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Rapid decline and shift in the future distribution predicted for the endangered Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae due to climate change


Climate change is predicted to have serious impacts on the conservation status of numerous species of birds, particularly low-density, range-restricted species occupying narrow habitats. One such species is the globally “Endangered” Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae that currently survives in just two or three small pockets of forest in coastal Kenya and north-eastern Tanzania. We assessed the potential impact of changes in future climate on this species using predictive niche modelling. Distributional data were obtained from various published and unpublished sources, and field surveys. Maximum Entropy (Maxent) was used to model the current distribution of Sokoke Scops Owl. A general circulation model was used to predict the distribution of this species in 2080. This scenario predicts a southward shift in the future distribution of this species in Kenya and a complete disappearance from the Usambara mountains in Tanzania, with a concomitant 64% reduction in areas of high environmental suitability. Considering the isolated nature of the forest fragments in which this owl survives and the sea of inhospitable human-modified habitat which surrounds these fragments, the future conservation prospects of this species are bleak. Close monitoring of the species is strongly recommended and potential conservation interventions are discussed.

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Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
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