Proximity to forest mediates trade-offs between yields and biodiversity of birds in oil palm smallholdings

  • Keith C. Hamer (Creator)
  • Michael A Sasu (Creator)
  • Linda Ofosuhene (Creator)
  • Rebecca Asare (Creator)
  • Benjamin Ossom (Creator)
  • Catherine L Parr (Creator)
  • Sarah Anne-Leigh Scriven (Creator)
  • Winston Asante (Creator)
  • Rosemary Addico (Creator)
  • Jane Katharine Hill (Creator)



There is much debate about how best to mitigate the effects of agricultural expansion on biodiversity, especially in the tropics. Recent studies have emphasised that proximity to natural habitats can enhance farmland biodiversity, yet few studies have examined whether or not such proximity mediates local trade-offs between yields and biodiversity, and hence alters conclusions about the ecological benefits of alternative farming strategies. Here we examine yield-biodiversity trade-offs, focusing on birds in oil palm smallholdings at different distances from remaining areas of forest, including a large forest reserve, in Ghana. We found significantly fewer birds on higher-yielding than lower-yielding farms, in terms of both species richness and abundance. For forest specialist birds (likely to be highly vulnerable to conversion of land to agriculture) we also found a greater trade-off (i.e. lower richness and abundance for a given yield) at farms further from forest, to the extent that increasing distance to the nearest forest from 1 to 10 km had a similar effect as a 3- to 5-fold increase in fruit yield brought about by increased intensification. Our study highlights the importance of accounting for the effects of natural forest in the landscape when considering agricultural policies for biodiversity protection, underlining the importance of a landscape-scale approach to conservation.

External deposit with Dryad.
Date made available23 Jun 2021

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