Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

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 Distributional data were obtained from various published and unpublished sources, and field surveys.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.

Corresponding author
*Author for correspondence; email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

J. H Brown . (1984) On the relationship between abundance and distribution of species. Am. Nat. 124: 255279.

B. W. T. Coetzee , M. P. Robertson , B. F. N. Erasmus , B. J. van Rensburg and W. Thuiller (2009) Ensemble models predict Important Bird Areas in southern Africa will become less effective for conserving endemic birds under climate change. Global Ecol. Biogeogr. DOI: 10.1111/j.1466–8238.2009.00485.x.

J. Elith , C. H. Graham , R. P. Anderson , . (2006) Novel methods improve prediction of species’ distributions from occurrence data. Ecography 29: 129151.

B. F. N. Erasmus , A. Van Jaarsveld , S. L. Chown , M. Kshatriya and K. J Wessels . (2002) Vulnerability of South Africa animal taxa to climate change. Global Change Biol. 8: 679693.

T. D Evans . (1997) Preliminary density estimates of the population density of the Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae in the East Usambara lowlands, Tanzania. Afr. J. Ecol. 35: 303311.

G. F. Ficetola , W. Thuiller and C. Miaud (2007) Prediction and validation of the potential global distribution of a problematic alien invasive species — the American bullfrog. Diversity Distrib. 13: 476485.

C. Gordon , C. Cooper , C. A. Senior , H. Banks , J. M. Gregory , T. C. Johns , J. F. B. Mitchell and R. A Wood . (2000) The simulation of SST, sea ice extents and ocean heat transports in a version of the Hadley Centre coupled model without flux adjustments. Climate Dynamics 16: 147168.

C. H. Graham , S. R. Ron , J. C. Santos , C. J. Schneider and C. Moritz (2004) Integrating phylogenetics and environmental niche models to explore speciation mechanisms in dendrobatid frogs. Evolution 58:17811793.

L. Hannah , G. Midgley and D. Millar (2002) Climate change-integrated conservation strategies. Global Ecol. Biogeog. 11: 485495.

P. A. Hernandez , C. H. Graham , L. L. Master and D. L Albert . (2006) The effect of sample size and species characteristics on performance of different species distribution modeling methods. Ecography 29:773785.

R. J. Hijmans , S. E. Cameron , J. L. Parra , P. G. Jones and A. Jarvis (2005) Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. Int. J. Climat. 25:19651978.

O. Hoegh-Guldberg , L. Hughes , S. McIntyre , D. B. Lindenmayer , C. Parmesan , H. P. Possingham and D. C Thomas . (2008) Assisted colonization and rapid climate change. Science 321: 345346.

D. G. Hole , S. G. Willis , D. J. Pain , L. D. Fishpool , S. H. M. Butchart , Y. C. Collingham C. Rahbek and B. Huntley (2009) Projected impacts of climate change on a continent-wide protected area network. Ecol. Lett. 12: 420431.

R. D Holt . (2009) Bringing the Hutchinsonian niche into the 21st century: Ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Proc. Natl. Ac. Sci. 106: 1965919665.

B. Huntley , Y. C. Collingham , R. E. Green , G. M. Hilton , C. Rahbek and S. G Willis . (2006) Potential impacts of climatic change upon geographical distributions of birds. Ibis 148: 828.

B. Huntley , Y. C. Collingham , S. G. Willis and R. E Green . (2008) Potential impacts of climatic change on European breeding birds. PLoS ONE 3(1): e1439. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001439

W. Jetz , D. S. Wilcove and A. P Dobson . (2007) Projected impacts of climate and land-use change on the global diversity of birds. PLoS Biol 5(6): e157. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050157

A. Jimenez-Valverde , F. Diniz , E. B. de Azevedo and P. A. V Borges . (2009) Species distribution models do not account for abundance: the case of arthropods on Terceira Island. Ann. Zool. Fennici 46: 451464.

A. Jimenez-Valverde , A. Lira-Noriega , A. T. Peterson and J. Soberon (2010) Marshalling existing biodiversity data to evaluate biodiversity status and trends in planning exercises. Ecol. Res. 25: 947957.

A. Jimenez-Valverde , J. M. Lobo and J. Hortal (2008) Not as good as they seem: the importance of concepts in species distribution modelling. Divers. Distrib. 14: 885890.

D. A. Keith , H. R. Akcakaya , W. Thuiller , G. F. Midgley , R. G. Pearson , S. J. Phillips , H. M. Regan , M. B. Araujo and T. G Rebelo . (2008) Predicting extinction risks under climate change: coupling stochastic population models with dynamic bioclimatic habitat models. Biol. Lett. 4: 560563.

