MEXICO CITY – The Community Bird-Monitoring Network is a successful Mexican system that has now been exported to Central America, biologist Humberto Berlanga told EFE, while noting that birds can be a reliable indicator of the state of nature conservation with the help of citizen science.
Berlanga, coordinator of the Community Bird-Monitoring Network, said the original goal was to record population trends among indicator species of birds, in order to track changes in biodiversity and particularly to guide the development of sustainable productive activities.
The network, developed in 2009 by the National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) in collaboration with other federal institutions and NGOs, has generated useful biological information shared with the general public on the digital platform ebird.org in the English version (aVerAves.com in Spanish).
CONABIO says that birds are a group widely used in monitoring programs since they’re easy to spot and react to changes in nature.
Throughout the network, members of local communities who decided to become volunteer monitors have been trained and equipped in different regions of Mexico’s 17 states, including Oaxaca, Veracruz, Tabasco and Chiapas, Berlanga said.
The network has evolved into “successful citizen science that Mexico has exported to Central America as a model for bird-watching and monitoring,” the expert said.
“It’s a system unique in Latin America and has the potential to be expanded” to further spread knowledge of biodiversity and generate significant benefits for communities, mainly in their respect for the natural world that surrounds them.
This citizen science has had a positive effect. “It’s not just bird-watching,” Berlanga said, adding that with regard to original goal of checking on how bird species were doing and registering the data, “communities have now made that activity their own.”
Berlanga noted that bird-watching can be a tourist pastime that hauls in some very worthwhile economic benefits – in the United States, for example, it brings in $30 billion a year.
“Though Costa Rica and Argentina are leaders in that regard, Mexico could become a world leader for bird-watching as a recreation for tourists,” he said.
In Mexico, one out of every 10 bird species is endemic, and there are birders who come all the way from Japan to see Mexican birds.
“We have really attractive places where we could have guides trained to find bird species,” he said.
“If we identify high-diversity sites or places with a large presence of endemic species, we can generate centers of attraction and bring more of that kind of tourism to Mexico,” Berlaga said.