The mammalian communities in Coffee Plantations around a protected area in the Western Ghats, India.
Forest reserves are increasingly becoming isolated, embedded in a matrix of various kinds of human land-use. Coffee plantations form the dominant matrix around many forest reserves in the tropics. In such a situation, the species richness and abundance of animals in coffee plantations can be expected to be determined by their proximity to the forest reserve and characteristics of the local vegetation. We tested this hypothesis with data on mammals (excluding bats, murids and insectivores) collected from 15 coffee plantations around the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghats mountain ranges in India, between December 2005 and May 2006. We estimated mammal species richness and abundance from indirect evidence in belt transects and track plots, and from sightings during night surveys. We sampled the vegetation of the plantations from 36 plots of 5 m · 5 m, in each estate. Twenty-eight species of mammals were recorded from 15 plantations. The number of species recorded in individual estates ranged from 5 to 19, with an average of 11.8. Distance from the Sanctuary was the most important factor that negatively influenced species richness, and the abundance of many species. Local vegetation characteristics influenced only the abundance of some small species. Coffee plantations can be a buffer around forest reserves and improve connectivity between them. However, increasing conversion of native shade into silver oak and hunting are two issues that must be addressed if coffee plantations are to form high-quality matrix around forest reserves in the Western Ghats.