Nav: Home

Protected areas only work if they include what threatened species need

September 09, 2015

The Tucuman Parrot (Amazona tucumana) is found only on the eastern slopes of the Andes in Bolivia and Argentina, in a region known as the Southern Yungas forest. In the 1980s, its population suffered a severe decline due to capture for the pet trade, and it has never recovered. Conservation efforts have focused on protecting swaths of Southern Yungas habitat, but new research published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications highlights the ways in which this strategy may fall short. Anna Pidgeon of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her colleagues found that only 19% of the Southern Yungas is actually suitable breeding habitat for these parrots, and only 15% of breeding habitat is under any form of protection. Not all Southern Yungas forest is the same, and protecting habitat can only work if it includes what Tucuman Parrots actually need to successfully reproduce: tree cavities to nest in, and plenty of mature pino blanco (Podocarpus parlatorei), the evergreen trees whose seeds are the primary food for the nestlings.

Pidgeon and her colleagues mapped the extent of both non-breeding habitat and potential breeding habitat with pino blanco trees using data on climate and land cover. To confirm the accuracy of their maps, they conducted surveys for Tucuman Parrot along roads in the nonbreeding season and documented the locations of nests during the breeding season. Predicted suitability of habitat matched up closely with where they actually found parrots. Only about half of nonbreeding habitat was also suitable for breeding, with most breeding habitat found in Argentina.

"Despite the high proportion of Southern Yungas forest that is protected from conversion to other land cover types, our work shows that such forest protection by itself is not enough to ensure the persistence of the Tucuman Parrot," says Pidgeon. "The ecology of the parrot--what species or structures within the forest it depends on--must be taken into account, and then those elements must be adequately protected to ensure they will be available in the future. In the case of the Tucuman Parrot, the critical elements that need more conservation attention are trees with cavities, and regeneration and availability of the pino blanco, a tree that produces seeds critical to nestling survival." The researchers also found that breeding areas in Bolivia still face significant threats from poaching.

One of the most difficult aspects of the project was finding active Tucuman Parrot nests, and the research team relied on local people for help with this challenge. One, Benjamín, was particularly adept not only at finding parrot nests but at doing parrot impressions. "Every evening when the team was reunited at the camp, Benjamin would spend hours telling us every possible detail about what each of the parrots he saw did while he was searching," according to Argentine co-authors Luis Rivera and Natalia Politi. "He would imitate the parrots' sounds, imagining what they were saying, and explaining their behavior. His great observational skill not only kept us entertained, but also revealed many cues for finding cryptic nests."

"Parrots of Central and South America include many colorful species, but are also among the most threatened groups of birds due to the effects of habitat destruction and harvest of the pet trade. They are also difficult to study because they nest in tree cavities high in the forest canopy, are difficult to capture and mark, and travel long distances daily to find food. As a result, the habitat requirements for conserving most species are poorly unknown," adds Steve Beissinger, a parrot conservation expert from UC Berkeley. "I think this study nicely illustrates how to connect habitat conservation goals to specific life history needs of rare species."
"Will representation targets based on area protect critical resources for the conservation of the Tucuman Parrot?" will be available September 9, 2015 at

About the journal: The Condor: Ornithological Applications is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology. It began in 1899 as the journal of the Cooper Ornithological Club, a group of ornithologists in California that became the Cooper Ornithological Society.

Central Ornithology Publication Office

Related Breeding Articles:

New software supports decision-making for breeding
Researchers at the University of Göttingen have developed an innovative software program for the simulation of breeding programmes.
'We urgently need a renewed public debate about new breeding technologies'
Plant breeding has considerably increased agricultural yields in recent decades and made a major contribution to combating global hunger and poverty.
Breeding a hardier, more nutritious wheat
High-fructan wheat provides benefits for growers and consumers.
AI for plant breeding in an ever-changing climate
Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Dan Jacobson is currently working on numerous projects that form an integrated roadmap for the future of AI in plant breeding and bioenergy.
Rare 'itinerant breeding' behavior revealed in California bird
Only two bird species have ever been shown to undertake what scientists call 'itinerant breeding': nesting in one area, migrating to another region, and nesting again there within the same year, to take advantage of shifting food resources.
Advanced breeding paves the way for disease-resistant beans
ETH researchers are involved in the development and implementation of a method to efficiently breed for disease-resistant beans in different regions of the world.
How puffins catch food outside the breeding season
Little is known about how seabirds catch their food outside the breeding season but using modern technology, researchers at the University of Liverpool and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have gained new insight into their feeding habits.
New plant breeding technologies for food security
An international team, including researchers from the University of Göttingen, argues in a perspective article recently published in ''Science'' that new plant breeding technologies can contribute significantly to food security and sustainable development.
Breeding a better strawberry
An international team of scientists led by the University of California, Davis, and Michigan State University have sequenced and analyzed the genome of the cultivated strawberry, which will provide a genetic roadmap to help more precisely select desired traits.
Climate change affects breeding birds
The breeding seasons of wild house finches are shifting due to climate change, a Washington State University researcher has found.
More Breeding News and Breeding Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.