NRN Research and Conservation Priorities
This is a guide for aiding the prospective researchers,
funding organizations and other conservationists to understand and identify the
most important areas in Neotropical raptor research and conservation. This
guide is maintained relevant and current by the Advisory Board of the NRN.
1. Distribution and abundance of little known regional
In many cases very little is known about the
relative abundance and the distribution of endemic Neotropical raptor species.
Without sufficient data on the abundance of a species it is difficult to
determine whether a species is experiencing a decline or it is just naturally
rare. Basic information on the relative abundance and other factors affecting
several Neotropical species would improve knowledge on their population status
and help direct further conservation work if necessary.
2. Life history of little known raptors.
Life history parameters include such things as
breeding biology (nest type, clutch size, breeding season, behavior and
frequency) foraging ecology (diet, foraging and feeding behavior), movements
(dispersal and habitat requirements.) As with the lack of distribution and
abundance data, a lack of understanding in this area makes it difficult to offer
useful solutions for conservation for species that are naturally rare or whose
populations have declined. Solid life-history information for all species of
Neotropical Raptors is essential for conservation success.
3. Human impacts on raptor populations, such as habitat
degradation, contaminants, direct persecution.
The primary threats to raptors in the
Neotropics are either directly or indirectly incurred by humans. These threats
to raptors are generally synonymous with threats to the entire ecosystems.
Raptors� unique area-sensitive, far ranging, top-predator ecology, make them
important sentinels of ecosystem change. This capacity has earned them a
likening to the canary in the coalmine, providing an early warning of dangerous
environmental conditions. A study of the anthropogenic impact on raptors will
be helpful to raptor conservation and it may provide timely warnings to threats
against a broad range of Neotropical biodiversity.
4. Mitigation of human impacts.
Preservation of vast tracts of unused land
would be the ideal method of conservation; however, it is likely that habitat in
the Neotropics will continue to be altered for forest product extraction,
agriculture, animal husbandry and the general needs of a growing human
population. Under these circumstances it is important to pursue development
strategies that have as little negative impact on biodiversity as possible.
Protection of raptors, due to their relatively wide ranges and needs for a
healthy ecosystem, can help ensure the protection of wide range of species and
5. Systematics of raptors.
Although raptors represent one of the best
understood of all the vertebrate taxa, much remains to be learned about the
taxonomic relationships of many species and even genera in the region. Such
understanding is critical to evaluating the extent of raptor biodiversity in the
Neotropics, which, in turn, is critical to developing practical and effective
programs for protecting that diversity.
6. Predator-prey relationships.
Because of raptors position at the top of most
food chains their prey base directly and indirectly encompasses a large portion
of entire ecosystems. A clear understanding of the predation ecology of
Neotropical raptors will go a long way to understanding the role that these
predators play in Neotropical ecosystems, and it will help provide strategies
for their conservation.
7. Movement ecology of Neotropical raptors. (migration
Raptor Migration in the New World is a
spectacular event. Migration plays a special role in the lives of Nearctic and
Neotropical raptors, making many of them international and even intercontinental
travelers, affecting other more sedentary species via the potential for
increased competition with migrants, and requiring collaborative large-scale
efforts for their protection. Migratory behavior requires conservationists to
work across political boundaries and take into account an ecology that both
unites the Neotropical biogeographical realm as well as the Nearctic. Studies
of pattern and process Neotropical raptor migration, as well as its ecological
consequences for the region, will provide important insights into Neotropical
ecology and into this important aspect of the lives of many raptors.
8. Raptor Community Ecology (interactions)
Studies of the community ecology of Neotropical
raptors are in their infancy. We still lack a basic understanding of how the
more than 100 species that inhabit the region interact with one another, both as
competitors and as potential prey or predators. Given the rich diversity of
raptors in the region, studies in community ecology offer the hope of making
significant contributions to the field in general as well as providing rich
insights into how better to protect them.