Species distribution modeling reveals strongholds and potential reintroduction areas for the world’s largest eagle

Everton B.P. Miranda, Jorge F.S. Menezes, Camila C.L. Farias, Charles Munn, Carlos A. Peres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The highly interactive nature of predator-prey relationship is essential for ecosystem conservation; predators have been extirpated, however, from entire ecosystems all over the Earth. Reintroductions comprise a management technique to reverse this trend. Species Distribution Models (SDM) are preemptive tools for release-site selection, and can define levels of habitat quality over the species distribution. The Atlantic Forest of South America has lost most of its apex predators, and Harpy Eagles Harpia harpyja—Earth’s largest eagle—are now limited to few forest pockets in this domain. Harpy Eagles are supposedly widespread in the Amazon Forest, however, where habitat loss and degradation is advancing at a rapid pace. We aim to describe the suitability of threatened Amazonian landscapes for this eagle. We also aim to assess the suitability of remaining Atlantic Forest sites for Harpy Eagle reintroductions. Here we show that that considerable eagle habitat has already been lost in Amazonia due to the expansion of the “Arc of Deforestation”, and that Amazonian forests currently represent 93% of the current distribution of the species. We also show that the Serra do Mar protected areas in southeastern Brazil is the most promising region for Harpy Eagle reintroductions in the Atlantic Forest. Reintroduction and captive breeding programs have been undertaken for Harpy Eagles, building the technical and biological basis for a successful restoration framework. Our distribution range for this species represents a 41% reduction of what is currently proposed by IUCN. Furthermore, habitat loss in Amazonia, combined with industrial logging and hunting suggest that the conservation status of this species should be reassessed. We suggest researchers and conservation practitioners can use this work to help expand efforts to conserve Harpy Eagles and their natural habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0216323
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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