in puna grasslands at >500 m from the peatland edge. We quantified bird abundance, species richness, and the availability of 8 microhabitats along 36 transects. We recorded 934 individuals of 34 species and found higher bird species richness and abundance in peatlands than in surrounding grasslands and transition habitats. We found that 26% of bird species were exclusive to peatlands. While most bird species common in peatlands were almost nonexistent in other habitats, most species associated with grasslands were also found in proximity to peatlands. A canonical correspondence analysis showed that bird species were associated with one or more microhabitats. The high abundance, bird species richness, and diet types in peatlands is probably related to the high primary productivity of peatlands and year-round availability of water. Degradation of these peatlands may reduce the abundance of regional bird communities, not only peatland specialists but also species in surrounding habitats.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank members of the BIO-THAW project (Biodiversity and People Facing Climate Change in Tropical High Andean Wetlands), O. Dangles, F. Anthelme, and F. Rebaudo for the support to carry out this study. We also thank the people of the communities of Palcoco, Huayna Potosí, and Tuni Condoriri for their help during fieldwork. The Fond Franc¸ais pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM) and the Fondation pour la Recherche sur la Biodiversité (FRB) (Modeling BIOdiversity and land use interactions under changing glacial water availability in Tropical High Andean Wetlands, BIOTHAW, AAP-SCEN-2011-II) financed this work. Idea Wild provided the equipment used for fieldwork.
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- bird communities
- microhabitat preference
- puna grasslands