Biodiv Sci ›› 2013, Vol. 21 ›› Issue (6): 666-676.  DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1003.2013.11090

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Disturbance-driven changes to landscape patterns and responses of waterbirds at West Dongting Lake, China

Yunzhu Liu1, Linlu Shi1, Hairui Duo1, Boyong Peng2, Cai Lü1, Yi Zhu1, Guangchun Lei1,*()   

  1. 1 School of Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083
    2 West Dongting Lake Provincial Nature Reserve, Hanshou, Hunan 415923
  • Received:2013-04-09 Accepted:2013-07-05 Online:2013-11-20 Published:2013-12-02
  • Contact: Lei Guangchun


To understand human impact on a wetland ecosystem, we analyzed the land-use and land-cover change (LUCC) and also changes to landscape pattern between 1996 and 2013, at West Dongting Lake (WDL), China. For this purpose, we examined remote sensing data and conducted field studies to compare community structure and diversity of waterbirds in three typical habitats: restored wetland, fragmented natural wetland and poplar plantation. Our results showed that the area used for poplar plantation increased 9 times from 1996 to 2013, while the area occupied by reed marsh increased by 30.6%. In contrast, areas of natural wetland, open water, and wet meadow/mudflat, were reduced by 46.4%, 49.8%, and 39.8%, respectively. The WDL wetland ecosystem was significantly fragmented and degraded over the same period as shown by an increase in landscape fragmentation index from 1.239 in 1996 to 2.897 in 2013. Comparisons of populations, species and distribution of waterbirds among three habitats showed. (1) Restored wetland provided habitat for several wintering waterbirds allowing a broader population distribution, but at the same time a simpler community structure with lower biodiversity (H'=1.866). (2) Fragmented natural wetland provided habitat for diverse wintering birds, including rare and endangered black stork (Ciconia nigra) and Siberian crane (Grus leucogeranus), thus rising the Shannon-Wiener index (H'=2.118) for the bird community in this type of habitat, although waterbird population numbers remained low. (3) Poplar plantation was, in general, not suitable for waterbirds with only two individuals of one species observed in this habitat during the field survey period. In conclusion, landscape pattern change and habitat fragmentation reduced biodiversity at WDL with the planting of poplar trees being the key driver of wetland ecosystem degradation. For future management, forestation should be restricted while restoration of natural wetland should be a high priority.

Key words: West Dongting Lake, wetland, human disturbance, landscape pattern, habitat fragmentation, waterbird community