In This Issue
- Gurney's Pitta Rediscovered in Burma Lowland Forests
- Information Highway Hi-Lites
- Current Literature
Widespread loss of lowland Sundaic forests in Thailand, as the land is converted to oil palm and rubber plantations and other crops, has been the principal reason for the decline of Gurney's Pitta (Pitta gurneyi). Found only in Peninsular Thailand and in Burma's Tanintharyi Division, this endemic bird species was thought to be at the brink of extinction, with only 11 pairs known to occur in Thailand's dwindling lowland Sundaic forests. In Burma, only historical records of the species existed, and it was thought the species probably had already vanished.
In 2003, a team of Burmese and British ornithologists working with Birdlife International rediscovered Gurney's Pitta during a preliminary survey of Burma's Sundaic forests in the Tanintharyi Division. The onset of the rainy season and the lack of accurate maps of the distribution of remaining lowland forests, however, made a full-scale assessment of the remaining population impossible.
Following up on this work, Birdlife International joined forces with the Conservation GIS Lab at Smithsonian Institution's National Zoo to map remaining Gurney's Pitta habitat and repeat a survey. National Zoo researcher Peter Leimgruber and his graduate students had recently completed a three-year assessment of Burma's forest cover, based on comparisons of Landsat satellite imagery from the 1990s and 2000s. Their analyses revealed that Burma, a recognized biodiversity hotspot in Southeast Asia, has more remaining forest cover than all other countries in mainland Southeast Asia combined. These forests may not only harbor large populations of Gurney's Pitta, but may also be the last strongholds for many of the larger endangered mammal species of Asia, including tiger and elephant species. However, detailed maps of remaining Gurney's Pitta habitat were still missing.
Using the data from Birdlife's first preliminary survey in the Tanintharyi Division, Leimgruber and student Dan Kelly developed a GIS model to identify Burma's remaining lowland Sundaic forests and the associated Gurney's Pitta habitat. They combined their Landsat satellite data with a global elevation data set, developed during NASA's Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission.
They found large areas of lowland Sundaic forests remaining at the southern tip of Burma's Tanintharyi Division, covering 4,705 km2. Of this area, 3,496 km2 were suitable for supporting 5,152 to 8,586 pairs of Gurney's Pitta. Much of the remaining habitat, however, was threatened by plantation development, with losses in some areas being as high as 30 percent in 10 years. Many of the remaining habitat areas were restricted to small and fragmented patches of less than 1 km2.
In early 2004, Birdlife's team returned to the region with the Smithsonian maps, and found over 100 pairs of the endangered birds. While much of the habitat mapped by Leimgruber and his team is already being converted into oil palm plantations, two of the largest patches remain virtually untouched, one of which is adjacent to a proposed Burmese National Park. Birdlife has petitioned the Burmese government to establish the park quickly and to include within its bounds the newly recognized Gurney's Pitta populations and their habitat.
The Indonesian Nature Conservation Database project <http://users.bart.nl/~edcolijn/index.html> was created by Indonesian conservation enthusiast Ed Colijn with contributions from members of organizations like the World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Wildlife Conservation Society, Indo-Pacific Conservation Alliance, and many more. The site provides descriptions of various National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, Nature Reserves and Recreation Parks in Indonesia. It also contains checklists for mammal and bird species that occur in Indonesia offering information on scientific and common name, Indonesian distribution, status, and more. Checklists for reptiles, amphibians, and freshwater fish will be provided in the future as well. Additionally, the site provides links to related organizations and resources, and a list of site references.
-from The NSDL Scout Report for the Life Sciences
Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2004.
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