Estimating the population size of an endangered shorebird, the Madagascar plover, using a habitat suitability model


Peter R. Long, Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1225 384238


The Madagascar plover Charadrius thoracicus is a shorebird endemic to western Madagascar, currently classified as globally vulnerable. It is restricted to specialized wetland habitats that are increasingly threatened by humans. To inform future conservation measures for this poorly known species, we develop a predictive habitat suitability map and use this map to estimate the size of the Madagascar plover population. We integrate spatially referenced presence-only observations of Madagascar plovers with Landsat data, elevation data and measures of distance to settlements and the coast to produce a habitat suitability model using ecological niche factor analysis. Validation of this model using a receiver operating characteristic plot suggests that it is at least 84% accurate in predicting suitable sites. We then use our estimate of total area of suitable habitat above a critical suitability threshold and data on Madagascar plover density in suitable sites to estimate the total population size to derive a total population estimate of 3100±396 standard error individuals. Finally, we explore the conservation applications of our model.