Habitat preferences of a globally threatened bustard provide support for community-based conservation in Cambodia

Thomas N. E. Gray, Hong Chamnan, Ro Borey, Nigel J. Collar, Paul M. Dolman

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Low-intensity agro-ecosystems of the Tonle Sap grasslands, Cambodia, support important concentrations of threatened bird species including the largest global population of bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) (IUCN status Critically Endangered). The Cambodian government has established community-managed protected areas to safeguard grassland habitats for both local villagers, for whom grasslands represent important open-access resources, and biodiversity. Optimal management of these areas requires an understanding of habitat preferences of key species. We used multi-model inference, based on information criteria and incorporating an autologistic term to account for the aggregated distribution of lekking males, to identify habitat and landscape features affecting bengal florican distribution at two sites within the Tonle Sap floodplain. Displaying male bengal florican were surveyed in 2005 and 2006 and 55 independent male territories identified. Important factors affecting territorial males were burning (positive) and cover of tall scrub (negative). In contrast to other studies on bustard habitat preferences we found little effect of human disturbance. Model fit was good with an Area Under Curve of Receiver Operating Characteristic plots for model averaged parameters of 0.87 ± SE 0.03. By demonstrating weak effects of human disturbance, and the importance of annual burning by local communities, our findings support community-based grassland management in which local traditional activities are encouraged to persist alongside bengal florican. These findings also have implications for the conservation of bengal florican populations in the Indian subcontinent where the species is now restricted to strictly protected areas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-350
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007

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