AimThe potentiality of cultivated systems in biodiversity conservation has not been assessed so far in the Himalayas. We assessed the bird diversity in the Indigenous Farming Systems (IFS) of the Sikkim Himalayas comprising of farm-based, large cardamom and mandarin orange-based agroforestry systems representing wide elevation range (750 m to 2000 m) and climatic regime (sub-tropical to cold temperate zone).
MethodsWe used Open-width point count method along the predetermined transects for sampling birds covering three sites for each IFS in the east and south districts of Sikkim, India. In each site, two transects of 1 km length were laid thus making six transects per IFS. We established permanent points along transects maintaining a distance of 100 m, totaling 18 transects and 180 points. Each point was sampled once during December 2012 to May 2013.
ResultsWe observed 2026 birds representing 125 species in IFS of Sikkim Himalaya (22% of the total species of Sikkim). Cardamom agroforests had the highest species richness, abundance and diversity of birds followed by farm-based and mandarin orange-based agroforests. Cardamom agroforests harbor unique assemblage of birds compared to other two IFS. Cardamom agroforests shared only 30% and 27% species with farm-based and mandarin orange-based agroforests respectively.
ConservationWe found high potential of the IFS in conserving rich biodiversity of the Sikkim Himalayas. Among the IFS, cardamom agroforests has relatively greater conservation potential as this system showed highest species diversity and harbors unique assemblage of bird community compared to other two IFS. Hence, we recommend promotion and enhancement of these IFS, especially cardamom agroforests due to its immense ecological and economic role.