|Birds are losing their forests, especially in the tropics. The main reason that forests are cut down and converted to other land use is that agriculture or industrial tree crops provide more immediate income and labour opportunities than forest. Further, the number of people who look to agriculture to provide their income is increasing. With the loss of the forest, many species of plants and animals are under threat. However, some can adapt to the change and continue to thrive in the gardens that farmers make… So, not all the ‘forest functions’ are necessarily lost when forests are converted; much depends on how the land is managed subsequently.
Birds are a group of animals that are relatively well known and possible to identify in the wild. They play significant roles in the natural ecosystem and can also provide many benefits in the agro-ecosystems that replace natural forests. The species play different roles, so it is important to maintain many types. Many people who we interviewed in Lampung said that birds provide natural beauty and make them happy. Others also said that birds pollinate flowers and disperse seeds, improve soil fertility or generally contribute to sustainability. The benefit most commonly mentioned was that of pest control.
However, while we have no direct information on how bird populations have changed in the area, the community indicated that they have observed this occurring. In fact 79% of people interviewed said that bird populations have reduced, while 71% also said that the bird species present have changed.
It seems likely that the main reasons for this change are the loss of forest as habitat and the increase in trapping in the area. For many forest birds, the habitat that replaces the forest is not suitable as there is no food available, no place and material for making a nest, no place to hide, or no perches from which they can hunt. While local people are aware of this, they usually believe that the birds can find somewhere else to live. However, forest conversion occurs across Lampung, across Sumatra and across Indonesia -- so where will the birds go? Some of the bird species in these areas do not occur elsewhere on the world (they are ‘endemic’ to Sumatra), and if their forest habitat is lost on Sumatra, they will have nowhere to go: they will be extinct – lost forever. Meanwhile, some other types of birds benefit from the conversion, as they are well adapted to half-open or open habitat. These species will occur in greater numbers. However, to conservationists, this does not ‘compensate’ for the loss of forest birds, as the birds of half-open and open habitat tend to be already common and widespread.With this background, we want to illustrate what birds can be found in different types of habitat in the coffee landscapes of Lampung. We hope this can stimulate measures to better protect the forest birds, while still providing income opportunities for the farmers. Agroforestry, where coffee is grown under an upper canopy of fruit or timber trees is one of the choices. Some birds like it, as we will show on the following pages, but for some others, forest is really their only home.|