Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is a tropical perennial plant that provides most of the vegetable oil traded internationally. Although native to Africa, oil palm is grown throughout the humid tropics, and the largest producers are now in Southeast Asia. In many regions of cultivation, oil palm has been identified as a leading cause of deforestation and biodiversity loss. In Sierra Leone, oil palm grows wild in secondary forest and fallow land, as well as in plantations; research into its impact on biodiversity is limited. The effects of natural (wild) and plantation oil palm on the avifauna of southeastern Sierra Leone was examined. Over a two-year period, point-count surveys of birds were conducted on six occasions during the wet and dry seasons. Four plots were established in each of the six land-use types: Primary Forest, secondary forest, farm-bush with few oil palms, farm-bush with many oil palms, small plantations and larger plantations. Results from the study suggest that small-scale oil palm plantations, even under traditional low-intensity management, have a reduced avifauna compared to farm-bush. The difference between secondary forest and farm-bush is small, suggesting that traditional management of oil palm as a “non-timber forest product” is less detrimental to biodiversity.
Key words: Natural oil palm plantations, birds, biodiversity/conservation, farm bush.
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