Lowland Rain Forest, Krabi

            

 

Gurney's Pitta Research and Conservation in Thailand and Myanmar

Since 2005, supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' (RSPB), with funding from the UK Government's Darwin Initiative, FORRU has contributed to the project "Gurney's Pitta Research and Conservation in Thailand and Myanmar". In March 2009, the project was sucessful in its application for an additional three years of "post-project" funding from the Darwin Initiative. This project includes two more years of continued support FORRU-Krabi to reseach the restoration of the lowland tropical rainforest which is the habitat for Gurney's Pitta.




FORRU's Thailand partner for this project is now the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand.FORRU's contribution has been to assist local forestry staff to carry out the research needed to restore the habitat of Thailand's most endangered bird species. Lots of information, including all of FORRU's reports, is available on the Gurney's Pitta project pages on the Darwin Initiative website. The main product of FORRU's work to date has been "A Technical Strategy for Restoring Krabi's Lowland Tropical Forest" providing preliminary recommendations for the implementation of a forest restoration program to be applied to Gurney's Pitta habitat. 

Between April 2008 and March 2009, the Krabi research nursery established at Ban Bang Tieow has been fully funded by the
 Oriental Bird Club (OBC).
 










Abovemale Gurneys' Pitta Above Right: female Gurney's Pitta (photo by 'sAwnOirOychAng) 

This project is located in the southern province of Krabi in Thailand, where one of the last remaining patches of lowland tropical rainforest in Thailand grows. This is the habitat of the spectacular blue and yellow Gurneys' Pitta. This tiny remnant of tropical rain forest has been reduced to a fraction of its former size due to land clearance for oil palm and rubber plantations, so forest restoration will be crucial for the survival of the bird.

Below left: The stunning, but fast disappearing, Gurneys' Pitta habitat.
Below right: A walk through the Wildlife Sanctuary, taking in some of the exotic surroundings.

 

What have we done so far?

With training from FORRU's Dr. Elliott and Mr. Kuaraksa, a nursery has been established on local community land in collaboration with the Ban Tiew Environment Group and village leaders. In addition to producing trees for forest restoration, the nursery is also being used for educational activities for local school children. The nursery consists of an office/germinating room, a shaded standing down area, and has capacity for 10 000 seedlings.

CMU botanist, Mr. J.F. Maxwell has made several visits to the site to teach local forestry staff how to identify tree species indigenous to the area. More than 100 tree species have been recorded so far.

FORRU has hosted training sessions for Krabi staff in Chiang Mai and on-site in Krabi. Training has covered all aspects of setting up a forest restoration research unit. On-site training covered monitoring seed production of forest trees, seed collection and tree nursery techniques, including germination experiments, how to monitor seedling growth, data recording techniques and how to propagate wildlings. Social and community aspects were also considered, including a visit to Ban Mae Sa Mai in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park

 

Left: Taweesak (Krabi staff) collecting local fruits and seeds beside the natural "Emerald Pool". Right: Cherdsak (FORRU research staff) demonstrating monitoring techniques for the nursery.

By the middle of 2008, germination experiments had been started for more than 100 tree species and completed for 44 of these. Nursery growth experiments were complete for 36 species and a phenology study for 68 tree species was underway. More information can be found in the 3rd year report, below.
In August 2006, 4 rai of experimental plots were planted with 30 tree species. 4 rai of experimental plots were planted in 2007, and 2 rai in 2008. The field performance of tree species is currently being monitored and FORRU has produced a list of potential framework tree species to promote recovery of Gurney's Pitta habitat. In recently deforested sites, FORRU's preliminary trials of Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) have produced excellent results in stimulating the recovery of lowland tropical rainforest.
The TV company “Panorama” produced a short documentary about Gurney’s Pitta, which included footage of the nursery and habitat restoration aspects of the project.
 
The Current Project


In March 2009, the RSPB was successful in applying for further Darwin Initiative support for the Gurney's Pitta recovery program. This project intends to use and build on the results of the previous Darwin project. The project is addressing the problem of loss of lowland tropical forest in southern Thailand. Habitat loss in southern Thailand, although slowed by the original project, means that a high proportion of the tiny Gurney's Pitta population remaining there exists in fragments, which results in high rates of nest predation by snakes. The capacity to reduce this effect and to increase the population by restoring critical areas of Gurney’s Pitta nesting habitat was developed by the original project, using FORRU-CMU’s methods of forest inventory, tree specimen reference collection, establishment of a nursery, research and training. Now the nursery and its trained and dedicated staff can start to fulfil the longer term aims to produce enough trees of high-performing species forcommunity tree planting schemes and for habitat restoration and defragmentation for Gurney’s Pitta.
 
This project will combine the scientific outputs and increased capacity generated by the original project in Thailand to implement the restoration elements the technical forest restoration strategy. This will involve meeting local stakeholders to confirm areas for restoration that will provide the greatest benefits to Gurney’s Pitta, maintaining and expanding the tree nursery, consolidating it as the key facility for the mass production of key rainforest tree species in the region, and restoring at least 6 ha of forest by FORRU-Krabi. This initiative will be supported by surveys of the Gurney’s Pitta population undertaken by BCST and Department of National Parks staff to best target restoration work. The results of this survey and the land cover GIS database will be used to maximise the benefits of restoration for Gurney’s Pitta and biodiversity generally by enlarging forest blocks and establishing forest corridors to reconnect forest fragments within which much of the population is now confined.

Simultaneously, community activities will be supported through outreach education in forest restoration methods and the provision of rainforest trees. The project will therefore continue to build community collaboration with efforts to save this unique forest ecosystem. To support the reforestation efforts the project will build community collaboration and understanding of the importance of lowland forests through a programme of environmental education and community activities undertaken by the BirdLife partner in Thailand. For schools, this will focus on resourcing the recently established Information Centre and developing a Teacher Training Course.

  • Critical Gurney's Pitta habitat in southern Thailand will be restored using techniques developed during the original project, increasing the chances of survival of this population.
  • Local forest officials and local people in southern Thailand will be provided with high-performing indigenous forest tree species for their own replanting projects.
  • Community involvement will safeguard restored areas in the long term.
  • Other forest restoration projects in the region will benefit from the expertise generated.
The final report for this project can be found on the Darwin Initiative website or by clicking here