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Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius population trends and ecology: insights from South African citizen science data.

Hofmeyr SD, Symes CT, Underhill LG - PLoS ONE (2014)

Bottom Line: This implies that in the Fynbos biome, at least, Secretarybirds have adapted to transformed environments to some degree.However, in the rest of the country it is likely that habitat loss, largely through widespread bush encroachment but also through agriculture, afforestation, and urbanisation, is a major threat to the species.The methods developed here represent a new approach to analysing data from long-term citizen science projects, which can provide important insights into a species' conservation status and ecology.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa; Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.

ABSTRACT
Data from two long-term citizen science projects were used to examine the status and ecology of a Red List species, the Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius (Vulnerable), in South Africa. The first phase of the Southern African Bird Atlas Project operated from 1987 until 1992, and the second phase began in 2007. The Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) project began in 1993 and by 1998 had expanded to cover much of the south-eastern half of the country. Data submitted up until April 2013 were used. A new method of comparing reporting rates between atlas projects was developed. Changing reporting rates are likely to reflect changes in abundance; in this instance the data suggest that the Secretarybird population decreased across much of South Africa between the two atlas projects, with a widespread important decrease in the Kruger National Park. Habitat data from the CAR project were analysed to gain insight into the ecology of the species. Secretarybirds tended to avoid transformed habitats across much of the area covered by the CAR project. In the winter rainfall region of the Western Cape, which is characterised by heavily transformed fynbos vegetation, at least 50% of Secretarybirds recorded were in transformed environments. This implies that in the Fynbos biome, at least, Secretarybirds have adapted to transformed environments to some degree. However, in the rest of the country it is likely that habitat loss, largely through widespread bush encroachment but also through agriculture, afforestation, and urbanisation, is a major threat to the species. The methods developed here represent a new approach to analysing data from long-term citizen science projects, which can provide important insights into a species' conservation status and ecology.

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Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) project survey routes and precincts.Routes are indicated by thick grey lines, and precincts are outlined in black. CAR routes covered c. 19 000“KZN”, KwaZulu-Natal. Precincts were defined on the basis of ecological characteristics by Young et al. [13] (within precincts the natural vegetation type and climatic conditions are more similar than between precincts) and precinct names follow Young et al. [13].
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pone-0096772-g002: Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) project survey routes and precincts.Routes are indicated by thick grey lines, and precincts are outlined in black. CAR routes covered c. 19 000“KZN”, KwaZulu-Natal. Precincts were defined on the basis of ecological characteristics by Young et al. [13] (within precincts the natural vegetation type and climatic conditions are more similar than between precincts) and precinct names follow Young et al. [13].

Mentions: The fieldwork for the CAR project consisted of six-monthly (biannual) counts of large terrestrial birds along roads through agricultural areas across approximately half of South Africa [13]. Participants drove slowly (not faster than 50 km h–1) along fixed routes and stopped every 2 km to get out of the vehicle and scan the area with binoculars, counting every large terrestrial bird they saw. They also stopped, scanned for, and counted birds if they saw any of the target species between the 2 km stops. The project was initiated in 1993 in the Overberg region of the Western Cape and expanded to cover much of the south-eastern half of South Africa over the following eight years (Figure 2) [3], [13]. Secretarybirds were included in the list of species surveyed from 1995 onwards. Data from surveys up until summer 2013 have been included in these analyses.


Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius population trends and ecology: insights from South African citizen science data.

Hofmeyr SD, Symes CT, Underhill LG - PLoS ONE (2014)

Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) project survey routes and precincts.Routes are indicated by thick grey lines, and precincts are outlined in black. CAR routes covered c. 19 000“KZN”, KwaZulu-Natal. Precincts were defined on the basis of ecological characteristics by Young et al. [13] (within precincts the natural vegetation type and climatic conditions are more similar than between precincts) and precinct names follow Young et al. [13].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4016007&req=5

pone-0096772-g002: Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) project survey routes and precincts.Routes are indicated by thick grey lines, and precincts are outlined in black. CAR routes covered c. 19 000“KZN”, KwaZulu-Natal. Precincts were defined on the basis of ecological characteristics by Young et al. [13] (within precincts the natural vegetation type and climatic conditions are more similar than between precincts) and precinct names follow Young et al. [13].
Mentions: The fieldwork for the CAR project consisted of six-monthly (biannual) counts of large terrestrial birds along roads through agricultural areas across approximately half of South Africa [13]. Participants drove slowly (not faster than 50 km h–1) along fixed routes and stopped every 2 km to get out of the vehicle and scan the area with binoculars, counting every large terrestrial bird they saw. They also stopped, scanned for, and counted birds if they saw any of the target species between the 2 km stops. The project was initiated in 1993 in the Overberg region of the Western Cape and expanded to cover much of the south-eastern half of South Africa over the following eight years (Figure 2) [3], [13]. Secretarybirds were included in the list of species surveyed from 1995 onwards. Data from surveys up until summer 2013 have been included in these analyses.

Bottom Line: This implies that in the Fynbos biome, at least, Secretarybirds have adapted to transformed environments to some degree.However, in the rest of the country it is likely that habitat loss, largely through widespread bush encroachment but also through agriculture, afforestation, and urbanisation, is a major threat to the species.The methods developed here represent a new approach to analysing data from long-term citizen science projects, which can provide important insights into a species' conservation status and ecology.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa; Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.

ABSTRACT
Data from two long-term citizen science projects were used to examine the status and ecology of a Red List species, the Secretarybird Sagittarius serpentarius (Vulnerable), in South Africa. The first phase of the Southern African Bird Atlas Project operated from 1987 until 1992, and the second phase began in 2007. The Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) project began in 1993 and by 1998 had expanded to cover much of the south-eastern half of the country. Data submitted up until April 2013 were used. A new method of comparing reporting rates between atlas projects was developed. Changing reporting rates are likely to reflect changes in abundance; in this instance the data suggest that the Secretarybird population decreased across much of South Africa between the two atlas projects, with a widespread important decrease in the Kruger National Park. Habitat data from the CAR project were analysed to gain insight into the ecology of the species. Secretarybirds tended to avoid transformed habitats across much of the area covered by the CAR project. In the winter rainfall region of the Western Cape, which is characterised by heavily transformed fynbos vegetation, at least 50% of Secretarybirds recorded were in transformed environments. This implies that in the Fynbos biome, at least, Secretarybirds have adapted to transformed environments to some degree. However, in the rest of the country it is likely that habitat loss, largely through widespread bush encroachment but also through agriculture, afforestation, and urbanisation, is a major threat to the species. The methods developed here represent a new approach to analysing data from long-term citizen science projects, which can provide important insights into a species' conservation status and ecology.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus