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Habitat selection of Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus) in southern Africa: implications for conservation.

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posted on 02.06.2021, 11:02 by Imthiaz Sheik AbbassImthiaz Sheik Abbass, Arjun AmarArjun Amar, Megan Murgatroyd, Sonja Krüger
The Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, was previously distributed across southern and western South Africa, as far south as Cape Town. Today, the entire population in southern Africa is restricted to the Lesotho highlands and the Drakensberg escarpment and nearby mountains in South Africa, where the population continues to decline. Research has shown that territorial abandonment is apparently associated with the density of human settlements within 10km of a territory. This pattern was assumed to be linked to the increased risk of unnatural mortalities in areas with higher human presence. However, habitat use and habitat selection, especially whether the species actively avoid human settlements has not yet been explored and could also been contributing to this pattern. In this study, we used data from
nine adult Bearded Vultures fitted with Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite tags to determine which habitat is selected by breeding adults. We modelled habitat selection in relation to various topographic and habitat variables, including information on built-up areas. We predicted that birds would select areas of grassland and avoid area with high built-up density and area close to it. We found that Bearded Vultures selected areas closer to their nest sites and supplementary feeding sites, with steeper slopes, highly rugged terrain. In terms of habitat, they selected areas with grassland and avoided areas with forest, and cropland was neither selected nor avoided. As predicted Bearded Vultures avoided area with high proportions of built-up and avoided area close to it. These results suggest that Bearded Vulture may be sensitive to the negative impacts of a changing landscape in its distribution range. These results can help conservation managers in guiding development and restoration work in the breeding range of adult Bearded Vultures.

The code and datasets provided complement the methods for my research, detailing the steps taken to analyse the data and produce results.

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Biological Sciences