BRANTA — Benedictus B G Freeman
Bird-habitat relationships and anthropogenic threats in and around Sapo National Park, Liberia
Institution: A P Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), University of Jos, Nigeria
Supervisors: Mary N Molokwu, Filibus D Dami
Details: MSc 2014 (Completed)
Subject Keywords: Sapo National Park, Liberia, bird density, species richness, species diversity, biodiversity, conservation
Species Keywords: Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni, Yellow-bearded Greenbul Criniger olivaceous, Timneh Parrot Psittacus timneh, Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata, White-breasted Guineafowl Agelastes meleagrides, White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus, Brown-cheeked Hornbill Bycanistes cylindricus
Sapo National Park is the only national park in Liberia and contains the second-largest area of primary tropical rain forest in West Africa after Tai National Park in neighboring Ivory Coast. However, very little is known about the population, distribution and composition of birds of the Park and its surrounding buffer. This study is the first to assess and compare the population densities, distribution, community composition, species richness and diversity of birds between the Park and its buffer with specific emphasis on species of global conservation concern. A total of 17 line transects of 2km each were surveyed between 18th April and 29th May 2014 in the Park and its buffer areas. Bird density was determined using Distance software 4.1. A total of 183 bird species belonging to 55 families were recorded. Sixteen of the 21 species of global conservation concern in Liberia were recorded including the ‘Endangered’ Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni and ‘Vulnerable’ Yellow-bearded Greenbul Criniger olivaceous. Two near-threatened species (Copper-tailed glossy Starling Lamprotornis cupreocauda and Blue-headed Bee-eater Merops mentalis) were new records for Sapo National Park. Overall mean density of species and Pielou’s evenness index were significantly higher in the Park than the buffer, while species richness and diversity were higher in the buffer compared to the Park. The high density and evenness of birds in the Park maybe attributed to the intactness and homogeneity of the forest inside the Park. This is demonstrated in the composition of species recorded in the Park which were mostly mid-level forest specialist insectivores compared to the buffer with mostly forest generalist frugivores. On the other hand, the high species richness and slightly higher diversity in the buffer could be attributed to the heterogeneity in the buffer habitats and the observed availability of food resources (several fruiting trees and farmlands) in the buffer as compared to the Park during the time of this study. The availability of food resources could be responsible for the abundance of large frugivores like the Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata ‘Vulnerable’ and Timneh Parrot Psittacus timneh ‘Vulnerable’ in the disturbed buffer habitats. The presence of 16 species of global conservation concern and other species in both Sapo National Park and the buffer areas suggest the conservation importance of not only the Park but also the buffer areas in the conservation of these species. Thus, to effectively conserve biodiversity in Sapo National Park, conservation planning and active management efforts should explicitly include a well-defined buffer zone around the Park.