Hydro Power Development and Its Impacts on the Habitats and Diversity of Montane Birds of Western Himalayas

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Abstract

The montane forest ecosystems of Western Himalayas are under severe anthropogenic pressure because of hydro-electric project (HEP) development. Several studies have highlighted downstream effects of HEP, but there is no information on the effects of HEP-building activities on upstream fauna. In particular, studies on upstream Himalayan montane ecosystems and fauna around dams are lacking. I investigated effects of dam-building activities on bird communities in Indian Western Himalayas. I studied the response of bird communities along a disturbance gradient with the aim to identify key factors influencing their distribution. I surveyed primary and secondary montane forests, agricultural lands, and dam-affected (disturbed) habitats. Response variables included total avifaunal and woodland species richness and abundance, which were estimated by point-count surveys. Explanatory variables included tree and shrub density, canopy cover, disturbance intensity, and elevation. Bird species richness was higher in undisturbed and lesser disturbed sites, lower in agricultural sites, and lowest in HEP-affected sites. Canonical correspondence analysis revealed that canopy cover, shrub density, and disturbance influenced species distribution; woodland birds significantly negatively responded to dam-building activities. Th e study has shown that dam-building activity has negatively affected montane birds. I propose that increasing shrub and tree cover in dam-disturbed sites would minimise losses of avian habitats.

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