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Distribution of a habitat specialist: Mopane woodland structure determines occurrence of Near Threatened Lilian’s Lovebird Agapornis lilianae

  • TIWONGE I. MZUMARA (a1) (a2), ROWAN O. MARTIN (a2) (a3), HEMANT TRIPATHI (a4), CHAONA PHIRI (a5) and ARJUN AMAR (a2)...

Summary

The near-threatened Lilian’s Lovebird Agapornis lilianae is a small parrot endemic to the Zambezi basin in south-east Africa. The species has a fragmented distribution predominantly within mopane woodlands and is widely referred to as a mopane specialist. The harvesting of mopane trees for charcoal production and timber are having widespread impacts on this woodland habitat, raising concerns over its capacity to support biodiversity. This study aimed to understand the key drivers determining the occurrence of Lilian’s Lovebird in the mopane woodlands of Zambia, focusing particularly on aspects of woodland structure, including the size and density of trees. We used a MaxEnt species distribution model based on historical species occurrence data, to inform selection of 116 survey plots in the Luangwa, Luano and Zambezi valleys. Each plot was sampled for Lilian’s Lovebirds and woodland structure described. Occurrence of Lilian’s Lovebird was found to be positively associated with the size of mopane trees (both height and diameter at breast height) suggesting that large ‘cathedral’ mopane trees provide a key resource for the species and that conservation efforts should focus on the protection of sites containing large trees. No Lilian’s Lovebirds were recorded in areas where they previously occurred to the west of Lower Zambezi National Park, and there was an absence of ‘cathedral’ mopane habitat in this area.

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*Author for correspondence; e-mail: tgawa@must.ac.mw

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Distribution of a habitat specialist: Mopane woodland structure determines occurrence of Near Threatened Lilian’s Lovebird Agapornis lilianae

  • TIWONGE I. MZUMARA (a1) (a2), ROWAN O. MARTIN (a2) (a3), HEMANT TRIPATHI (a4), CHAONA PHIRI (a5) and ARJUN AMAR (a2)...

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