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Understanding the distribution and extent of suitable habitats is critical for the conservation of endangered and endemic taxa. Such knowledge is limited for many Central African species, including the rare and globally threatened Grey-necked Picathartes Picathartes oreas, one of only two species in the family Picathartidae endemic to the forests of Central Africa. Despite growing concerns about land-use change resulting in fragmentation and loss of forest cover in the region, neither the extent of suitable habitat nor the potential species’ distribution is well known. We combine 339 (new and historical) occurrence records of Grey-necked Picathartes with environmental variables to model the potential global distribution. We used a Maximum Entropy modelling approach that accounted for sampling bias. Our model suggests that Grey-necked Picathartes distribution is strongly associated with steeper slopes and high levels of forest cover, while bioclimatic, vegetation health, and habitat condition variables were all excluded from the final model. We predicted 17,327 km2 of suitable habitat for the species, of which only 2,490 km2 (14.4%) are within protected areas where conservation designations are strictly enforced. These findings show a smaller global distribution of predicted suitable habitat forthe Grey-necked Picathartes than previously thought. This work provides evidence to inform a revision of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List status, and may warrant upgrading the status of the species from “Near Threatened” to “Vulnerable”.
The Grey-necked Picathartes Picathartes oreas, considered ‘Vulnerable’, is an enigmatic ground-dwelling bird endemic to the central African equatorial rainforest and belongs to a family of only two species. Its distribution extends to the two Endemic Bird Areas within Cameroon (Guinea Congo forest biome and Cameroon mountain arc) and its population is thought to be in decline throughout its range due to increasing habitat fragmentation and disturbance. During March–April 2003 and June and October 2007 we surveyed Grey-necked Picathartes in the north-western region of the Mbam Minkom Mountain Forest. In January–March 2006 we surveyed the entire mountain range and found 90 breeding and 24 potential breeding sites, mostly located on the western slopes. From the complete survey, we estimated the population at 44 breeding individuals. Populations were highest in the north-west region but had apparently declined from 40 breeding individuals in 2003 to 20 in 2007. This region accounted for 41% of the entire population on the mountain range during the 2006 survey. The Mbam Minkom/Kala Important Bird Area was designated based on the presence of Grey-necked Picathartes but is under high pressure of imminent destruction from agricultural encroachment and illegal timber exploitation. These results have important implications for decision making in delimiting forest boundaries and core areas for protection in the development of management plans. We suggest possible remedial actions, appropriate repeatable methods for future monitoring and opportunities for community involvement in the management and conservation of the site.
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