The Effects of Peat Swamp Forest Patches and Riparian Areas within Large Scale Oil Palm Plantations on Bird Species Richness

Main Article Content

Bettycopa Amit
Wauter Ralph Klok
Peter J. Van Der Meer
Nik Sasha Khatrina Khairuddin
Ivan Chiron Yaman
Kho Lip Khoon


It is well established that oil palm is one of the most efficient and productive oil crops. However, oil palm agriculture is also one of the threats to tropical biodiversity. This study aims to investigate how set-aside areas in an oil palm plantation affect bird biodiversity. The research area includes two set-asides areas: peat swamp forest and riparian reserves and two oil palm sites adjacent to reserved forest sites. A total of 3,074 birds comprising 100 species from 34 families were observed in an oil palm plantation landscape on peatland located in the northern part of Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia. Results showed that efforts by set-asides forest areas in large scale of oil palm dominated landscapes supported distinct bird species richness. High percentage of the canopies and shrub covers had a positive effect on bird species richness at area between oil palm and peat swamp forest. Herbaceous cover with height less than 1 m influenced the abundance of birds in the plantation closed to the peat swamp forest. The set-aside areas in oil palm plantations are essential in supporting bird’s refuges and should be part of oil palm landscape management to improve biodiversity conservation. Thus, provided the forest set-aside areas are large enough and risks to biodiversity and habitat are successfully managed, oil palm can play an important role in biodiversity conservation.

Article Details

How to Cite
Bettycopa Amit, Wauter Ralph Klok, Peter J. Van Der Meer, Nik Sasha Khatrina Khairuddin, Ivan Chiron Yaman, & Kho Lip Khoon. (2023). The Effects of Peat Swamp Forest Patches and Riparian Areas within Large Scale Oil Palm Plantations on Bird Species Richness. Tropical Life Sciences Research, 34(2), 131–160.
Original Article


Alexandrino E, Buechley E, Piratelli A, Ferraz, K M P M B, Moral R D A, Sekercioglu C H, Silva W and Couto H. (2016). Bird sensitivity to disturbance as an indicator of forest patch conditions: An issue in environmental assessments. Ecological Indicators 55: 369–381.

Amit B, Tuen A A and Kho L K. (2021). Bird species richness, abundance and their feeding guild across oil palms development through mist-netting method in Betong, Sarawak. Journal of Palm Oil Research 33(4): 617–628. jopr.2021.0017

Amit B, Tuen A A, Harun M H, Haro, K and Kamarudin N. (2015). The diet of Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier) in oil palm agroecosystems. Journal of Oil Palm Research 27(4): 4117–4424.

Andersson M, Wallander J and Isaksson D. (2009). Predator perches: A visual search perspective. Functional Ecology 23(2): 373–379. 2435.2008.01512.x

Aratrakorn S, Thunhikorn S and Donald P F. (2006). Changes in bird communities following conversion of lowland forest to oil palm and rubber plantations in southern Thailand. Bird Conservation International 16: 71–82. S0959270906000062

Ashton-Butt A, Aryawan A A K, Hood A S C, Naim M, Purnomo D, Suhard and Snaddon J L. (2018). Understory vegetation in oil palm plantation benefits soil biodiversity and decomposition rates. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change 1: 10. https://

Atiqah N, Yahya M S, Aisyah S, Ashton-Butt A and Azhar B. (2019). Birds associated with different tree species and structures in oil palm agroforestry landscapes in Malaysia. Emu - Austral Ornithology 119: 397-401. 197.2019.1621680

Azhar B, Lindenmayer D B, Fischer J, Manning A, Mcelhinny C and Zakria M. (2013). The influence of agricultural system, stand structural, complexity and landscape context on foraging birds in oil palm landscapes. IBIS: International Journal of Avian Science 155(2): 297–312.

Azhar B, Lindenmayer D B, Wood J, Fischer J, Manning A, Mcelhinny C and Zakaria M. (2011). The conservation value of oil palm plantation estates, smallholdings and logged peat swamp forest for birds. Forest Ecology and Management 262(12): 2306–2315.

