Protected areas provide African birds with stepping stones to survival

Jun 20, 2013

The protected area network in Tanzania is playing a vital role in the survival of savannah bird species as they move west in response to climate and environmental changes, according to new research led by the University of York.

Using data on savannah birds from the Tanzanian Bird Atlas project - which has documented Tanzanian bird distributions over recent decades - the researchers found that they are using protected areas as stepping stones as they move to areas further west where are getting longer, with movements of up to 300km noted.

Much debate has centred on the effectiveness of the current protected area network to protect biodiversity in the face of climate and environmental changes.

However, the new study, which is published in Ecology Letters, not only provides the first evidence of climate-driven shifts for an African bird community, but suggests that continued maintenance of existing protected areas – which include national parks and game reserves – remains an appropriate response to the challenge of climate and environmental changes.

Lead author Dr Colin Beale, from York's Department of Biology, said: "Although the protected area network was set up for mammals, our research shows it is assisting dry bush to respond to land degradation, caused by over-grazing, conversion to crops and the loss of trees, as well as climate change.

"We discovered that rather than declining in value as birds move in response to climate changes, protected areas in Tanzania are becoming increasingly valuable as land degradation exerts pressures elsewhere. Our research suggests that protected areas are buffering the against extinction due to and offer stepping stones for species that are altering their distribution in response to climate change."

The study, which also involved researchers from Queens University Belfast and and Statistics Scotland, compared data for 139 Tanzanian savannah , such as hornbills, francolins, the Rufous-tailed Weaver, Fischer's Sparrowlark and the Pangani Longclaw. Data from 1960 to 1989 was compared to data post 2000.

Unlike previous assessments of the efficiency of the protected area network in the face of , the new study is based on observed changes rather than modelling.

Neil Baker, from Tanzania Bird Atlas, said: "This study once again emphasises the value of the long term collection of reliable, meaningful data and the vital role of the citizen scientist. Indeed, with so few professionals in the Afrotropics this is the only way to collect this information. With the accuracy of satellite derived variables improving and with widespread use of hand held GPS units, georeferenced observations will allow even more accurate assessments of population movements in the near future."

Explore further: Study shows the factors influencing which conservation news get shared on social media

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Birds on the move

Sep 21, 2012

(Phys.org)—Over the past 60 years, areas that have a climate suitable for certain Australian bird species have shifted much faster than previously thought, and not exactly in the expected direction.

Recommended for you

World's wildlife critical to the economies of nations

8 hours ago

Wildlife is critical to the economies of nations. New Zealand's wildlife – whales, dolphins, red deer, thar, albatross, kiwi, tuatara, fish and kauri – attract tourists. And the tourists who come to see ...

Modern methods lead the way toward a rhino rebound

9 hours ago

Cutting-edge technology and techniques have become essential tools in the effort to save rhinos. Micro chips, translocation and consumer campaigns are helping shift the balance against record-setting poaching ...

The water trading strategies of plants

9 hours ago

Plants trade water for carbon – every litre of water that they extract from the soil allows them to take up a few more grams of carbon from the atmosphere to use in growth. A new global study, led by Australian ...

Chinese ivory traders find haven online

11 hours ago

China's booming e-commerce websites have carried thousands of advertisements for illegal wildlife products including ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone, a wildlife trade monitoring network said on Tuesday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.