Esmeraldas Woodstar Chaetocercus berlepschi
Version: 1.0 — Published June 4, 2010
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The recent discovery of several breeding populations of Esmeraldas Woodstar in western Ecuador has improved our overall knowledge of the status of the species in Ecuador. Nonetheless, the species has a very small range and is Endangered because of the critical reduction of its habitat and consequently of its populations. Suitable habitat exists and the species may be effectively protected within Machalilla National Park and adjacent national reserves of smaller size that encompass relicts of coastal garúa, semi-deciduous and dry forests; however, a careful estimation of the population size of the species is needed to reevaluate the conservation status of the species. Preliminary studies have been carried out by the author in order to estimate population size based on habitat availability of the species within its predictive distribution (Ágreda 2009); these studies are pointing out priority conservation actions to protect the species and its habitat.
Effects of human activity on populations
Chaetocercus berlepschi is endemic to the Ecuadorian coastal cordillera (Ridgely and Greenfield 2001, Birdlife International 2008). According to a model created by Sierra et al. (1999) of the main plant physiognomic formations in mainland Ecuador, the Ecuadorian coastal cordillera presents three distinctive vegetation types that are endangered due to habitat destruction and deforestation. One of them, the evergreen premontane forest, is distributed from sea level to below 450 m in elevation. This forest represents a critical habitat for the survival of the Esmeraldas Woodstar and other endemics of the Tumbesian Region (Endemic Bird Area 045 of BirdLife International; see Birdlife International 2003). The other two vegetation types lay between 450 m to around 800 m. According to these authors habitat loss ranges from 60% in the case of the evergreen premontane forests to 32 and 46% in montane and fog forests at higher elevation (Sierra et al. 1999: 81).
Historically, extensive destruction of forest cover in western Ecuador occurred between the 1960s and 1980s (e.g., Dodson and Gentry 1990, Sierra et al. 1999). The coastal cordillera currently is considered to be the region in Ecuador that suffers the greatest pressure associated with illegal settlement, habitat transformation and deforestation (e.g., Sierra et al. 1999: 85). A study of the current habitat availability of the species is under investigation by the author.