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Beyond prime areas of nature protection in East Africa: conservation ecology of a narrowly distributed Kenyan endemic bird species


Conflicts between human needs and nature conservation are exceptionally pronounced along rivers in tropical Kenya, where riparian ecosystems create important retreats for many endangered species, but also provide important ecosystem services for the local human population. This situation has led to a landscape mosaic consisting of dense thickets and agricultural plots. We assessed the occurrence of the Kenyan endemic riparian bird species Hindes´ Babbler Turdoides hindei along three rivers in south-east Kenya. We analysed the landscape coverage within habitat circles of 220 m radius, which are occupied and unoccupied (the latter randomly selected along the rivers) by our targeted bird species. Based on these data we calculated habitat preferences and population structure of T. hindei. Our data reveal that its occurrence probability increased with coverage of thickets. Furthermore, geographic distances among local populations of T. hindei decreased with thicket coverage and vice versa. These data reveal the relevance of thicket coverage as a key factor for the occurrence of T. hindei, influencing its population structure. However, most of the thicket patches mapped along the three rivers are small and geographically isolated from each other. Further deforestation might lead to additional reduction of the population size and abundance of T. hindei, and may ultimately lead to local extinction of this, and other endangered species adapted on riparian thickets. This example underlines the need to extend nature conservation to areas being densely populated by humans—beyond prime areas of nature conservation in East Africa.

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We thank DAAD-Promos Studienreise and the Technical University Munich for financial support to conduct fieldwork, and Martin Husemann (Halle, Germany) for fruitful comments on a draft version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jan Christian Habel.

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Communicated by Dirk Sven Schmeller.

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Habel, J.C., Teucher, M., Pschonny, S. et al. Beyond prime areas of nature protection in East Africa: conservation ecology of a narrowly distributed Kenyan endemic bird species. Biodivers Conserv 24, 3071–3082 (2015).

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  • Effective habitat size
  • Riparian thicket
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Invasive Lantana camara
  • Potential habitat size
  • Turdoides hindei