The science behind protecting birdsDutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)
Through this new project, the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) aims to equip the nature management organizations (parks)- Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba (FPNA), Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA), Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity (CARMABI), Saba Conservation Foundation, St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA) and Nature Foundation St. Maarten- with tools to actively monitor land bird populations and analyze the data. This project is more than mere data collection; it is a dynamic, science-driven initiative designed to facilitate comprehensive analysis and knowledge sharing, offering insights into the health of the local ecosystems. The project started this year and will run through the first quarter of 2028. The project is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality; DCNA’s activities are funded by the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
Birds offer a unique lens through which the parks can assess the overall health of their ecosystems. In addition, birds play a crucial role in island ecosystems such as pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds, and emphasize how important protected areas are for certain restricted-range, vulnerable species. By tracking the relative abundance and species composition of birds across different environment types, there are a number of key insights to be gained on island, inter-island and regional levels.
One objective is to better understand the relative abundance of birds, both in general and for specific species. Through careful observation, this project will look to discern patterns and fluctuations over seasons and time. These fluctuations are not just indicators of avian life but windows into broader ecological dynamics. In addition, this project will investigate the composition of bird species in various environments throughout the year. This will give the parks a better understanding of how local ecosystems evolve and adapt throughout the year.
The monitoring efforts will help to ensure that species under threat are identified in time to influence their long-term survival. Also, changes- or the absence thereof- in bird population sizes may indicate environmental change or stability. In this way, monitoring bird population can tell us more about nature's 'health' in general. This helps parks to evaluate conservation success and adapt management actions if needed.
In 2022, the DCNA has provided parks’ staﬀ with the opportunity to attend the PROALAS bird monitoring workshop in the Dominican Republic, organized by BirdsCaribbean. Through DCNA’s Research and Monitoring Working Group, the parks chose to use the PROALAS protocol as a standardized landbird monitoring method. Thanks to this standardized protocol, data collected in this programme will be comparable between Dutch Caribbean islands and with the rest of the Caribbean and South American region.
Bird surveys will be conducted twice a year, specifically in March/April (post rainy-season) and in October/November (pre-rainy-season) on all six Dutch Caribbean islands. These surveys will be executed by trained park rangers and other bird experts.
A shared commitment to science
This project will also contribute to achieving the strategic goals regarding (land)birds and their habitats as a part of the Nature and Environment Policy Plan (NEPP) (pdf: 4,0 MB) by the Ministries of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV), and Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W). The project has been developed in consultation with Wageningen University & Research to make sure it can be used to the related 'State of Nature of the Caribbean Netherlands Reporting'. Furthermore, to promote transparency and foster collaboration, all collected data will be made accessible through the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database (DCBD), Observation.org, and BirdsCaribbean. This commitment to data sharing transcends borders, ensuring that the science-driven conservation efforts benefit not only the Dutch Caribbean but also the global scientific community.
The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports (science) communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature-related scientific information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and the press. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.
Text: Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA)
Images: Rostislav Stach, SHAPE/DCNA (leadphoto: Antillean crested hummingbird); Christian König