Fair tests of the habitat amount hypothesis require appropriate metrics of patch isolation: An example with small mammals in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-18 Marcus Vinícius Vieira, Mauricio Almeida-Gomes, Ana Cláudia Delciellos, Rui Cerqueira, Renato Crouzeilles
Patch size and isolation are traditionally considered as main determinants of species richness in fragmented landscapes, grounded on Island Biogeography Theory (IBT). The Habitat Amount Hypothesis (HAH) is the more recent alternative: species richness could be predicted exclusively by the total amount of habitat surrounding sampling sites. However, tests may be biased towards HAH by the use of poor metrics of patch isolation, and because landscape variables are measured only within the scale of effect for habitat amount. Here we compare the HAH, IBT, and patch isolation as predictors of species richness of forest-dependent small mammals in an Atlantic Forest fragmented landscape using two measures of patch isolation: considering all (overall) or only the nearest three (restrict) forest remnants within the scale of effect for each variable. The model with habitat amount had more support than models with patch size and isolation (representing IBT), or patch size alone, but the model with overall patch isolation was equally plausible. Had we used only restricted patch isolation, we would have found support only for the HAH, disregarding patch isolation. The appropriate metric of patch isolation is critical for robust tests of the HAH, which should be considered in future studies to avoid biased results in favour of the HAH. Our results provide strong evidence for either HAH or overall patch isolation over IBT, and both may offer simplicity to decision-making.
Habitat diversity and structure regulate British bird richness: Implications of non-linear relationships for conservation Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-18 Luis Carrasco, Lisa Norton, Peter Henrys, Gavin M. Siriwardena, Christopher J. Rhodes, Clare Rowland, Daniel Morton
Spatial environmental heterogeneity (EH) is an important factor determining species richness among many taxa across spatial scales. Increased EH may support higher diversity mainly by providing a higher number of ecological niches. However, the shapes of the EH-diversity relationships and their influence on diversity measures at landscape scales are poorly understood. We used random forests regression models to assess the relationships between different components of EH and bird species richness across Great Britain. Bird data were obtained using BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey methods across 335 UK Countryside Survey (CS) 1-km squares in 2000. Data on components of EH, including; vegetation, habitat diversity, and habitat structure were collected in associated field surveys. Using the results of our EH component-bird richness models, we applied the case of the likely decline of the ash tree, a species of conservation concern and a key component of British landscape complexity, to create predictive scenarios of future bird richness. We found that EH components had a strong positive effect on bird richness and identified six key components that explained over 70% of variance in bird richness. Bird richness responses were strongly dependent on the specific EH components and were generally non-linear, especially for habitat structural variables, such as lines of trees and hedges. Our predictive scenarios showed a decrease in bird species richness only for simulated ash tree decreases within the habitat structural variables of over 90%, and only for areas where this tree species was a particularly abundant component of the landscape. Our findings, showing that bird richness responses differ for EH components, and that non-linear responses are common, could help the ‘design’ of landscapes that enhance bird diversity. In particular, our study indicates that, in some cases, increasing the occurrence of key structural components of habitat (such as ensuring a minimum of 700 m of managed hedges or a minimum of 70 individual trees per km square), could have disproportionally positive impacts on bird richness.
Will climate change cause spatial mismatch between plants and their pollinators? A test using Andean cactus species Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-17 Pablo Gorostiague, Jesús Sajama, Pablo Ortega-Baes
Climate change can disrupt mutualisms by causing temporal or spatial mismatch between interacting species. However, the effects of climate change forecasts on biotic interactions remain poorly studied. In cactus species, pollination constitutes a fundamental process in the production of fruits and seeds. Thus, we aimed to analyse the impact of future climate change on the geographical distributions of 11 cactus species from the southern Central Andes and their spatial match with their pollinators. We used species distribution modelling to forecast the geographic range shifts of these cactus species and their pollinators under two future scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) for the years 2050 and 2070. We predicted geographic range contractions under future scenarios that reached almost 80% for some cactus species. Our results indicate that the geographical distributions of cacti would be constrained by the presence of the pollinator species on which they depend in the present; however, climate change would not cause spatial mismatch between cacti and their animal pollinators in the future. For most cactus species, we predicted an increase in the spatial match with their mutualists under future scenarios. This is the first study that estimates the geographic range of cacti using both abiotic and biotic factors. Given the importance that positive interactions have on the life cycle of many plant species, our approach could be used to better understand the potential effects of climate change, particularly on species that are of special interest for conservation actions.
