|Continent||Central and Latin America|
|Date||21 Jan 2004|
In northern Venezuela, arid zones are represented by seven isolated areas, which are considered an Endemic Bird Area (EBA) because of the occurrence of habitat-specialist bird species. However, arid scrublands are represented only marginally in the Venezuelan system of protected areas and in general, conservation efforts devoted to preserve deserts and arid zone avifaunas are scarce due to the general impression that bird diversity and endemism in these environments are low. Currently, the long-term survival of these habitat-specialist birds is threatened by ongoing changes in vegetation structure and composition because of factors such as overgrazing by goats, sand mining, wood collection and high-impact tourist developments. Moreover, detailed information on population sizes, abundance, habitat use and requirements of most of these bird species, which is fundamental for the development of management and conservation strategies, is lacking.
The baseline information that will be gathered will be used to update the conservation status of the habitat-specialist species and to develop sound conservation measures, such as the identification of priority areas for conservation and the design of management strategies oriented to modify current land practices responsible for habitat destruction in the arid zones.Given the current fragmented geographic distribution of the habitat-specialist birds, there is a good chance that most of these species are constituted by small and isolated subpopulations restricted to the different arid lands.
By using comparative phylogeography approaches, it would be possible to determine the role of historical events in the assemblage of this particular bird community and to prioritise areas for conservation. If congruent mtDNA patterns among codistributed habitat-specialist species are found, these will be informative in the identification of priority areas for the conservation of this unique bird assemblage. Finally, the proposed project will involve the participation and training of students and local people, as well as educational campaigns that will highlight the importance and conservation problems of habitat-specialist birds in Venezuelan arid zones.