Ecological research and monitoring

Little ecological research has been carried out in the Comoros and so data to inform conservation actions in the Comoros is scarce. The ECDD project’s ecological component’s priority has been to collect information on the status of forest and endemic biodiversity, and assess threats in order to support conservation actions within the landscape management model, to monitor changes in status, and to support conservation planning more widely within the Comoros.

Ecological monitoring

Ecological technician Ishaka walking a butterfly transect. Photo credit: C. Marsh

The project has set up a network of permanent sampling sites across the three islands where data is collected twice a year (dry and wet seasons) to monitor forest quality and cover, and the populations and distributions of butterflies, reptiles, birds and important mammal species. The monitoring programme aims to build a reliable picture of habitat and biodiversity patterns across the islands in order to identify priority areas for conservation, and as a baseline from which to monitor the impact of conservation actions, and the changing status and threats to both habitat and biodiversity.

Remote sensing
Accurate maps of land cover are essential tools for modelling species distributions and monitoring changes to forest cover. In 2012 we completed the first high resolution land cover maps of the three islands of the Comoros using specially commissioned satellite images. These maps identify areas of natural forest, agricultural land and settlements, and along with the results of the biodiversity monitoring, are being used to model the distributions of endemic and threatened species in order to identify the most important areas for conservation. By providing an estimate of the extent and boundaries of remaining forest cover, they can be used to monitor degradation and deforestation trends, and will be made available under a common license for use by researchers and projects.

Research into priority species for conservation
Alongside the monitoring work the team also conducts more detailed research into priority threatened species. In 2008 and 2010, the project led the first comprehensive survey of the Critically Endangered Anjouan scops owl to produce an updated population estimate and a distribution model for the species. Research to assess the status of the flagship endangered Livingstone’s fruit bat is being carried out in the wet and dry season of 2011-12.