Archived 2017 topics: Great Bustard (Otis tarda): downlist to Near Threatened?

Great Bustard, Otis tarda, is currently listed as Vulnerable under criteria A2cd+3cd+4cd (see BirdLife International 2017) as it is undergoing rapid population declines. It has a wide, but fragmented distribution across Eurasia, with a small, declining population present in Morocco. Most recent population estimates place the global population in the range 43,847-56,695 individuals (Alonso 2014).

Historically the species underwent large declines and became extinct in several former range states, including France, Greece, Sweden and United Kingdom (see Collar and Garcia 2017). Declines have continued in several countries as a result of land-use changes and agricultural intensification (Nagy 2009, Chan and Goroshko 1998, S. Nagy in litt. 1999, 2007, M. Kessler in litt. 2016), hunting (Chan and Goroshko 1998, Karakaş and Akarsu 2009, Y. Andryucshenko in litt. 1999, P. Goriup in litt. 2007, M. Kessler in litt. 2012, 2016, M. M. Karataş in litt. 2016), and collisions with power lines/wind turbines (Nagy 2009, J. C. Alonso in litt. 2007, S. Nagy in litt. 2012, M. Kessler in litt. 2012). These declines have been predominantly in parts of eastern and central Europe, Morocco, as well as throughout the eastern part of the global distribution (Chan and Goroshko 1998, Barati and Amerifar 2008, Palacín and Alonso 2008, BirdLife International 2015, Alonso et al. 2016, M. Karataş in litt. 2016). However, in other areas (notably Hungary, Germany, Austria and the Iberian Peninsula) the population has been increasing or potentially stable since the 1990s (see Nagy 2009, BirdLife International 2015) as a result of conservation measures and a hunting ban established in 1980 (Alonso 2014, Collar and Garcia 2017).

This information led to its regional listing as Least Concern in both the EU and Europe in the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015). Given that Europe holds such a large proportion of the global population (see Alonso 2014), and declines over the past 20-30 years have not been significant (see Alonso 2014, Palacín and Alonso 2008, Alonso and Palacín 2010), it appears unlikely that the species’s global population has declined by >30% (or approached a decline of 30%) over the past 3 generations (30 years). Thus it would no longer meet or approach the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion A2+4. Based on the data it would also appear unlikely to remain as Vulnerable under criterion A3. As Spain alone contains c.2/3 of the global population, and the population there is said to be increasing, almost the entirety of the rest of the global population would need to disappear and the population remain stable in Spain over the next 30 years for the global assessment to remain as Vulnerable under criterion A3.

While declines in other countries are worrying, and the species’s Area of Occupancy may continue to decline as a result of the loss of small populations (S. Nagy in litt. 2012), based on the available data it is now unlikely that the species meets the IUCN threshold values for the species to qualify as Vulnerable any more. Therefore, the species may warrant downlisting. As stated above, the species does not appear to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under criteria A2+4. However, given how the recent turn around in this species’s fortunes may depend on continued conservation measures (such as a limit/ban of hunting in certain countries), and declines are likely to continue into the future in several range states, it is conservatively suggested that this species be listed as Near Threatened under criterion A3cd, as it is suspected that there is the potential for the species to decline at 20-29% in the future.

We welcome any further information or comments regarding this proposed downlisting.

 

References

Alonso, J. C. 2014. The Great Bustard: past, present and future of a globally threatened species. Ornis Hungarica 22(2): 1-13.

Alonso, J. C.; Palacín, C.; Onrubia, A.; Aboulouafae, R.; Amezian, M.; Essougrati, A. I.; El Khamlichi, R.; Noaman, M. 2016. Alarming decline and range reduction of the highly threatened Great Bustard Otis tarda in Morocco. Ostrich 87: 277-280

Barati, A.; Amerifar, A. A. 2008. On the status of the Great Bustard, Otis tarda Linnaeus, 1758 (Aves: Otididae) in Kurdistan Province, Iran. Zoology in the Middle East: 41-48.

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

BirdLife International. 2017. Species factsheet: Otis tarda. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/04/2017.

Chan, S.; Goroshko, O. 1998. Action plan for the conservation of the Great Bustard. BirdLife Asia, Tokyo.

Collar, N.; Garcia, E.F.J. 2017. Great Bustard (Otis tarda). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/53712 on 11 April 2017).

Karakaş, R. and Akarsu, F. 2009. Recent status and distribution of the Great Bustard, Otis tarda, in Turkey. Zoology in the Middle East 48: 25-34.

Nagy, S. 2009. International single species action plan for the Western Palearctic population of Great Bustard, Otis tarda tarda. BirdLife International on behalf of the European Commission.

Palacín, C.; Alonson, J. C. 2008. An updated estimate of the world status and population trends of the Great Bustard Otis tarda. Ardeola 55(1): 13-25.

This entry was posted in Africa, Archive, Asia, Bustards, Europe & Central Asia, Middle East and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Archived 2017 topics: Great Bustard (Otis tarda): downlist to Near Threatened?

