Recent population trends of the houbara bustard in the Canary Islands. Methods and conservation status
Determining conservation status requires rigorous and reliable data about population sizes and trends, especially if they have to be applied to islands where the species have small populations. The Canary bustard houbara (Chlamydotis undulata fuertaventurae) is catalogued as ‘in danger’ by the Red Book of the Birds of Spain. This work analyzes the value of previously published information on the species using the method of adjacent linear transects separated by 200 m, as a baseline for establishing robust population trends in 30 important areas (ranging from 1.3 to 12.8 km2) for the houbara in the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura (Canary Islands). Censuses were repeated on the same dates (from November to December) and localities as those carried out in 1994, 2004 and 2006. The detection probability of the houbara was estimated by means of distance sampling, being 0.42 up to 250 m from the observer, and 0.82 in the main census belt of 100 m on either side of the line transect. The method of adjacent linear transects —counting the maximum number of hubaras detected— provides accurate figures of population densities (detection of 95.2% of the birds). The previous estimations of houbara densities can therefore be considered highly trustworthy, with a probable average underestimation of only 5 %. Nevertheless, the confidence intervals of density estimations using only one census were very large. Therefore, with only one census per sampling area and year it is not possible to obtain precise estimates of houbara densities with small variation around the average value. This raises concern when trying to obtain solid evidence about the increases–decreases of houbara populations comparing different dates or study areas. The density of the Canary Island hubara bustard decreased significantly from 2004/2006 to 2011 in eight areas of Fuerteventura (Vega Vieja, Los Alares–Pocetas, Matas Blancas, Lorenzo– Diviso, Corralejo, Lajares and Fimapaire) and in two areas of Lanzarote (Argana and La Santa). Conversely, the density of the houbara significantly increased in three areas of Lanzarote (Zonzamas, Guatiza and Llano de las Maretas). As a whole, average population density did not differ significantly between 2004/2006 and 2011 in Fuerteventura (slight decrease of 29% in 2011), but there was a significant increase in Lanzarote (increase of 60% from 2004/2006 to 2011). The change in density from 2004/2006 to 2011 tended to be an increase in areas further from paved roads, and a decrease in locations predominantly covered by loose sandy soils.
Census method, Confidence intervals, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote (Islas Canarias), Houbarabustard, Population trends
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