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  • Writer's pictureIBCP

IBCP co-authors new publication on the desert endemic Arabian Partridge

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

10 May, 2023

An Arabian Partridge in the Harrat Uwayrid Biosphere Reserve, Saudi Arabia. Photo by Sulyman AlMyhoby.

A poorly known Arabian desert endemic species, the Arabian Partridge (Alectoris melanocephala) has rarely been studied in the wild, and little is known about its conservation status. Fortunately, a population of this species was recently discovered approximately 100 km north of its previously known range, in rocky hillsides of the Harrat Uwayrid Biosphere Reserve, a recently declared UNESCO site in northwest Saudi Arabia. IBCP has worked with colleagues at Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla to produce a new scientific publication in which we explore the question: What limits Arabian Partridge abundance in Saudi Arabia’s Harrat Uwayrid Biosphere Reserve?

Our study area in the Harrat Uwayrid Biosphere Reserve (black area inside circle) and the previously mapped distribution of the Arabian Partridge by the IUCN (red areas), showing the transect locations (black dots) within the reserve (black polygon). Map by Alaaeldin Soultan.

We found that feral donkeys, livestock grazing, and hunting negatively influence partridge abundance in the reserve. Moderate levels of disturbance from feral donkeys, livestock grazing, feral donkeys, and hunters resulted in a ~50% decline in partridge abundance compared to the sites with no disturbance. Moreover, Arabian Partridge density was 23 times higher in sites without donkeys compared to sites with donkeys. The northward range shift of the Arabian Partridge we report may be related to climate change, which is associated with northward range shifts in many other species of birds. Until now, no specific threats to this species had been quantified. We make conservation recommendations in our paper that we will detail in an upcoming popular science article on this species.

Arabian Partridges make their way up a steep, rocky outcrop in the Harrat Uwayrid Biosphere Reserve. Video by Ali Alanzy.

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