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Tropical Conservation Science


The management of assemblages of species across many taxa is a common concern in conservation. Consequently, the use of one or a few surrogate or indicator species to represent an entire assemblage has become an increasingly important tool in conservation science. However, conservation schemes based on the needs of one or two focal species often fail to account for individualistic responses of larger assemblages of species. Data from bird point counts along with vegetation characteristics from a coastal tropical dry forest in Kenya that is subject to elephant disturbance were used to explore the differential responses of bird species to environmental conditions in a forest reserve where wildlife management includes both endangered birds and mammals. Results revealed that even birds with similar foraging habits had idiosyncratic responses to both environmental traits and elephant disturbance. While overall species responded to important characteristics such as percent canopy cover and leaf litter depth, individualistic responses of different species trait diversity defied easy characterization of optimal forest management schemes. Taken together, our analyses highlight the difficulty in basing the development of management plans for entire assemblages of species on the response of a single or a few species. Implications for wildlife conservation in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and similar forest reserves are discussed, emphasizing the need for a better understanding of individual species’ responses to forest conditions.


Published by SAGE in Tropical Conservation Science, Vol. 10, 2017, available via DOI: 10.1177/1940082917713013.

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