Fished species uniformly reduced escape behaviors in response to protection Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-17 O. Kennedy Rhoades, Steve I. Lonhart, John J. Stachowicz
Predation is a critical ecological process that alters the structure and functioning of ecosystems through density-mediated and trait-mediated effects on lower trophic levels. Although studies have focused on harvest-driven reductions in abundances and sizes of targeted species, human harvest also alters species morphologies, life histories, and behaviors by selection, plasticity, and shifts in species interactions. Restricting harvest can recover the biomass of targeted species, but it is less clear how behavioral phenotypes recover, particularly relative to the impacts of potentially opposing pathways of human influence. We investigated the effects of protection on the behavioral traits of a marine fish assemblage, recording behavior of 1377 individual fishes of nine targeted kelp forest species across 16 California marine protected areas (MPAs) varying in age, protection level, and diver visitation. With long-term, full protection from harvest, all fish species exhibited shorter flight initiation distance (FID, or the distance at which an animal flees from an approaching threat) and longer time delays before fleeing, despite differences in trophic position, microhabitat use, and other ecological characteristics. These escape behaviors were amplified across new MPAs regardless of protection level, suggesting that recovery is slow and likely the result of differences in genetic or early-life experience among individuals in these long-lived species. Although the effects of full protection from harvest were partially offset by recovering populations of large piscivorous predators, the net effect of long-term, full protection on fish behavior was shorter FID. Additionally, all species had shorter FID at sites more frequently visited by divers, and this effect was greater in sites with long-term, full protection from fishing. To the extent that escape behavior is correlated with foraging behavior and predation rates, these results suggest that human-induced behavioral changes may affect ecosystem processes, even after abundances have recovered. If recovery of ecosystem functioning and services are the management goal, assessments should be broadened to include the recovery of functional traits (including behavior).
Diel patterns of movement activity and habitat use by leopards (Panthera pardus pardus) living in a human-dominated landscape in central Kenya Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-16 Eric K. Van Cleave, Laura R. Bidner, Adam T. Ford, Damien Caillaud, Chris C. Wilmers, Lynne A. Isbell
Large carnivores can exert strong influence on local ecosystems, making them important targets for biodiversity conservation. An important question for conserving large carnivores outside of protected areas is the role of human activity in influencing the behavior of these predators. We used high-resolution animal location tracking and statistical modeling to examine the behavior of seven leopards (Panthera pardus) occupying an area that includes a research center and livestock ranch in central Kenya. Our analyses reveal changes in habitat selection around the times of sunrise and sunset, corresponding with changes in human activity at our site. Activity patterns were also variable within and among the leopards in our sample. To explore sources of this variability, we used regression modeling to estimate the relative influence of changing spatial and environmental conditions for leopard ranging behavior. Despite the tendency to be active during the day, we found that leopards strongly avoided areas where they were likely to encounter people during the daytime and showed variable selection for these same areas at night. The use of anthropogenic habitats was also associated with periods of greater ranging activity. We discuss the implications of these results for conservation efforts that attempt to balance the demands of livestock ranching alongside carnivore conservation.
