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

Jolli, V.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/vzoo-2017-0036


The montane forest ecosystems of Western Himalayas are under severe anthropogenic pressure because of hydro-electric project (HEP) development. Several studies have highlighted downstream eff ects of HEP, but there is no information on the eff ects of HEP-building activities on upstream fauna. In particular, studies on upstream Himalayan montane ecosystems and fauna around dams are lacking. I investigated eff ects 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 infl uencing their distribution. I surveyed primary and secondary montane forests, agricultural lands, and dam-aff ected (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-aff ected sites. Canonical correspondence analysis revealed that canopy cover, shrub density, and disturbance infl uenced species distribution; woodland birds signifi cantly negatively responded to dam-building activities. The study has shown that dam-building activity has negatively aff ected montane birds. I propose that increasing shrub and tree cover in dam-disturbed sites would minimise losses of avian habitats.