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River birds as potential indicators of local- and catchment-scale influences on Himalayan river ecosystems

Sinha, Ankita, Chatterjee, Nilanjan, Ormerod, Steve J., Adhikari, Bhupendra Singh and Krishnamurthy, Ramesh 2019. River birds as potential indicators of local- and catchment-scale influences on Himalayan river ecosystems. Ecosystems and People 15 (1) , pp. 90-101. 10.1080/26395916.2019.1591508

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Rivers are affected by changes in catchment land-use and other modifications to their channel, floodplains and riparian zones. Such changes can affect biodiversity downstream, and specialist river birds might indicate the effects across multiple scales and through different ecological pathways. The risks of catchment-scale effects on rivers are especially acute in the Himalayan mountains, where the world’s greatest diversity of river birds occupies one of the most rapidly changing riverine environments on Earth. Here, we use multivariate analysis on data collected over two years to investigate the distribution of this group of birds in relation to natural and anthropogenic variations in riverine habitats along one of the major headwaters of the Ganges. River bird distribution was linked to channel character, bank morphology, aspects of river flow and land use. Riverine specialists were associated significantly with the least modified reaches characterised by faster flows, exposed bedrocks, banks with pebbles, boulders with more intact riverine forests. Our data provide evidence from which to develop specialist river birds as cost-effective indicators of human impacts on river ecosystems, but further work is needed to separate the effects of natural and anthropogenic influences. Such work could also guide conservation action to help balance the exploitation of catchment ecosystem services with the protection of river biodiversity.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
ISSN: 2639-5916
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 June 2019
Date of Acceptance: 1 March 2019
Last Modified: 18 Jun 2019 10:25

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