Rosa Bevan, our Landscape connectivity research intern, has been analysing our terrestrial biodiversity during her 6 months working for TIDE.
Over this time, Rosa Bevan has been working with the terrestrial team at TIDE to further develop our biodiversity monitoring program across TIDEs protected lands. This is in the hope that the health of the terrestrial ecosystems under our protection is being well maintained, contributing to the water quality of the freshwater and marine ecosystems within the Maya Mountain Marine Corridor as well as supporting a number of threatened species, such as the Yellow-headed parrot and the Yucatan Black Howler Monkey.
Her first challenge was to analyse data collected by the rangers since 2008 that would inform about the bird and mammal species found within the protected lands. To do this, she had to clean up certain errors in the data and then find ways to avoid such complications occurring in the future. She compiled a set of training materials including a monitoring manual as well as teaching the rangers to enter data into the datasheets digitally to help increase their involvement in the analysis component of TIDE’s research.
Using a combination of point counts and line transect sampling, the rangers now only record the presence of ‘target’ birds and mammals. These target species can serve as indicators of the status of ecosystems; for example if an area is over-hunted or healthy. One target animal is the Jaguar as they need large areas of connected forest and an abundant prey source to exist, so evidence of their presence can indicate a healthy ecosystem.
The results of Rosa’s analysis showed there was an increase seen in the number of bird species recorded throughout PCNP and TIDE Private Protected Lands (TPPL) between 2008 and 2012. Amongst some of the findings, the broadleaf forest in PCNP appeared to be to be the most species rich area and had high levels of migratory bird species. It was also found that there has been an increase in the number of sightings of critically endangered Yellow-headed Parrots in the PCNP pine-savannah. Although these results are exciting, the increase in the rangers ability to identify certain species over time is likely to have had a certain effect.
The mammal data showed an increase in both Jaguar and Tapir tracks as well as evidence of Black Howler Monkey troops throughout the areas being monitored. The Neotropical River Otter was also seen in both PCNP and TPPL, which is exciting as so little is known about this species.
For a better understanding of the biodiversity in TIDE’s protected areas, Rosa recommends the installation of camera traps, detailed habitat mapping and an in-depth study on certain focal species. She also advises that an annual bird count covering all species to complement the current monitoring data and give a broader understanding of the biodiversity in the protected areas. It is hoped that the introduction of SMART to tackle illegal hunting will also benefit the biodiversity monitoring program by enabling rangers to track notable wildlife observations during patrols.
Rosa feels that the importance of the connection between what happens on land as to what happens further downstream in the freshwater and marine ecosystems cannot be stressed enough. The biodiversity monitoring program is a way to keep track of the health of the protected areas, however she advises that this will not be enough; “Buffer zone management - working with surrounding communities to educate about sustainable farming practices and alternative livelihoods - will have the greatest positive effect on the health of our forests and fisheries, and will enable the local people to really feel the benefits of TIDE’s conservation efforts.”
We would like to thank Rosa for her hard work and contribution to TIDE and for the terrestrial rangers for putting these new data collection skills into action.