typhoons, leopards and point counts…

DSC_0112-2As in montane rainforests world-wide, climate change threatens Thailand’s avian biodiversity with rapid increase in rates of extinction if anthropogenic CO2 emissions remain unchecked.  I have just had the privilege to join Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change researcher Nantida Sutummawong as she commences her second field season surveying Thailand’s rainforest birds.

With a few crucial improvements to allow measurement of abundance, Nantida is using methods similar to those I used in my PhD research, and will be working to generate models that can be used to predict the likely fate of Thai rainforest birds to a range of future climate scenarios.  In addition, her work will form a baseline for future community-based monitoring of populations changes in these vulnerable species.

Our visit to Kaeng Krachan National Park unfortunately coincided with the arrival of the super-typhoon Haiyan which devastated the Philippines.  We escaped relatively unscathed compared to suffering of the people of the Philippines, who’s homes were ravaged by this unprecedented storm.  Some experts believe this may be a warning of the sorts of storms that may become more regular if climate change continues unabated .

We still experienced two days of high winds and heavy rain. The result was delays to bird surveying, with many trees down, landslides on the road, and incredibly, a big increase in leopard activity.  We saw at least 4 individuals in the course of one afternoon’s birding, including two juveniles, one of which playfully approached us as if stalking, before getting nervous and melting back into the forest (see picture).

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