The use of a geographic information system to investigate the effect of land-use change on wattled crane Bugeranus carunculatus breeding productivity in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
The Wattled Crane, Bugeranus carunculatus Gmelin, is presently classified as being 'Critically Endangered' within South Africa according to the Eskom Red Data book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, with a population of a meagre 235 individuals. Of this, 85% occur within KwaZulu-Natal and live predominantly on privately owned agricultural land. As a result thereof, Wattled Cranes and agriculture compete for the same resources. Up until now, the loss of viable habitat, as a result of agricultural development and afforestation, has been mooted as being the primary reason for the decline in numbers of the species. The advancements in the Geographical Information Systems field have enabled conservationists to acquire data, especially pertaining to habitat requirements, which were previously unattainable. This improved data acquisition is enabling for more informed decision making and better allocation of resources. The study therefore attempts to make use of a Geographical Information System to determine whether or not differences exist within the home ranges of active and historical Wattled Crane nesting sites, utilising the National Land cover database. The updated Land cover data for South Africa, although not completed at the time the present study took place, allowed for the interrogation of the various Land cover classes within an estimated home range. Natural Grassland was the predominant Land cover type within both active and historical home ranges, whilst both active and historical home ranges were subject to some degree of transformation. The potential impact of management practices in and around nesting sites warrants further investigation because this could not be determined through the analysis of land cover.
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