Azhar B, Puan C L, Zakaria M, Hassan N and Arif M. (2014). Effects of monoculture and polyculture practices in oil palm smallholdings on tropical farmland birds. Applied Ecology 15(4): 336–346.

Beskardes V, Keten A, Kumbasli M, Pekin B, Yilmaz E, Makineci E and Zengin H. (2018). Bird composition and diversity in oak stands under variable coppice management in Northwestern Turkey. Forest-Biogeoscience and Forestry 11(1): 58–63. https://

Buckland S T, Anderson D R, Burnham K P and Laake J L. (2001). Introduction to distance sampling: Estimating abundance of biological populations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 41–49. Cai T, Cibois A, Alström P, Moyle R G, Kennedy J D, Shao S, Zhang R, et al. (2019). Near-complete phylogeny and taxonomic revision of the world’s babblers (Aves: Passeriformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 130: 346-356. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.ympev.2018.10.010

Chennon D R and Susanto A. (2006). Ecological observations on the diurnal birds in Indonesian oil palm plantations. Journal of Oil Palm Research (Special issue): 122–143.

Clapham, W B Jr. (1973). Natural ecosystems. New York: MacMillan. (Accessed on 7 July 2021).

Dislich C, Keyel A C, Salecker J, Kisel Y, Meyer K M, Auliya M, Andrew D B, Corre M D, Darras K, Faust H, et al. (2017). A review of the ecosystem functions in oil palm plantations, using forests as a referene system. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 92(3): 1539–1569. brv.12295

Drescher J, Rembold K, Allen K, Beckschafer P, Buchori D, Clough Y. (2016). Ecological and socio-economic functions across tropical land use system after rainforest conversion. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 231: 1–7.

Emmerson M C, Morales M B, Onate J J, Batary P, Berendse F, Liira J, Aavik T, Guerrero I, Bommarco R’ Eggers S, Part T, Tscharntke T, Weisser W, Clement L and Bengtsson J. (2016). How agriculture intensification affects biodiversity and ecosystems services. Advances in Ecological Research 55: 43–97. https://doi. org/10.1016/bs.aecr.2016.08.005

Foster W A, Snaddon J L, Turner E C, Fayle T M, Cockerill T D, Ellwood M D F, Broad G R, Chung A Y C, Eggleton P, Khen C V and Yusah K M. (2011). Establishing the evidence base for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function in the oil palm landscapes of South East Asia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 366(1582).

Gaither J C. (1994). Undestorey avifauna of Bornean peat swamp forest: Is it depauperate? Wilson Bulletin 106(2): 381–390.

Ghazali A, Asmah S, Syafiq M, Yahya M S, Aziz N, Tan L P, Norhisham A R, Puan C L, Turner E C and Azhar B. (2016). Effects of monoculture and polyculture farming in oil palm smallholdings on terrestrial arthropod diversity. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 19: Article 2.

Guillaume T, Kotowska M M, Hertel D, Knohl A, Krashevska V, Murtilaksono K, Scheu S and Kuzyakov Y. (2018). Carbon costs and benefits of Indonesian rainforest conversion to plantations. Nature Communications 9: 2388.

Hawa A, Azhar B, Top M M and Zubaid A. (2016). Depauperate avifauna in tropical peat swamp forests following logging and conversion to oil palm agriculture from mist-netting data. Wetlands 36(5): 899–908. 3

Jambari A, Azhar B, Ibrahim N L, Jamian S, Hussin A, Puan C L, Noor H M, Yusof E and Zakaria M. (2012). Avian biodiversity and conservation in Malaysian oil palm production areas. Journal of Oil Palm Research 24: 1277–1296.

JASP Team (2022). JASP (Version 0.16.3) [Computer software]. how-do-i-cite-jasp/

Koh L P. (2008) Birds defend oil palms from herbivorous insects. Ecological Application 18(4): 821–825.