A review of Bayesian belief network models as decision-support tools for wetland conservation: Are water birds potential umbrella taxa? Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-15 Maggie P. MacPherson, Elisabeth B. Webb, Andrew Raedeke, Doreen Mengel, Frank Nelson
Creative approaches to identifying umbrella species hold promise for devising effective surrogates of ecological communities or ecosystems. However, mechanistic niche models that predict range or habitat overlap among species may yet lack development. We reviewed literature on taxon-centered Bayesian belief network (BBN) models to explore a novel approach to identify umbrella taxa identifying taxonomic groups that share the largest proportion of habitat requirements (i.e., states of important habitat variables) with other wetland-dependent taxa. We reviewed and compiled published literature to provide a comprehensive and reproducible account of the current understanding of habitat requirements for freshwater, wetland-dependent taxa using BBNs. We found that wetland birds had the highest degree of shared habitat requirements with other taxa, and consequently may be suitable umbrella taxa in freshwater wetlands. Comparing habitat requirements using a BBN approach to build species distribution models, this review also identified taxa that may not benefit from conservation actions targeted at umbrella taxa by identifying taxa with unique habitat requirements not shared with umbrellas. Using a standard node set that accurately and comprehensively represents the ecosystem in question, BBNs could be designed to improve identification of umbrella taxa. In wetlands, expert knowledge about hydrology, geomorphology and soils could add important information regarding physical landscape characteristics relevant to species. Thus, a systems-oriented framework may improve overarching inferences from BBNs and subsequent utility to conservation planning and management.
Realizing the transformative potential of conservation through the social sciences, arts and humanities Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-14 Nathan J. Bennett, Robin Roth
Conservation actions most often occur in peopled seascapes and landscapes. As a result, conservation decisions cannot rely solely on evidence from the natural sciences, but must also be guided by the social sciences, the arts and the humanities. However, we are concerned that too much of the current attention is on research that serves an instrumental purpose, by which we mean that the social sciences are used to justify and promote status quo conservation practices. The reasons for engaging the social sciences, as well as the arts and the humanities, go well beyond making conservation more effective. In this editorial, we briefly reflect on how expanding the types of social science research and the contributions of the arts and the humanities can help to achieve the transformative potential of conservation.
Estimating habitat loss due to wind turbine avoidance by bats: Implications for European siting guidance Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-10 Kévin Barré, Isabelle Le Viol, Yves Bas, Romain Julliard, Christian Kerbiriou
Wind energy is rapidly growing as a renewable source of energy but is not neutral for wildlife, especially bats. Whereas most studies have focused on bat mortality through collision, very few have quantified the loss of habitat use resulting from the potential negative impact of wind turbines, and none of them for hub heights higher than 55 m. Such impacts could durably affect populations, creating a need for improvement of knowledge to integrate this concern in implementation strategies. We quantified the impact of wind turbines at different distances on the activity of 11 bat taxa and 2 guilds. We compared bat activity at hedgerows (207 sites) located at a distance of 0–1000 m from wind turbines (n = 151) of 29 wind farms in an agricultural region in the autumn (overall 193,980 bat passes) using GLMMs. We found a significant negative effect of proximity to turbines on activity for 3 species (Barbastella barbastellus, Nyctalus leisleiri, Pipistrellus pipistrellus), 2 species-groups (Myotis spp., Plecotus spp.) and 2 guilds (fast-flying and gleaner). Bat activity within 1000 m of wind turbines by gleaners and fast-flying bats is reduced by 53.8% and 19.6%, respectively. Our study highlighted that European recommendations (at least 200 m from any wooded edge) to limit mortality events likely strongly underestimate the loss of bat activity. The current situation is particularly worrying, with 89% of 909 turbines established in a region that does not comply with recommendations, which themselves are far from sufficient to limit the loss of habitat use.
Are killer bees good for coffee? The contribution of a paper's title and other factors to its future citations Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-08 Mark J. Costello, Karen H. Beard, Richard B. Primack, Vincent Devictor, Amanda E. Bates
How can the title of a paper affect its subsequent number of citations? We compared the citation rate of 5941 papers published in the journal Biological Conservation from 1968 to 2012 in relation to: paper length; title length; number of authors; paper age; presence of punctuation (colons, commas or question marks); geographic and taxonomic breadth; the word ‘method’; and the type of manuscript (article, review). The total number of citations increased in more recently published papers and thus we corrected citation rate (average number of citations per year since publication) by publication age. As expected, review papers had, on average, twice the number of citations compared to other types of articles. Papers with the greatest geographic or taxonomic breadth were cited up to twice as frequently as narrowly focused papers. Titles phrased as questions, shorter titles, and papers with more authors had slightly higher numbers of citations. However, overall, we found that the included parameters explained only 12% of the variability in citation rate. This suggests that finding a good title is necessary, but that other factors are more important to construct a well-cited paper. We suggest that to become highly cited, a primary requirement is that papers need to advance the science significantly and be useful to readers.
