Reduced dependence of crested ibis on winter-flooded rice fields

implications for their conservation

Yiwen Sun, Andrew K. Skidmore, Tiejun Wang, Hein A. M. J. van Gils, Qi Wang, Baoping Qing, Changqing Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

The Crested Ibis Nipponia nippon was once thought to be extinct in the wild until seven birds were discovered in a remote mountain village in China in 1981. Studies suggested that winter-flooded rice fields play an essential role in nest site selection by the Crested Ibis and hence in their survival. Considerable efforts were therefore made to conserve the winterflooded rice fields, but these have caused conflicts between the agricultural and conservation communities. The population and geographical range of the wild Crested Ibis has expanded greatly since 1981, but there is no spatial information on the winter-flooded rice fields, nor on the current association of nest sites and winter-flooded rice fields. We mapped winterflooded rice fields across the entire current range of Crested Ibis using innovative remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS) techniques. The spatial relationships between the nest site clusters and winter-flooded rice fields were quantified using Ward's hierarchical clustering method and Ripley's K-function. We show that both have significantly clumped distribution patterns and that they are positively associated. However, the dependence of Crested Ibis on the winter-flooded rice fields varied significantly among the nest site clusters and has decreased over the years, indicating the absence of winter-flooded rice fields is not constraining their recovery and population expansion. We therefore recommend that efforts should be made to protect the existing winter-flooded rice fields and to restore the functionality of natural and semi-natural wetlands, to encourage both in-situ conservation and the re-introduction of the Crested Ibis. In addition, we recommend that caution should be exercised when interpreting the habitat requirements of species with a narrow distribution, particularly when that interpretation is based only on their current habitat.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere98690
Number of pages9
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume9
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes

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Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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