Journal article
Effectiveness of protected areas for bird conservation depends on guild

Research Areas
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Publication Details
Author list: Gregory Duckworth, Res Altwegg
Publisher: Wiley: 12 months
Publication year: 2018
Journal: Diversity and Distributions
Volume number: 24
Start page: 1083
End page: 1091
Total number of pages: 9
ISSN: 1366-9516
eISSN: 1472-4642


Protected areas are key conservation tools intended to increase biodiversity and reduce extinction risks of species and populations. However, the degree to which protected areas achieve their conservation goals is generally unknown for many protected areas worldwide. We assess the effect of protected areas on the abundance of 196 common, resident bird species. If protected areas were beneficial to avian biodiversity, we expect landscapes with a higher proportion of protected areas will have higher densities of species compared to landscapes with no protection.


Greater Gauteng region, South Africa.


We analysed bird survey data collected over regular grid cells across the study area. We estimated bird abundance in relation to the proportion of a grid cell that was protected with the Royle–Nichols model and fitted the model once for each of the species. We examined variation in estimated abundance as a function of avian guild (defined by the type of food a species preferentially ate and its foraging mode) with a regression tree analysis.


Abundance was significantly positively related to the proportion of protected areas in grid cells for 26% of the species, significantly negatively related in 15%, and not significantly related in 59% species. We found three distinct guild groups which differed in their average abundance, after accounting for associated variance. Group 1 consisted of guilds frugivores, ground‐feeders, hawkers, predators, and vegivores and average abundance was strongly positively related to the proportion of protected areas. Group 2 included granivores, and average abundance was strongly negatively related to proportion of protected areas. Group 3 included gleaners only, and average abundance was not related to proportion of protected areas.

Main conclusion

We conclude that the network of protected areas within the greater Gauteng region sustained relatively higher abundances of common birds and thus perform an important conservation role.

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Last updated on 2019-18-04 at 09:41