Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation in the Dominican Republic

Location

Sierra de Bahoruco (principally Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco and Miguel Domingo Fuertes National Monument) and Sierra Septentrional (principally Reserva Cientifica Loma Quita Espuela)

Since 2015 ABC and its partners have reforested 20 hectares with native species in and around the Loma Quita Espuela Scientific Reserve with local farmers in the buffer zones of the nature reserves. ABC has supported the improved protection of the 9,247 ha Loma Quita Espuela Scientific Reserve.

Along with partners, ABC has restored 12.6 hectares through native plant propagation and reforestation within Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco. We have also supported the Ministry of the Environment to improve the protection of this national park (50,817 ha) and the Loma Charco Azul Biological Reserve (17419ha) which ABC helped create in 2010.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) works with Dominican NGO partners SOH Conservacion (SOH) and Fundacion Loma Quita Espuela (FLQE) and other partners to conserve, protect and restore important bird habitat in public and private nature reserves in the Dominican Republic. All projects include habitat protection, capacity building for forest protection, some aspect of restoration and community outreach and education. Nearly 90% of entire population of the endangered Bicknell’s Thrush migrate during the winter to the island of Hispaniola, mostly to the DR. The Septentrional mountains of the DR, have been identified by scientists as a critical area for Bicknell’s Thrush and, in particular, females of the species. In these region, the partners are working to promote native species reforestation and cacao production to restore degraded habitat and reduce threats to the multiple protected areas of the region.

Septentrional:

The Cordillera Septentrional along the north coast of the Dominican Republic is one of the most important overwintering areas for the Bicknell’s Thrush, a species that has been petitioned for Endangered Species status in the United States. Data collected by Vermont Center for Ecostudies has shown that female Bicknell’s Thrush occur at relatively high densities within the Septentrional Mountain Range. Within the Septentrional Range one of the most important areas for Bicknell’s Thrush is the Loma Quita Espuela Scientific Reserve (LQESR). The 9,247 acre reserve has been identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International for its importance to Bicknell’s Thrush and other Neotropical Migrants. The montante broadleaf rainforests of LQESR are highly threated from subsistence agriculture and small-scale logging, cattle ranching and expanding human settlements. Immediate actions are necessary to protect the threatened resources of LQESR and protect key wintering grounds for the Bicknell’s Thrush.

Fundacion Loma Quita Espuela (FLQE) is a Dominican organization that has the co-management responsibilities for LQESR in association with the Ministry of the Environment of the Dominican Republic. Within the Septentrional region there is a goal of increasing forest cover by 12%. To do this, it will require continued protection and restoration of forest cover within the Loma Quita Espuela Reserve, and continued acquisition protection or restoration of other lands within the Septentrional mountain range. Activities outside of the LQESR are conducted to advance restoration in the buffer zone with partners Consorsio Ambiental Dominicano and Reserva Zorzal Reserve.

These partnerships result in ecological restoration via native plant propagation and reforestation efforts within the protected area and outside. The work is built upon a framework that supports communities and individuals to manage their natural resources more sustainably, in order to generate benefits for the climate, their livelihoods, wildlife and watersheds.

Additionally, local cacao producers are incentivized to plant woody species in pastures and restore forests via cash payments from international chocolate companies seeking to offset their carbon footprints and acquire cacao at a premium price from farms demonstrating good environmental stewardship. Monitoring is conducted and while no official certification is provided, the chocolate companies market locally-sourced cacao as being “bird friendly”. Expanded cacao production is possible in the region provided additional investment availability.

Sierra de Bahoruco:

Within the Sierra de Bahoruco there are three important protected areas: Parque Nacional Sierra de Bahoruco, Reserva Biologica Loma Charco Azul and Monumento Nacional Domingo Miguel Fuerte which individually protect important and diverse habitats but collectively represent one of the largest protected landscapes in the Caribbean region, and provide critical habitat for the Bicknell’s Thrush.

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and Dominican partner SOH Conservation, (SOH) have worked successfully in these areas to advance site protection, endangered species monitoring, park guard training, community education and engagement, and habitat restoration. This partnership and the collaboration with the Dominican Ministry of the Environment has significantly advanced the habitat protection agenda in this landscape where there are significant threats and the issues are complicated. The presence of the border with Haiti creates threats unique to this location along with a history of violence, smuggling, corruption, poverty, lack of access to education and resources and inconsistent policies, leads to a weakened system of protection for the natural resources of Sierra de Bahoruco. However, the significant resources and effort invested in conservation work in the region by ABC and SOH have changed the way the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) conducts their park protection operations and the local communities and agricultural producers are now engaged and aware of conservation needs and benefits in ways they have never been before. We are working with the local tourism cluster to promote the region for ecotourism to bring additional employment and economic opportunities to a region not visited by the thousands of sun and surf tourists that visit the DR. Without our collective intervention it is highly likely that instead of seeing additional protections, improved management and the initiation of forest restoration activities there would be more loss of habitat for migratory birds (particularly the Bicknell’s Thrush) at an accelerated and unacceptable rate.

Investment US$:

$1,065,000 USD

Contact info:

John Tschirky, jtschirky@abcbirds.org

Organization website:

https://abcbirds.org/

Partners:

ABC works most directly with Sociedad Ornitológica Hispaniola, now SOH Conservation, (SOH) and Fundacion Loma Quita Espuela (FLQE). We also collaborate and coordinates with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), Cluster Turisitco de Barahona, Consorcio Ambiental Domnicano, La Reserva Privada El Zorzal, Grupo Jaragua, Zorzal Chocolate, Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Loma Charco Azul: Refuge for Bay-breasted Cuckoo