Mikado Pheasant Endangered Conservation

Male Mikado Pheasant
GIS was used to extrapolate characteristics of areas containing Mikado Pheasants (Syrmaticus mikado) to determine the total land area available to this endemic, mountainous species. This information is needed for locating additional populations of the pheasant and for determining its IUCN status of extinction risk.Syrmaticus mikado have been observed along roads and trails passing through primary, secondary, and managed forested and grassland habitats between the elevations of 1600 and 3300 m. In Taiwan, the extent of these habitats between the elevations of 1600-3300 m amounts to 205,181 ha. Of this, 52% (105,733 ha) is protected within three national parks, five protected areas, and seven nature reserves. Based on these general estimates, S.mikado should not be considered an endangered species. This conclusion should be taken with caution, however, as not all the area described here may be suitable, and actual conditions within protected areas are unknown.The dilemma of all conservation biologists is that of funding and time. Currently there is much effort in developing models that may help predict the status of species or their risk of extinction (e.g. Ratner et al. 1997, Vucetich et al. 1997, and Findlay & Houlahan 1997) and that may help determine geographic locations or hot spots that need protection in order to conserve a species or group of species (e.g. Kiester et al. 1996, Brooks et al. 1997). Only recently have Geographic Information Systems (GIS) begun to play a role in the creation and testing of these models. Meanwhile, there is a great deal of work being done to determine or estimate the distribution and status of species of concern (papers in Jenkens 1993). Increasingly, GIS is being used to correlate habitat with distribution (e.g. Knick & Dyer 1997, Waller & Mace 1997). The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has recently published revised Red List categories (Species Survival Commission 1994). Species are placed into certain threat categories (critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable) based on the status of their population, if known, or the extent and status of their distribution range, described as extent of occurrence. Estimating the
Female Mikado Pheasant
extent of occurrence and determining that this range is either fragmented or declining is one way to place a species within the three categories of threat listed by the Species Survival Commission (1994). A species is considered critically endangered if the extent of its occurrence is less than 100 km2. It is listed as endangered if the extent of its occurrence is less than 5000 km2, and it is considered vulnerable if less than 20,000 km2. For all three categories, the amount of habitat within this range, or the population of the species itself, must also be demonstrated to be fragmented or declining (Species Survival Commission 1994). Most Galliformes are naturally rare and have limited ranges (King 1981), a fact which greatly increases theirrisks of extinction (Simberloff 1994). Of all the bird orders, the order Galliformes has the third highest number of threatened species (64), following the passerines (497) and parrots (71). Hunting pressure and habitat loss account for 63% of the threats to Galliformes (data compiled from King 1981). Of the pheasant species within this order, 96% are threatened by hunting or habitat loss, and the habitat requirements of 17% have yet to be studied at all (McGowan & Garson 1995). It is only recently that Syrmaticus mikado has been classified as safe (McGowan & Garson 1995), upgraded from threatened with extinction (Groombridge 1993-1994). The pheasant is endemic to Taiwan and is still considered endangered in Taiwan (Lee & Yang 1993). Therefore,
the status of this species remains in debate. Here, we develop a GIS model of S. mikado habitat to estimate the extent of occurrence as an initial step towards determining this species' category of threat. This model is based on the assumptions that the pheasant is found only in forested and grassland habitat between 1600 and 3300 m in elevation. These assumptions can only estimate the maximum amount of habitat available to the bird; it is unlikely that it occurs in all habitats described in this model. Further study of habitats actually used by the pheasant and of its population demographics are needed to refine and to test the utility of such a rough model for use with S. mikado or other species. Source: AnimalDiscovery

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