BRANTA — Thomas N.E. Gray
The Ecology and Conservation of Bengal Florican in Cambodia
Institution: University of East Anglia, UK
Supervisors: PM Dolman, NJ Collar (BirdLife International)
Details: PhD 2007 (Expected)
Address:Centre for Ecology, Evolution & Conservation, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, NR4 7TJ, UK Email
Species Keywords: Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis
Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis is a globally threatened Bustard breeding in India, Nepal and Cambodia. The natural history, ecology and status of the Cambodian population, re-discovered in 1999, is largely unknown. This PhD is part of a wider project between Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia, the Forestry Association of the Royal Government of Cambodia and the University of East Anglia, Norwich into the ecology, conservation and livelihood value of seasonally inundated grassland within the Tonle Sap floodplain, Cambodia. These grasslands are globally important for bird conservation supporting 17 globally threatened and near-threatened species as well as large populations of declining Asian farmland birds and wintering palearctic passerines. Bengal Florican has the potential to act as a flagship species for the conservation of this unique biodiversity assemblage.
The current distribution and size of the Bengal Florican population in Cambodia is unknown but is believed to exceed the total population in the rest of the species’ range. We will use ground surveys and examination of remotely sensed sources to model grassland extent and Bengal Florican distribution within Cambodia in order to identify additional populations and clarify the species’ status within the country. This information will be directly incorporated into conservation activity for the species particularly the identification of protected areas.
The habitat used by Bengal Florican appears to be anthropogenic and is maintained by traditional land-use practices such as low-input rice agriculture, burning and grazing. However rapid land-use change is occurring throughout the region with traditional wet season agriculture abandoned and replaced by intensive, irrigated dry season rice production. We are using radio-tracking, habitat sampling and monitoring of territorial male birds, to examine the effects of this agricultural abandonment and intensification on Bengal Florican. We are particularly interested in exploring ways in which the negative effects of agricultural intensification on biodiversity can be mitigated through agri-environment schemes such as organic rice certification.
The main aspects of this project are:
- Ground surveys and examination of remotely sensed sources to model grassland extent and Bengal Florican distribution within Cambodia in order to identify additional populations and clarify the species’ status within the country.
- Radio-tracking of Bengal Florican within an agricultural-grassland mosaic to examine home-ranges, movement patterns and habitat preferences, particularly of females which are generally elusive and difficult to observe.
- Examination of landscape level habitat processes and land-use change within the grassland-zone of the Tonle Sap floodplain.