Servizio Comunitario di Informazione in materia di Ricerca e Sviluppo - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - BIRDGENOTEMP (Estimating population parameters in endangered afrotropical birds using temporal genetic samples)

This project set out to estimate population genetic parameters of bird populations living in the highly fragmented forests of the Taita Hills, Southeast Kenya, and use predictive analyses to translate the findings into an applied conservation angle. We set out to achieve this through studying the highly endangered and endemic Taita thrush Turdus helleri and common white-starred robin Pogonocichla stellata. We aimed to:
(i) estimate effective population size (Ne) and number of migrants (m) using genetic data collected at different periods;
(ii) compare the estimates of Ne with the total population size estimates (N);
(iii) predict the pattern of loss of genetic variation given the Ne estimates; and
(iv) translate these findings and predictions into recommendations for practical conservation action in these habitats.

Using traditional FST, we found that the thrush subpopulations were more genetically differentiated than the robin ones, indicating lesser effective dispersal over time. Our data also confirmed the critical status for the Taita thrush with a global population (N) of fewer than 1 000 birds, of which less than 200 constitute active breeders. Our data also predict drastic reductions in genetic variability (heterozygosity) in all populations in 5-10 years at the current Ne indicating the urgent need for implementing conservation actions. In particular, there is a need to improve habitat quality (to increase carrying capacities), replant indigenous trees within the landscape matrix to improve connectedness of subpopulations, and active management where possible to avert local extinction of any remnant subpopulations. The current numbers of migrants (approximately one individual per generation) seems not to be sufficient to forestall the declines in genetic variation associated with small numbers of breeding adults.

Reported by

Ecology Universiteitsplein 1
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