Pest-removal services provided by birds on subsistence farms in south-eastern Nigeria

Murna Tela*, Will Cresswell, Hazel Chapman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

To what extent birds provide the ecosystem service of pest control in subsistence farms, and how this service might depend on retained natural habitats near farmlands is unexplored in West Africa. To fill this knowledge gap, we placed plasticine mimics of insect pests on experimentally grown crops on the Mambilla Plateau, South Eastern Nigeria. We recorded bird attacks on the mimics and the proportion of mimics removed by birds. We also determined the influence of distance of crops from forest fragments on both attack and removal rates. We placed 90 potted plants of groundnut (Arachis hypogea) and bambara nut (Vigna subterranea) along 15 transects running 4.5 km from forest edge into open grassland. Each plant had six of the 540 mimics in total placed on their leaves. We inspected the potted plants weekly for 12 weeks to record (i) the presence of bird beak marks on mimics, and (ii) the number of missing mimics. Once a week we collected all the mimics from the plants and counted the number of assumed beak marks. After counting we replaced the mimics on the plants, mark free. We found a strong positive correlation between the abundance of insectivorous birds and the mean number of missing mimics and/or bird attack marks on mimics. However, this positive effect of insectivorous bird abundance on prey mimic attack/removal became less strong the farther they were from a forest fragment. We found increased predation rates and abundance of insectivorous birds closer to forest fragments. Our data suggest that pest predation may be a key ecosystem service provided by insectivorous birds on Nigerian farmlands. Farmlands that are closer to forest fragments may experience a higher rate of pest control by insectivorous birds than those further away, suggesting that retaining forest fragments in the landscape may enhance pest control services in sub-Saharan subsistence farms.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0255638
Number of pages17
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Aug 2021

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