  1. Jose Rafael Garrido says:

    Andalucía (South of Spain) has a small breeding population monitored from 2000. This population showed a yearly increasing trend of 3,1% from,2003 (325 birds) to 2016 (470 birds), with stables sex ratio and positive productivity. But they are concentring at less breeding areas and lost of habitat is very high actually, with also a high mortality intake because collision at power lines

  2. About a possible downlisting of the Great Bustard to Near Threatened
    I am really concerned about the possibility that the Great Bustard will be downlisted to Near Threatened. As I say in various reviews of its current status (Alonso & Palacín 2010, Alonso 2014), the information we currently have on the numbers and trends of various populations of this species worldwide is so fragmentary and unsure that we should wait until better estimates are available from these countries (Russia, China, Ukraine, Turkey).
    For example, in Alonso & Palacín’s (2010) abstract we said that “We recommend 1) keeping conservation efforts and the species’ protection status worldwide, and 2) carrying out urgently nation-wide surveys in countries with low quality estimates, in order to confirm world numbers and trends”. And in Alonso (2014) we suggested that “As for the prediction of what will happen with Great Bustards in the future, we can¬not be too optimistic, in spite of the apparent good health of the main population of the species in the Iberian Peninsula”, and after discussing on all reasons leading us to such a prudent impression, we concluded that “All these reasons suggest keeping the species under a vulnerable status is today the best measure to protect it from all fac¬tors that caused the decline and extinction of many of its populations in the past. We should encourage the nature conservation administrations of those countries still lack¬ing accurate surveys of their Great Bustard populations to carry out such censuses, and to take the necessary measures that ensure conservation of this species and its habitat.”
    In these publications we said that the population is Spain has probably recovered from past declines caused by hunting, and that now “the overall trend in Spain and Portugal might be best qualified as generally stable, with a slight tendency to increase at some high quality areas, and to decrease in marginal or worse conserved sites” (Alonso & Palacín 2010). Thus we do not think that the population in Spain is increasing at present, as could be concluded from Westrip (2017) reporting that “As Spain alone contains c.2/3 of the global population, and the population there is said to be increasing,…”.
    Since our feeling expressed in Alonso & Palacín (2010) (” The lack of a better knowledge of numbers and trends in several countries with important Great Bustard populations (e.g., Russia, Mongolia, China, Turkey, Ukraine) prevent us from drawing more precise conclusions about a worldwide demographic trend.”…..”These worldwide trends will only be completely confirmed when appropriate series of reliable counts become available in those countries where current estimates are still of low quality.”), and most recent data on very low juvenile productivity in various Iberian regions, probably due to the negative effects of intensive farming practices and a lack of appropriate agricultural policies, call for additional caution, we clearly encourage conservation authorities to keep the species as Vulnerable until good counts and estimates of demographic trends are available in all countries with significant populations of this species (mainly Russia, China, Ukraine, Turkey).
    Finally, in some other countries, a very negative demographic trend has recently been demonstrated (Barati et al. 2015, Alonso et al. 2016). The value of these populations within the species’ worldwide distribution context, as well as to exemplify what could happen in other countries in a near future, prompt us not only to recommend urgent conservation measures there, but also to emphasize that the species still needs maintaining its current conservation status.
    References cited:
    Alonso, J. C. 2014. The Great Bustard: past, present and future of a globally threatened species. Ornis Hungarica 22(2): 1-13.
    Alonso, J. C., Palacín, C. 2010. The world status and population trends of the Great Bustard: 2010 up¬date. Chinese Birds 1: 141−147.
    Alonso, J. C., Palacín, C., Onrubia, A., Aboulouafae, R., Amezian, M., Essougrati, A. I., El Khamlichi, R., Noaman, M. 2016. Alarming decline and range reduction of the highly threatened Great Bustard Otis tarda in Morocco. Ostrich 87: 277-280.
    Barati, A., Abdulkarimi, R., Alonso, J. C. 2014. Recent status and population decline of the Great Bustard (Otis tarda) in Iran. Bird Con¬servation International 25: 377-384.
    Westrip, J. 2017. Great Bustard (Otis tarda): downlist to Near Threatened? https://globally-threatened-bird-forums.birdlife.org/2017/06/great-bustard-otis-tarda-downlist-to-near-threatened/ (accessed 17 July 2017)

  3. David Waters says:

    Has any account be taken of the Eurasian population of the Great Bustards, including the eastern sub species, when making this suggestion? The “turn around” of the species has only occurred in a relatively small part of it’s geographical range. For the remainder, and majority, of it’s range the species is likely to be declining.

  4. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2017 Red List would be to list:

    Great Bustard as Vulnerable under criterion A3cd.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 4 August, after which the recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    Please note that we will then only post final recommended categorisations on forum discussions where these differ from the initial proposal.

    The final 2017 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  5. James Westrip (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, the recommended Red List category will remain as in our preliminary proposal, but with a different criteria string:

    Vulnerable under criteria A3cd+4cd.

    Final 2017 Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in early December, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

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