Multi-scale considerations for grassland butterfly conservation in agroecosystems Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-08 Katherine C. Kral, Torre J. Hovick, Ryan F. Limb, Jason P. Harmon
Global change threatens the persistence of multiple taxonomic groups, including butterflies. While conservation efforts for butterfly populations have increased, they are often hampered by a lack of true density estimates and a better understanding of ecological factors that influence density. Our objective was to enhance current grassland butterfly conservation efforts by using line-transect distance sampling to calculate density estimates and model the influence of landscape and local variables on butterfly density in the Northern Great Plains, USA. We calculated density for five obligate and ten facultative grassland species to produce one of the most extensive datasets for butterfly densities to date. In contrast to most previous research, we found that landscape variables influenced butterfly density more often than local variables. Specifically, the percent cover of perennial grasslands, crop lands, and wetlands appeared in 90% of species models, whereas common local variables—forb richness and invasive plant cover— appeared in 60% of best-ranked models. We expected the density of obligate butterfly species to decrease as invasive plants increased, but butterfly species' responses varied with larval diet, instead of habitat associations. Best-ranked models for Danaus plexippus and Speyeria idalia, two species of conservation concern with obligate host plants, did not include local host plant availability. Our results reiterate the importance of modeling species responses to variables across multiple scales and the potential benefits of conserving large tracts of grasslands. Although results emphasize the need for conservation at the landscape scale, managing for heterogeneous local scale variables will also help conserve grassland butterflies.
Higher bat and prey abundance at organic than conventional soybean fields Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-07 Julia E. Put, Greg W. Mitchell, Lenore Fahrig
Studies that have compared biodiversity at organic and conventional farms have generally found that there are more species in greater abundances at organic farms. One widespread problem with previous studies is that most do not control for differences in field structure and landscape composition at organic and conventional farms. Thus, the effects observed may be due to factors other than organic farming practices. We addressed this problem by selecting matched organic-conventional pairs of soybean fields such that in each pair the soybean fields were similar in size, hedgerow length, and surrounding landscape composition within 1 km, 2 km and 3 km of the fields. At each of our 16 field pairs (32 sites), we measured relative differences in bat species richness and abundance using acoustic bat recorders, and bat prey availability using black-light traps. We predicted that organic soybean fields would have greater bat species richness, bat abundance and bat prey abundance than conventional soybean fields due to the prohibition of synthetic pesticides and longer more diverse crop rotations in organic fields, both of which should benefit bat insect prey. We found that organic soybean fields had higher bat species richness, bat abundance and bat prey abundance than conventional fields, after controlling for the effect of differences in soybean height between conventional and organic fields. Our results suggest that the management practices used at organic farms benefit bats at least in part by providing greater bat prey availability.
Avian communities are decreasing with piñon pine mortality in the southwest Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-07 Jeanne M. Fair, Charles D. Hathcock, Andrew W. Bartlow
An increase in tree mortality is expected to occur worldwide due to climate-induced drought and increasing temperatures. The 2000–2002 drought in the southwestern United States was one of the most severe in the last 50 years. It led to a severe outbreak of bark beetles that resulted in high mortality of piñon pine (Pinus edulis) trees on the Pajarito Plateau in Northern New Mexico beginning in 2002. Many areas in piñon-juniper habitat had entire stands of piñon die leaving only juniper (Juniperus spp.). Point count surveys were used to determine avian responses to tree mortality from 2003 to 2013. We also tested whether birds responded differently in sites that were mechanically thinned in 2002 and 2003 on Los Alamos National Laboratory property compared to sites not thinned. Junipers and dead piñon pines due to bark beetles and drought were removed on thinned sites. Richness, diversity, and abundance steadily declined after 2003. There was a 73% decrease in abundance and a 45% decrease in richness from 2003 to 2013. There was no difference in community composition between thinned and unthinned sites. Bird abundance and species richness declined faster in thinned sites than unthinned sites, but diversity decreased similarly in both treatments. Several species disappeared over time and some declined substantially. Our results suggest a delay in bird responses to tree mortality on the Pajarito Plateau. Piñon mortality may be a significant threat to bird communities in the southwestern U.S., and tree thinning to control fire may be an added risk.