J. M. Lamb , T. M. C. Ralph , S. M. Goodman , W. Bogdanowicz , J. Fahr , M. Gajewska , P. J. J. Bates , J. Eger , P. Benda and P. J Taylor . (2008) Phylogeography and predicted distribution of African-Arabian and Malagasy populations of giant mastiff bats, Otomops spp. (Chiroptera: Molossidae). Acta Chiropterol. 10: 2140.

L. L. Manne and S. L Pimm . (2001) Beyond eight forms of rarity: which species are threatened and which will be next? Anim. Conserv. 4: 221229.

E. Martinez-Meyer , A. T. Peterson and W. W Hargrove . (2004) Ecological niches as stable distributional constraints on mammal species, with implications for Pleistocene extinctions and climate change projections for biodiversity. Global Ecol. Biogeogr. 13: 305314.

M. L McKinney . (1997) Extinction vulnerability and selectivity: combining ecological and paleontological views. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 28: 495516.

C. Parmesan (2006) Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change. Ann. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 37: 637669.

R. G. Pearson , C. J. Raxworthy , M. Nakamura and A. T Peterson . (2007) Predicting species’ distributions from small numbers of occurrence records: A test case using cryptic geckos in Madagascar. J. Biogeogr. 34:102117.

S. J. Phillips and M. Dudik (2008) Modeling of species distributions with Maxent: new extensions and a comprehensive evaluation. Ecography 31: 161175.

S. J. Phillips , R. P. A. Anderson and R. E. S Chapire . (2006) Maximum entropy modeling of species geographic distributions. Ecol. Model. 190: 231259.

J. A. Pounds , M. P. L. Fogden and J. H Campbell . (1999) Biological response to climate change on a tropical mountain. Nature 398: 611615.

R. A. Pyron , F. T. Burbrink and T. J Guiher . (2008) Claims of potential expansion throughout the U.S. by invasive python species are contradicted by ecological niche models. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2931. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002931

M. R. Raupach , G. Marland , P. Ciais , C. Le Quéré , J. G. Canadell , G. Klepper and C. B Field . (2007). Global and regional drivers of accelerating CO2 emissions. PNAS 104: 1028810293.

C. J. Raxworthy , C. M. Ingram , N. Rabibisoa and R. G Pearson . (2007) Applications of ecological niche modeling for species delimitation: A review and empirical evaluation using day geckos (Phelsuma) from Madagascar. Syst. Biol. 56: 907923.

M. R. Recio and E. Virgos (2010) Predictive niche modelling to identify potential areas of conflicts between human activities and expanding predator populations: a case study of game management and the grey mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon, in Spain. Wildl. Res. 37: 343354.

S. D Ripley . (1966) A notable owlet from Kenya. Ibis 108: 136137.

L. P. Shoo , C. Storlie , J. VanDerWal , J. Little and S. E Williams . (2011) Targeted protection and restoration to conserve tropical biodiversity in a warming world. Global Change Biol. 17: 186193.

R. E. Simmons , P. Barnard , W. R. J. Dean , G. F. Midgley , W. Thuiller and G. Hughes (2004) Climate change and birds: perspectives and prospects from southern Africa. Ostrich 75: 295308.

P. A. Stott , S. F. B. Tett , G. S. Jones , M. R. Allen , J. F. B. Mitchell and G. J Jenkins . (2000) External control of 20th century temperature by natural and anthropogenic forcings. Science 290: 21332137.

C. D. Thomas , A. Cameron , R. E. Green , M. Bakkenes , L. J. Beaumont , Y. C. Collingham , B. F. N. Erasmus , M. F. de Siqeira , A. Grainger , L. Hannah , L. Hughes , B. Huntley , A. S. van Jaarsveld , G. F. Midgley , L. Miles , M. A. Ortega-Huerta , A. T. Peterson , O. L. Phillips and S. E Williams . (2004) Extinction risk from climate change. Nature 427: 145148.

J. VanDerWal , L. P. Shoo , C. N. Johnson and S. E Williams . (2009) Abundance and environmental niche: environmental suitability estimated from niche models predicts the upper limit of local abundance. Am. Nat. 174: 282291.

M. Z. Virani , P. Njoroge and I. Gordon (2010) Disconcerting trends in populations of the endangered Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kenya Ostrich 81: 155158.

M. C. Wichmann , F. Jeltsch , W. R. J. Dean , K. A. Moloney and C. Wissel (2003) Implication of climate change for the persistence of raptors in arid savanna. Oikos 102: 186202.

S. E. Williams , E. E. Bolitho and S. Fox (2003) Climate change in Australian tropical rainforests: an impending environmental catastrophe. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 270, 18871892.

M. S. Wisz , R. J. Hijmans , A. T. Peterson , C. H. Graham and A. Guisan (2008) Effects of sample size on the performance of species distribution models. Diversity Distrib. 14: 763773.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Bird Conservation International
  • ISSN: 0959-2709
  • EISSN: 1474-0001
  • URL: /core/journals/bird-conservation-international
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 13 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 115 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 27th June 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.