HISTORIC FARMS

How edge effects of forest fragments and grassland patches can lead to increased sightings of particular birds

Nearby communities dip in and out of farming activities. Consequently, formerly agricultural lands are left fallow for extended periods of time – decades. Former farms have been noted as far in as the north-west of the project boundary, where non-subsistence crops were planted in the 1980s

This collection of former farmlands create forest edge effects that have important consequences for many species (see Camargo and Kapos, 1995; Harris, 1998; Young and Mitchell, 1994 for literature reviews on forest edge effects). Though significant edge effects have been observed even in dry degraded secondary forests (Banks-Leite et al., 2010) – with vast differences in species abundance and richness in forest cores compared to forest edges, the severity of edge effects is still very context-dependent. Forest edges can increase nest failure in ground-nesting birds (Flashpohler et al, 2001), but not in all settings (Vetter et al., 2013). In fact, forest edges provide benefits for some bird and arthropod species. Frugivorous birds have found to have significant levels of edge sensitivity (they are much more likely to be found in the forest core and rarely found in forest edges), whilst insectivorous birds are typically edge-preferring (Restrepo and Gomez, 1998; Watson et al., 2004). The differences between the distribution of edge-sensitive and edge-preferring bird species is particularly pronounced in the dry season. Simply put, the more accessible forest litter of edges are useful feeding sites for insectivorous birds, who especially depend on them in the dry season.

Jamaican Woodpecker (Melanerpes radiolatus)

Status: Least Concern

Population: decreasing

Native to Jamaica; range: entire islands

Here in an adjacent clearance, where forest cover is minimal, we have found depredated nests in tree hollows (at ground level). The calf-high, tinder-dry grass that comprise this grassland are routinely singed by Maroons as part of their tick management strategy

Jamaican Euphonia (Euphonia Jamaica)

Status: Least Concern

Population: stable

Native to Jamaica; range: entire islands