Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)
Natural pest and weed supression functions by birds as incentives to conserve a globally threatened bird species and enhance livelihoods in an agricultural landscape
PI: Peter Njoroge (National Museums of Kenya)
US Partner: Matthew Johnson (Humboldt State University)
Project Dates: May 2012 - April 2015
Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes is now considered a part of the solution to problems in the food production sector. However, conservationists acknowledge that the goals of conservation can never be adequately achieved by means of nature reserves alone, because most biodiversity hotspots lie outside these reserves. New technical research that promotes the mutual relationship between agriculture and conservation is therefore needed. By investigating the interactions between agricultural systems and functional bird groups, this project works towards achieving this goal. It aims to promote land use systems that are managed both to produce food profitably and to protect critical ecosystem services.
Located in the central Kenya highlands, Mukurweini is a globally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA) within an intensively cultivated landscape. Using birds, the influence of landscape composition on occurrence of natural pest enemies and post-dispersal weed predators will be investigated in Mukurweini. This study will identify and promote the best landscape composition features that are suitable for enhancing the occurrence of functionally important birds (e.g., pest- and weed seed-eating) and will suggest incentives for the conservation of natural habitat for birds. Dr. Johnson, the US collaborator on the project, will serve as the lead scientific coordinator for the exclosure experiments. He has extensive experience with bird exclosure experiments, including their design, deployment, data collection, analysis and interpretation. Apart from the clear benefits to the conservation of the globally threatened Hinde’s Babbler in the agricultural landscape, the anticipated outcomes of the project relate to food security in a rural setting and contribute to enhancing rural livelihoods. The researchers involved anticipate that the project will contribute positively to rural livelihoods by harnessing invaluable ecosystem services, including healthy soils, water conservation, and organic agriculture. In addition, by enhancing the growth of the Mukurweini Youth IBA site support group, the project will help boost the growth of bird watching tourism in Kenya.
Summary of Recent Activities
During two 14-day sessions during February and March 2013, the team conducted enclosure experiments to investigate the effect of bird foraging behavior within agricultural fields on arthropod pest occurrence and post-dispersal weed seed abundance. Problems securing land for experiments during the previous quarter were overcome when a local farmer finally agreed to lease a piece of his land to the team. Dr. Njoroge expects that Edwin Gichohi, an MSc student previously studying the topic of landscape composition features, will be joining the team full-time for field work in June 2013 after his studies end at the University of Nairobi. The team plans to collect a third set of point count data within the three 5km x 5km study blocks set up during their reconnaissance survey. Further equipment purchases are planned, including binoculars and another set of cages for enclosure experiments.
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