Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Britain’s disappearing forest birds on satellite imagery

Analyses of satellite images have revealed for the first time the extent of deforestation occurring on the island of New Britain, Papua New Guinea, indicating that many more bird species are threatened with extinction than previously feared.

An eighth of lowland forest on the island –a stronghold for a number of birds found nowhere else on Earth- disappeared between 1989 and 2000, largely driven by a rapid and uncontrolled expansion in global demand for palm oil.

The findings, published in the journal Biological Conservation mean that the total number of threatened or ‘near threatened’ birds on the island will almost double to 21.

Conservationists are now calling for an effective system to adequately protect the crucial lowland forests that remain on New Britain.In the paper, scientists from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), BirdLife International, Conservation International, an independent consultancy and Institute of Environment and Sustainability, EC JRC, analysed ‘before-and-after’ high resolution images of New Britain, showing that approximately 12% of forest cover was lost between 1989 and 2000, including over 20% of forest under 100 m altitude, with substantial areas cleared for commercial oil palm plantations.

“Examining the satellite images of New Britain, we were struck immediately by the clear and extensive loss of forest in many parts of the island”, explained Dr Graeme Buchanan of the RSPB and lead author of the paper. “Deforestation was particular severe in the flat coastal lowlands.”

The authors of the paper then overlaid the maps of forest loss with known habitat preferences of New Britain’s birds. These analyses suggested that extensive habitat loss will have forced significant declines for 21 of the island’s bird species, bringing some to the edge of extinction.

The novel study represents the first time that that the use of satellite imagery (‘remote-sensing’) has been used to determine the likely threat status of a complete set of birds present in a given region or locality.

Source :


Post a Comment