Koh L P, Levang P and Ghazoul J. (2009). Designer landscapes for sustainable biofuels. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24: 431–438. tree.2009.03.012

Lindenmayer D B and Fischer J. (2013). Habitat fragmentation and landscape change: An ecological and conservation synthesis. Island Press.

Lucey J M, Tawatao N, Senior M J M, Chey V K, Benedick K C, Hamer K C, Woodcock P, Newton R J, Bottrel S H and Hill J K. (2014). Tropical forest fragments contribute to oil species richness in adjacent oil palm plantations. Biological Conservation 169: 268–276.

Maina G G. (2002). Effects of forest fragmentation on bird communities in Kakamega forest, Kenya. PhD dissertation. Graduate College of the University of IIlinois, Chicago.

Mansor M S, Rozali F Z, Abdullah N A, Nor S M and Ramli R. (2019). How important is aerial leaf litter for insectivorous birds foraging in a Malaysian tropical forest? Global Ecology and Conservation 20: e00722. e00722

Mansor M S and Ramli R. (2017). Foraging niche segregation in Malaysian babblers (Family: Timaliidae). PLOS ONE 12(3): e0172836. pone.0172836

Mansor M S and Sah S A M. (2012). The influence of habitat structure on bird species composition in Lowland Malaysian Rain Forests. Tropical Life Science Research 23(1): 1–14.

Mariau D. (2001). The fauna of oil palm and coconut: Insect and mite pests and their natural enemies. France: Montpellier.

Meijaard E, Gracia-Ulloa, J, Sheil D, Wich S S, Carlson K M, Juffe-Bignoli, D and Brooks T M. (2018). Oil palm and biodiversity: A situation analysis by the IUCN Oil Palm Task Force. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. .2018.11.en

Meijide A, Badu C S, Moyano F, Tiralla N, Gunawan D, Kho H L. (2018). Impact of forest conversion to oil palm and rubber plantations on microclimate and the role of the 2015 ENSO event. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 252: 208–219. https://doi. org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2018.01.013

Miller-Rushing A J, Gallinat A S and Primack R B. (2019). Creative citizen science illuminates complex ecological responses to climate change. PNAS 116(3): 720- 722.

Mitchell S L, Edwards D P, Bernard H, Coomes D, Jucker T, Davies Z D and Strubieg M J. (2018). Riparian reserves help protect forest bird communities in oil palm dominated landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology 55(6): 2744–2755. https://doi. org/10.1111/1365-2664.13233

Mohd-Azlan J, Kaicheen, S S, Lok L and Lawes M J. (2019a). The role of forest fragment in small conservation in an oil palm plantation in Northern Sarawak, Borneo. Journal of Oil Palm Research 31: 422–436.

Mohd-Azlan J, Fang V A M, Kaicheen S S, Lok L and Lawes M J. (2019b). The diversity of understorey birds in forest fragments and oil palm plantation, Sarawak, Borneo. Journal of Oil Palm Research 31: 437–447.

Moradi H V and Mohamed Z (2010). Responses of babblers (Timaliidae) to the forest edge-interior gradient in an isolated tropical rainforest in Peninsular Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Forest Science 22(1): 36–48.

MSPO (2021). Malaysia palm oil certification scheme. (Accessed on 23 June 2021).

Myers S. (2009). A field guide to the birds of Borneo. Australia: New Holland Publishers Ltd.

Ngando-Ebongue G F, Ajambang, W N, Koona P and Firman B I. (2012). In: S Gupta (ed.). Oil palm. Technologies innovations in major world oil crops. Volume 1. London: Springer. 165–200.

Parveez G K A, Hishamuddin E, Loh S K, Ong-Abdullah M, Salleh K M, Bidin M N I Z, Sundram S, Hasan Z A A and Idris Z. (2020). Oil palm economic performance in Malaysia and R&D progress in 2019. Journal of Oil Palm Research 33(2): 1–32.

Peh K S H, Sodhi N S, de Jong J, Sekercioglu C H, Yap C A M and Lim S L H. (2006). Conservation value of degraded habitats for forest birds in southern Peninsular Malaysia. Diversity and Distributions 12(5): 572–581. j.1366-9516.2006.00257.x

Phalan B, Onial M, Balmford A and Green R E. (2011). Reconciling food production and biodiversity conservation: Land sharing and land sparing compared. Science 333: 1289–1291.

