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Juan Fernández Firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 172516196

Island Community Conservation of the Critically Endangered Juan Fernández Firecrown

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 172516196) - Juan Fernández Firecrown - Awarded $7,650 on November 06, 2017

INTRODUCTION

The Juan Fernández Firecrown is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered and is endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island in Chile. Its population is currently estimated at less than 800 individuals and is decreasing with the confluence of human-driven impacts and recent severe weather events. This small brilliantly colored JF Firecrown is the last endemic oceanic island hummingbird left in the world; immediate conservation action is urgently needed.

Robinson Crusoe Island has a human population just above 1,000 and wildlife is in constant conflict with the manifestations of development: invasive species, deforestation from historic selective logging and livestock grazing. Multiple sources identify the serious threat that invasive plants pose to native forests in the JFA (Dirnböck et al., 2003; Greimler et al., 2002), and identify human impact has degraded over 90% of Robinson Crusoe (Meza, 1989).  This is of particular concern to the JF Firecrown, a nectarivorous feeder that depends upon intact native forest for food and reproduction. 

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

The Juan Fernández Firecrown Conservation Program has one specific goal: to improve the conservation status of critically endangered Juan Fernández Firecrown.  This goal is achieved through various objectives and actions over the course of more than a decade. We focus on the critically important habitat of Plazoleta del Yunque, the epicenter of Firecrown populations and a relatively small area that allows for targeted and highly efficient conservation action.

OBJECTIVE 1.0 – Restore the Firecrown’s endemic forest habitat on Robinson Crusoe to improve nesting and foraging opportunities for the species through invasive plant control.

  • Use chemical and manual treatments to remove invasive plants from ~5 hectares.
  • Monitor treated plots for regrowth and species distributions.
  • Target two highly aggressive and invasive plant species, maqui (Aristotelia chilensis) and elm-leaf blackberry shrubs (Rubus ulmifolius).

OBJECTIVE 2.0 – Conduct community-based conservation initiatives to raise awareness and cultivate island stewardship of resident Firecrowns. 

  • Support environmental education in the local high school through workshops.
  • Facilitate National Park planting days with the Chilean Forestry Service for community members. and the elementary school.
  • Plant 75 native species in cleared plots.
  • Monitor survivorship of the transplanted seedlings. 

Oikonos and our partners engage in active habitat restoration to intercede on behalf of the species and other native plant and wildlife on Robinson Crusoe. The targeted clearing of invasive plants from critical habitat restores foraging and breeding opportunities for the Firecrown while benefiting native plants that are smothered by elm-leaf blackberry and maqui. This in turn provides key habitat for other species and promotes a functioning and flourishing ecosystem. Oikonos has worked to conserve this iconic species for more than a decade, and safeguarding this species remains one of our highest priorities. Promoting island stewardship and active engagement in conservation among Robinson Crusoe residents is also a fundamental aspect of our work, as long-term conservation change is only possible with a genuine commitment from local communities.

Project document