Procesed data- Effects of wildfire on vegetation and understory avian communities in montane rainforests, north-eastern Tanzania
The Eastern Arc Mountain is a chain of forested mountains from Taita Hills in Kenya to north-eastern Tanzania down to Udzungwa National Park. It is part of the Eastern Afromontane global biodiversity hotspot with high biodiversity and remarkable concentrations of endemic species. Although fire is not considered among the major threats to these mountains, some of the forest blocks such as Ulugurus and West Usambaras have been seriously affected. However, there are very little data on how fires affect biodiversity in the areas. The current study to assess the effect of fire on understorey birds was conducted at Magamba Forest Nature Reserve, West Usambaras, between July 2015 and January 2016, five years post fire. Mist nets were used to survey understorery birds in burnt and unburnt forests. Nests were searched in both burnt and unburnt forests using time constrained method. Bird species composition between burnt and unburnt forests differed significantly with high diversity in burnt area. A considerable decline of forest interior bird specialists which was accompanied by amplified number of open area, forest edge and generalist species in burnt area was noted. Nests abundance between burnt and unburnt forests did not differ however diversity differed significantly and was high in burnt area. Nests of endemic and forest interior bird specialist such as Usambara Akalat and Spot Throat were not recorded in both burnt and unburnt areas. The observed change in vegetation structure composition caused by fires could partly explain the avian community differences among sites. The burnt areas are being invaded with an exotic invasive Australian plant species, Acacia melanoxylon, which will not only continue to change the habitat structure but also escalate the fire regimes. Further studies could investigate on the nest success rates in burnt and unburnt areas and the extent of spread and effects of invasive plant species to the biodiversity of this area. Meanwhile, plans for managing the invasive plant species, restoration and rehabilitation of the burnt areas are required.