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Sea level rise and the conservation of the Micronesian megapode (Megapodius laperouse senex) in Palau, Micronesia

The Micronesian Megapode, a species of ground nesting bird, is listed as Endangered by the IUCN and the population in Palau is in decline.  Megapodes are known for using alternate sources of heat for incubating their eggs as opposed to body heat.  The subspecies in Palau (M. l. senex) builds mounds they fill with vegetative matter, using the heat generated by its decomposition for incubation.  They almost exclusively situate these mounds in beach strand cover just above the high tide line on limestone islands low lying atolls throughout the archipelago.  Our study site is the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Rock Islands Southern Lagoon Conservation Area, which is known to support the largest population of megapodes in Palau.  A projected sea level rise of over a meter within the current century would have devastating consequences for M. l. senex throughout the archipelago.  Breeding productivity of the subspecies is also possibly threatened by heavy tourist pressure and large populations of introduced rats in the Rock Islands.

Our work serves as the first detailed study of the Micronesian Megapode in Palau and the first assessment of existing and future threats to it.  This subspecies will serve as a model for the investigation of the effect of sea level rise and additive stressors on other ground nesting landbirds throughout Oceania.  The primary objectives of this project are:

  1. Determine habitat use and ranging patterns of megapodes in Rock Islands to define critical habitat and to develop a habitat model for the species in Palau.
  2. Model the potential impacts of projected sea level rise on nesting and foraging habitats of megapodes in Palau and determine the availability of potential refugia in the archipelago.
  3. Quantify secondary impacts on megapodes in the Rock Islands, particularly the effect of rats, and the potential role human activities play in increasing and maintaining rat populations.

Funding agency

Rufford Small Grants for Nature Conservation
Club 300 Bird Protection
World Pheasant Association
ECU School of Sciences Postgraduate Student Support

Project duration



Dr Alan Olsen (Belau National Museum)
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