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Araripe Manakin

First-ever Reserves Established to Protect Brazilian Endemic

Araripe Manakin

First-ever Reserves Established to Protect Brazilian Endemic

The first-ever bird reserves have been created for the critically endangered Araripe Manakin, a six-inch bird only discovered in 1996 that numbers fewer than 800 individuals and survives in the smallest of areas – 11 square miles – in northeastern Brazil.

The reserves were made possible by the purchase of one parcel of land encompassing 140 acres and through a formal agreement with a neighboring landowner, who designated 27 acres of his land as a fully protected area. Both actions were carried out by Aquasis, a Brazilian conservation organization that has led the effort to protect the species, and through support from American Bird Conservancy (ABC), an organization that leads bird conservation efforts across the Americas.

The Araripe Manakin exists only in a narrow strip of humid forest on the slopes of the Araripe Plateau,” said Dr. Daniel Lebbin, Director of ABC’s International Programs. “Creating this reserve is a critically important step in what must be a long-term effort to protect this bird’s habitat and prevent its extinction.

After 10 years of mapping the remaining habitat of the Araripe Manakin, we were confident enough to select properties that have all the desired features for this type of reserve: permanent springs and streams with prime nesting territories; good quality moist forest habitat; and good neighbours with excellent connectivity potential,” said Alberto Campos, Director of Aquasis.

The Araripe Manakin’s habitat is subject to continuing pressure from agriculture and the development of recreational facilities, so having ‘good neighbours’ is critical to the species’ survival. The 140-acre reserve, referred to as the Sítio Lopes property, borders the Araripe National Forest to the south and includes a house that may one day be converted to a tourist lodge. This property is also connected by a vegetated river valley with the Sítio Fundão State Park, a 230-acre fully protected area managed by the state government. The 27-acre parcel located to the south is now a type of private reserve that is formally recognized as fully protected for perpetuity.

A joint reforestation project between Aquasis and ABC led to this acquisition. That project resulted in the planting of 4,652 seedlings of various native species within the project area, with more planned.

The Araripe Plateau is located in the heart of the vast, semi-arid and drought-stricken area that dominates most of the landscape of northeastern Brazil. The area features a massive plateau that spans the boundary of the states of Ceará and Pernambuco and is dominated by a unique ecosystem that includes a mix of Amazonian and Atlantic Forest habitats.

The numerous small rivers that transect the parched and distinctive desert vegetation in Ceará spring from a handful of mountains and high plateaus that draw moisture from the passing clouds. In addition to serving as the principal sources of water for millions of people living in this region, these unique mountainous areas harbor many relict species, including the Araripe Manakin. The area has been naturally isolated for millennia in what are essentially humid forest fragments of the tropical forest habitats that once dominated the region.

The Araripe Manakin prefers the lower and middle strata of the forest. It is dependent on forest streams with vegetation and feeds on a variety of fruit species found in the dense understory. The species shares its habitat with other Brazilian species found nowhere else, such as the Silvery-cheeked Antshrike, the White-browed Antpitta, and the Caatinga Antshrike. Just above their habitat is a plateau that collects rainfall and is home to an additional 100+ species, including the endemic Planalto Slaty-Antshrike and the Ceará Leaftosser.

ABC

17th December 2014