A landscape approach to reserving farm ponds for wintering bird refuges in Taoyuan, Taiwan



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Texas A&M University


Man-made farm ponds are unique geographic features of the Taoyuan Tableland. Besides irrigation, they provide refuges for wintering birds. The issue at hand is that these features are disappearing and bring with it the loss of this refuge function. It is ecologically significant because one fifth of all the bird species in Taiwan find a home on these ponds. This study aims at characterizing the diversity of bird species associated with these ponds whose likelihood of survival was assessed along the gradient of land development intensities. Such characterization helps establish decision criteria needed for designating certain ponds for habitat preservation and developing their protection strategies. A holistic model was developed by incorporating logistic regression with error back-propagation into the paradigm of artificial neural networks (ANN). The model considers pond shape, size, neighboring farmlands, and developed areas in calculating parameters pertaining to their respective and interactive influences on avian diversity, among them the Shannon-Wiener diversity index (H??). Results indicate that ponds with regular shape or the ones with larger size possess a strong positive correlation with H??. Farm ponds adjacent to farmland benefited waterside bird diversity. On the other hand, urban development was shown to cause the reduction of farmland and pond numbers, which in turn reduced waterside bird diversity. By running the ANN model with four neurons, the resulting H?? index shows a good-fit prediction of bird diversity against pond size, shape, neighboring farmlands, and neighboring developed areas with a correlation coefficient (r) of 0.72, in contrast to the results from a linear regression model (r < 0.28). Analysis of historical pond occurrence to the present showed that ponds with larger size and a long perimeter were less likely to disappear. Smaller (< 0.1 ha) and more curvilinear ponds had a more drastic rate of disappearance. Based on this finding, a logistic regression was constructed to predict pond-loss likelihood in the future and to help identify ponds that should be protected. Overlaying results from ANN and form logistic regression enabled the creation of pond-diversity maps for these simulated scenarios of development intensities with respective to pond-loss trends and the corresponding dynamics of bird diversity.