The indirect effects of bushmeat hunting on birds in Central Africa
Overexploitation of wildlife, such as bushmeat hunting, is a major global conservation concern that is especially prevalent in tropical rainforests. Hunting offtake has steadily increased over the past several decades due to deforestation, road development, agricultural land conversion, more advanced weapons, and a burgeoning human population. These factors combined have had a major impact on the populations of many large mammal species, the primary target of hunting efforts. However, this removal of mammal biomass may also have indirect impacts on other, non-targeted taxa such as birds. This project uses a gradient of human hunting activity (and large mammal abundance) to examine how non-hunted bird communities are indirectly influenced by bushmeat extraction.
The Dja Biosphere Reserve in Southern Cameroon is one of the largest remaining primary forest reserves in Central Africa and it remains up to 90% intact. The protected area itself is largely uninhabited while the human population density in the surrounding buffer zone is relatively high by comparison. The Dja is therefore somewhat unique in that human hunting effort varies dramatically within continuous forests. This project aims to utilize this quasi-experimental setup and compare bird communities between similar habitats which experience contrasting levels of hunting offtake. Not only is understanding the indirect, cascading impacts of bushmeat removal important for avian conservation in Central Africa, but also for the maintenance of functional ecosystems. After all, birds play important roles in pollination, seed dispersal, nutrient cycling, disease regulation, and a myriad of other roles.