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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
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)
U.S. Partner:  Matthew Johnson (Humboldt State University)
Project Dates: May 2012 - May 2015

Project Overview

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.

  Morocco Partnership Photo A

  Morocco Partnership Photo B     Morocco Partnership Photo C 
The project team collects data in the field (Photo courtesy Dr. Njoroge)Inception workshop participants in a group photo (Photo courtesy Dr. Njoroge). Members of the local Mukurweini Environmental Volunteers (MEVO) youth group conduct point counts for the project (Photo courtesy Dr. Njoroge).
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 U.S. 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 

The research team continued their research activities during the third quarter of 2014. The team’s MSc student has been working on the second draft which will include final results.  The preliminary results indicate that a total of 2621 individual birds from 116 species were recorded during the six month period of data collection. Of this number, 7 were Palearctic Migrants which included Wood Sandpiper, Eurasian Bee-eater, Sand Martin, Barn Swallow, Blackcap, Yellow Wagtail and a Tree pipit). Nine Afro-tropical Migrants were also recorded, including African Open-billed Stork, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Violet-backed Starling, etc. Of these, the Hindes Babbler Turtoides hindei is the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Among other findings, data indicates that there are significantly more species recorded during the wet seasons as compared to the dry season. Vegetation data indicated that most farmers use their farms to grow food crops and they have more trees with a height of more than 8 meters as Shown in figure 3 and 4 respectively.  

Outreach activities have been ongoing as well. October 10, 2014 the team organized a workshop entitled “Ecosystem services for rural livelihoods” to present research results. The workshop drew members of Mukurweini Environmental Youth Group (MEVO), as well as members of Wildlife clubs of Kenya (WCK). The local division Chief (Government administrator) attended as well. During the workshop the volunteers proposed several activities that could be undertaken by the group to help promote and disseminate the project results, such as commercial trees' program, school outreach program and bee-keeping program, conservation awareness tournaments. Mukurweini Biodiversity and Culture marketing through Nyeri County Office/Mukurweini Biodiversity and Culture Workshop were discussed as well.