This study has focussed on the impact of forest disturbance and forest type on community patterns in the bird, mammal, reptile and ant faunas of Timor-Leste, with particular focus on the Lautem district of the far east of the island, and on patterns in the distributional ecology of birds. Island area was the overwhelming factor underlying bird species richness in a biogeographic analysis of 51 Lesser Sunda islands, highlighting the importance of habitat area; but the avifauna had ‘relaxed’ since Pleistocene-era sea levels. Bird species similarity decayed monotonically (particularly for specialised forest birds, endemics, globally threatened and pigeons) with distance indicating the importance of isolation. The responses of bird groups and individual bird species to habitat type and forest cover was examined for West and East Timor, and for the well-forested Lautem district in East Timor. The abundance of forest birds, pigeons and frugivorous birds was 20-45% greater in East Timor compared to the West; forest cover was also twice as extensive in the East. There was a high similarity of bird species composition of ‘wooded’ habitats in the Lautem district analysis. Bird abundance increased where forest cover within 3 km was more extensive; for threatened and also restricted-range birds, abundance doubled when forest extent was >10 km2. The savanna woodland community was dominated by forest specialists and was most similar to the dry forest avifauna, but forest birds were shown to be only abundant in savanna when extensive primary tropical forest is available nearby. The ant fauna was species poor and dominated mostly by South East Asian forest ants with a small proportion of Australian taxa including several Iridomyrmex species previously considered as Australian endemics. The land mammal and reptile fauna has been greatly impacted by recent introductions. Further support for land mammal decline is documented, and native geckos may also have undergone decline.
|Date of Award||Sep 2010|
|Supervisor||Richard Noske (Supervisor) & John Woinarski (Supervisor)|