Tropical timber tracing and stable isotopes: A response to Horacek et al. Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-06 Mart Vlam, Arnoud Boom, G. Arjen de Groot, Pieter A. Zuidema
We appreciate the comments of Horacek et al. on our publication about African timber tracing (Vlam et al., 2018). In short, our results showed that the geographic origin of Tali timber could be inferred from genetic characteristics (DNA), but not from chemical characteristics obtained from measurements of 3 stable isotopes. Horacek et al. claim that the latter result was due to project design and not to the isotopic method. While we acknowledge some of advices by Horacek et al., our study design was well suitable to test the application of stable isotopes. It just did not work for the isotopes studied – carbon, oxygen and nitrogen – and at the small geographic ranges included in our study. Our results do not support, nor do we want to suggest, the conclusion that stable isotopes are not useful to perform timber tracing. Rather, we have shown for this species and at the sampled forest concessions, that stable isotopes of carbon oxygen and nitrogen do not allow differentiation and therefore offer no potential for chemical tracing.
Evaluating spatiotemporal trends in terrestrial mammal abundance using data collected during bird surveys Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-03 Dario Massimino, Sarah J. Harris, Simon Gillings
Information on the status of biodiversity is crucial for species conservation and management. Large scale assessments are only feasible through citizen science but some taxa are poorly monitored because few people specialise in them. We explore alleviating this problem by using data collected for poorly monitored species as an add-on to existing bird surveys. Since 1995, participants in the annual Breeding Bird Survey have recorded the abundance of mammals during their surveys. We demonstrate the value of these data by developing spatial models of relative abundance for nine common and easily detected mammal species. Rabbit, brown hare and mountain hare all showed widespread declines. Conversely, deer showed increases throughout their ranges, with the exception of the red deer whose population was predominantly stable. The grey squirrel continues to increase in several areas. The red fox, the only carnivore with enough data, showed significant large declines. The collection of data on taxa other than the primary target has particular merit where the secondary taxa can be detected effectively by methods devised for the core survey. In such cases the data are inexpensive and inherit some of the benefits of the underlying structure and power of the core survey. However, the efficacy of the primary study design may vary for the members of secondary taxa and may not be temporally or spatially suitable for all of them. Although more volunteer training may be required, there are also opportunities to engage and enthuse people about conservation issues of other species groups.
Wildlife supply chains in Madagascar from local collection to global export Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-03 Janine E. Robinson, Iain M. Fraser, Freya A.V. St. John, J. Christian Randrianantoandro, Raphali R. Andriantsimanarilafy, Julie H. Razafimanahaka, Richard A. Griffiths, David L. Roberts
International trade in wildlife is a complex multi-billion dollar industry. To supply it, many animals are extracted from the wild, sourced from biodiversity-rich, developing countries. Whilst the trade has far-reaching implications for wildlife protection, there is limited information regarding the socio-economic implications in supply countries. Consequently, a better understanding of the costs and benefits of wildlife supply chains, for both livelihoods and conservation, is required to enhance wildlife trade management and inform its regulation. Using Madagascar as a case study, we used value chain analysis to explore the operation of legal wildlife trade on a national scale; we estimate the number of actors involved, the scale, value and profit distribution along the chain, and explore management options. We find that the supply of wildlife provided economic benefits to a number of actors, from local collectors, to intermediaries, exporters and national authorities. CITES-listed reptiles and amphibians comprised a substantial proportion of the quantity and value of live animal exports with a total minimum export value of 230,795USD per year. Sales prices of reptiles and amphibians increased over 100-fold between local collectors and exporters, with exporters capturing ~92% of final export price (or 57% when their costs are deducted). However, exporters shouldered the largest costs and financial risks. Local collectors obtained ~1.4% of the final sales price, and opportunities for poverty alleviation and incentives for sustainable management from the trade appear to be limited. Promoting collective management of species harvests at the local level may enhance conservation and livelihood benefits. However, this approach requires consideration of property rights and land-tenure systems. The complex and informal nature of some wildlife supply chains make the design and implementation of policy instruments aimed at enhancing conservation and livelihoods challenging. Nevertheless, value chain analysis provides a mechanism by which management actions can be more precisely targeted.
