My name is Cat and I am the latest addition to the staff on Frontier’s Tanzania project, leading the terrestrial research on Mafia Island. I am in the habit of saying I am from the UK, but nowadays I seem to spend the majority of each year in the tropics conducting field research.
Entries in #birds (2)
I have been working with Frontier Tanzania as an intern over the past three months and during this time I have had the opportunity to collect data for my third year undergraduate dissertation. I study Environmental Science and have a particular interest in ecosystems and their interactions with, and the impacts of, human activities on an ecosystem. As an intern I have been working with the terrestrial team, especially on the bird project which I found particularly interesting.
There is a huge range of bird life on Mafia Island and Frontier survey a range of habitats which makes each survey unexpected and exciting. My favourite transects were along the coast as the mangroves provide such incredible ecosystems due to their ability to provide extensive habitats for a huge range of marine and terrestrial species. The mangrove forests on Mafia Island are particularly affected by human disturbance which I thought would make an interesting study for my dissertation. The mangroves are harvested by the local people for fuel wood and building materials which reduces their health. They are also affected by other activities such as fishing and tourism which has led to large areas of mangroves being cleared. I chose to look at birds as I find them very interesting and have learnt a lot about them during my time here. They have also been shown to be effective bio indicators of ecosystem health. In the end I decided to base my research on looking at birds and how they can be used as bio indicators for mangrove health encompassing surrounding human activities.
I chose four mangrove transects along Mafia coastline which are affected to different degrees by human disturbance. This will hopefully provide a good comparison to show whether the impact of human activities is significant on bird populations or not. Three of the transects were along Utende beach and one along the Mirubani coastline further afield. The first transect is affected mostly by fishing, harvesting of timber and is nearby to tourist lodges and dive centres along the beach. The second transect is more heavily affected by tourist lodges and large sections of the mangroves have been cleared to make way for private beach areas and pathways through the mangroves. The third transect is further along from the second one is somewhat less affected by tourism. The main disturbance in this area is fishing boat storage and some harvesting.
The final transect is quite isolated and a bit of a walk from the Frontier camp. It has mostly been changed by fishing, pathways and clearings have been formed to transport fishing boats in and out as well as transporting the catch back to villages. This is the most pristine site of the four and is not affected by tourism.
Without thorough analysis of the data I have found a few significant initial findings. Purple-banded Sunbirds were the most commonly surveyed species within the mangroves which shows that mangroves are perhaps a good habitat for them to survive in. The presence of Pied Crows and House Crows seems positively correlated with human activities. Where there is more human development, i.e. lodges and cleared beaches there is a higher abundance of crows. This could be due to their nature as scavengers and the large amounts of waste around these areas generated by the lodges. As expected there are fewer birds seen when there are more people within the area.
I have really enjoyed carrying out my research here on Mafia Island and am so glad that I got the opportunity to work with Frontier and develop my own project. I am looking forward to doing some further analysis of my data to see whether birds can be used as an effective bio-indicator for mangrove health and human disturbance.
By Louisa Mamalis - Intern
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