Posa M R C. (2011). Peat swamp forest avifauna od Central Kalimantan, Indonesia: Effects of habitat loss and degradation Biological Conservation 144: 2548–2556.

Razak S A, Saadun N, Azhar B and Lindenmayer D B. (2020). Smallholdings with high oil palm yield also support high bird species richness and diverse feeding guilds. Environment Research Letter 15(9): 094031. aba2a5

Rajihan S N, Salim S, Nobilly F and Azhar B. (2017). Logged peat swamp forest supports greater macrofungal biodiversity than large-scale oil palm plantations and smallholdings. Comparison of macrofungal diversity between peat swamp forest and oil palm plantation in Peninsular Malaysia. Ecology and Evolution 7(18): 7187–7200.

Rodwell J S. (2006). National vegetation classification: Users’ handbook. Peterborough: Pelagic Publishing, 66.

Sammalisto L. (1957). The effect of the woodland-open peatland edge on some peatland birds in South Finland. Ornis Fennica 34: 81–89.

Scriven S A, Carlson K M, Jenny A, Hodgson J A, McClean, J C, Heilmayr R, Lucey J M and Hill J K. (2019). Testing the benefits of conservation set-asides for improve habitat connectivity in tropical agricultural landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology 59(2): 636–638.

Stone M J, Catterall C P and Stork C N. (2018). Edge effects and beta diversity in ground and canopy beetle communities of fragmented subtropical forest. PLoS ONE 13(3): e0193369.

Syafiq M, Atiqah A R N, Ghazali A, Asmah S, Yahya M S, Aziz, Puan C L and Azhar B. (2016). Responses of tropical fruit bats to monoculture and polyculture farming in oil palm smallholdings. Acta Oecologia 74: 11–18. actao.2016.06.005

Tamaris D P, Lopez H F and Romero N. (2017). Effecto de la estructura del cultivo de palma de aceite Elaeis guineensis (Arecacceae) sobre la diversidad de aves en un paisaje de la Orinoquia Colombiana. Revista de Biologia Tropical 65(4): 1569.

Tscharntke T, Klein A M, Kruess A, Steffan-Dewenter I and Thies C. (2005). Landscape perspective on agricultural intensification and biodiversity-ecosystem services management. Ecology Letters 8: 857–874. 0248.2005.00782.x

Turner E C and Foster W A. (2006). Assessing the influence of bird’s nest ferns (Asplenium spp.) on the local microclimate across a range of habitat disturbances in Sabah, Malaysia. Selbyana 27: 195–200.

_______. (2009). The impact of forest conversion to oil palm on antropod abundance and biomass in Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25: 23–30. https://doi. org/10.1017/S0266467408005658

Yudea C and Santosa Y. (2019). How does oil palm plantation impact bird diversity? A case study from PKWE Estate, West Kalimantan. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 336.

Yue S, Brodie J F, Zipkin E F and Bernard H. (2015). Oil palm plantations fail to support mammal diversity. 25(8): 2285-2292.

Yule C M. (2010). Loss of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in Indo-Malayan peat swamp forests. Biodiversity and Conservation 19: 393–409. https://doi. org/10.1007/s10531-008-9510-5

World Economic Forum. (2018). Innovation with a purpose: The role of technology innovation in accelerating food systems transformation. innovation-with-a-purpose-the-role-of-technology-innovation-in-accelerating-food-systems-transformation (Accessed on 7 July 2021).

Zakaria M, Puan, C L and Yusuf M E. (2005). Comparison of species composition in three forest types: Towards using bird as indicator of forest ecosystem health. Journal of Biological Sciences 5(6): 734–737.

Zakaria M, Rajpar M N and Sajap A. (2009). Species diversity and feeding guilds of birds in Paya Indah Wetland Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia. International Journal of Zoological Research 5(3): 86–100.