Working for birds in Africa

Putting Biodiversity on the Map - Priority Areas for Global Conservation

Sat, 29/12/2012 - 14:41 -- abc_admin
Bibby C J et al. ICBP, Cambridge. 1992.
page 49

From introduction to conclusions, the book is divided into seven sections, but I will put these into four parts. The first introduces the concept of biodiversity and points out that it is possible to use one class of organisms, in this case birds, as indicators of the level of biological diversity in an area. It also deals with the methodology used by the authors to compile and analyse bird data and gives a global overview of the results from those analyses. The concept of Endemic Bird Areas is defined and the distribution of the EBAs, in terms of altitudinal spread and whether they occur continentally or on islands, is identified.

The second part goes into more detailed accounts of EBAs at a regional level. Regions are demarcated for convenience of presentation rather than to correspond to the conventional biogeographical zones. They are; North and Middle America (A), South America (B), Africa, Europe and the Middle East (C), Asia (D), Southeast Asian Islands, New Guinea and Australia (E) and the Pacific Islands (F). For each region, the precise locations of the EBAs, their altitudinal ranges as well as habitat types are described. On mainland Africa 19 areas are defined with a further 18 on islands covered by the ABC. The most diverse of these are the mountains of the Albertine Rift, the eastern are mountains of Tanzania and those of Cameroon. Threats to the EBAs are highlighted.

The third part shows the congruence of areas of avian endemism and those of other organisms. It expounds on the point made in the first part that avian diversity and/or endemism can be a good indicator of overall species diversity and/or endemism.

The fourth and last part of the book deals with how the analysed data can be used to identify areas that need urgent action. Areas are prioritised in terms of levels of threat and thus need for conservation action. The criteria used include restricted-range species richness, taxonomic uniqueness and presence of other endemic taxa. This exercise makes the book a practical guide to conservation rather than merely a textbook. Throughout the book the authors point out the problem of paucity or imprecision of data in certain instances and they show how they tried to overcome that problem during their analyses.

Putting Biodiversity on the Map is aimed at conservation planners and policy makers. I would, however, go further and recommend it to all keen amateurs and academics because it is quite informative and revealing. The authors have generally avoided technical jargon and enriched the book with extremely beautiful colour illustrations. The strongest feature of this book is the emphasis on habitat rather than single species conservation. I believe this is the way to go, if global biodiversity is going to be conserved.

Preparation of Putting Biodiversity on the Map must have involved tremendous effort. My only disappointment is that the book skims over problems of poverty and population pressure in the tropical regions that are identified as containing greatest biodiversity. With a little extra effort, some indices of those parameters could have been incorporated into the analyses. The output would then have been more down-to-earth regarding issues of conservation in impoverished areas of the world. Otherwise, an excellent book.

P M B Kasoma

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