Local ecological knowledge provides novel evidence on threats and declines for the Caucasian grouse Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi in Arasbaran Biosphere Reserve, Iran.

Published online
05 Jan 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Ghanbari, S. & Turvey, S. T.
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The Caucasian grouse Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi, one of the most poorly known species of grouse, is experiencing population declines associated with multiple threats. Evaluating species' population status in relation to different local human activities is important to inform conservation and identify suitable management methods, but determining status and threats for poorly known taxa may require assessment of non-standard sources of ecological information. We investigated what novel insights can be provided by local ecological knowledge (LEK) about population status and threats to the Caucasian grouse, in relation to the comparative status of other co-occurring wildlife and to different local land-use activities, and how data on local awareness and attitudes can guide conservation planning for this species. We conducted an interview survey in rural communities in the Arasbaran Biosphere Reserve (ABR), Iran, and collected LEK from 95 respondents within villages situated close to the locations of surviving and extirpated grouse populations. LEK is a useful tool for assessing the status of grouse populations: 41.1% of respondents recognized grouse and 30.5% had seen the species, and respondents within villages situated close to surviving grouse populations had greater awareness, sighting likelihood, and more recent sightings. More respondents considered that grouse and other galliforms had declined in comparison to other wildlife. Decline and disappearance of grouse populations is associated with alteration and disturbance of grouse habitat, with potential drivers including increased cattle grazing and local bans on harvesting fodder. These findings provide a new baseline to guide the development of suitable grassland management strategies (e.g. grazing regimes) for this species, and highlight the importance of further assessment of the effects of habitat disturbance on grouse survival, including understanding local histories of human-environmental interaction. Current landscape management methods are not supported by local people within the ABR, with most respondents disagreeing with the strict conservation measures currently in place, and we recommend that a new management system should be developed for Caucasian grouse conservation, including targeted conservation education and involving local community participation and co-management.

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