The importance of novel and agricultural habitats for the avifauna of an oceanic island

Conservation management can no longer rely on protecting pristine habitats, but must consider the wider landscape. This is especially true on oceanic islands where endemic species are believed to be particularly susceptible to the extinction risks that accompany land conversion. Despite this, there is a paucity of studies examining how endemic communities on oceanic islands may be distributed across such human-modified habitats. Taking Principe Island in West Africa as a case study, we investigate how avian communities vary across the habitats (primary forest, secondary forest, agricultural areas) of this globally important centre of endemism. Here, recent policy reforms aimed at poverty alleviation and increased food production are rapidly altering the current land-use mosaic. Across all habitats, 27 bird species were encountered. Survey points in secondary forest and agricultural areas were, on average, more diverse and held higher overall abundances of birds than those within primary forest. This was true for both the entire avian assemblage and the endemic species alone. Nevertheless, two IUCN-listed species were restricted to primary forest, and many other endemics occurred at higher densities within this habitat. We demonstrate that agricultural areas and novel habitats, such as secondary forest, can hold high abundances of endemic species and thus have the potential to act as a resource for biodiversity conservation. A double-stranded approach to conservation is therefore required that both protects the integrity of the primary forest and controls the rapid changes in agricultural land-use to ensure that it continues to support a large component of the endemic avifauna. (c) 2012 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.