Likely locations of sea turtle stranding mortality using experimentally-calibrated, time and space-specific drift models Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-03 Bianca S. Santos, Marjorie A.M. Friedrichs, Sarah A. Rose, Susan G. Barco, David M. Kaplan
Sea turtle stranding events provide an opportunity to study drivers of mortality, but causes of strandings are poorly understood. A general sea turtle carcass oceanographic drift model was developed to estimate likely mortality locations from coastal sea turtle stranding records. Key model advancements include realistic direct wind forcing on carcasses, temperature driven carcass decomposition and the development of mortality location predictions for individual strandings. We applied this model to 2009–2014 stranding events within the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. Predicted origin of vessel strike strandings were compared to commercial vessel data, and potential hazardous turtle-vessel interactions were identified in the southeastern Bay and James River. Commercial fishing activity of gear types with known sea turtle interactions were compared to predicted mortality locations for stranded turtles with suggested fisheries-induced mortality. Probable mortality locations for these strandings varied seasonally, with two distinct areas in the southwest and southeast portions of the lower Bay. Spatial overlap was noted between potential mortality locations and gillnet, seine, pot, and pound net fisheries, providing important information for focusing future research on mitigating conflict between sea turtles and human activities. Our ability to quantitatively assess spatial and temporal overlap between sea turtle mortality and human uses of the habitat were hindered by the low resolution of human use datasets, especially those for recreational vessel and commercial fishing gear distributions. This study highlights the importance of addressing these data gaps and provides a meaningful conservation tool that can be applied to stranding data of sea turtles and other marine megafauna worldwide.
A modelled global distribution of the seagrass biome Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-02 Dinusha R.M. Jayathilake, Mark J. Costello
Seagrasses form one of the most ecologically important and productive three-dimensional habitats in coastal seas. Knowing the global distribution of seagrass meadows is essential for conservation and blue carbon estimates. Here, we modelled the global distribution of seagrass using 43,037 occurrence records and 13 environmental variables within the modelling software MaxEnt at 30 arc sec resolution (c. 1 km at the equator). We found that sea surface temperature and distance from land contributed most in predicting seagrass distribution globally. Comparison of summing models for individual species, genera, and families found that a model combining all species occurrence records best fitted the known geographic distribution. In addition, this model fills geographic gaps in previous maps. We predicted the seagrass biome may occupy 1,646,788 km2, more than double previous global estimates. Applications for this dataset include blue carbon estimates, spatial planning such as for designing Marine Protected Areas, environmental sensitivity mapping, and monitoring of change in biome cover.
Integrated spatially-explicit models predict pervasive risks to recolonizing wolves in Scandinavia from human-driven mortality Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-02 Mariano R. Recio, Barbara Zimmermann, Camilla Wikenros, Andreas Zetterberg, Petter Wabakken, Håkan Sand
Human-driven wildlife mortality is caused by both indirect causes and direct persecution due to conflicts of interests. The wolf, a predator frequently at risk from human-wildlife conflict, is returning to areas where it was historically extirpated in Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway). The wolf is expanding via a management strategy that allows wolves to reproduce exclusively in a wolf breeding range (WBR) in the south-central region. We modelled wolf territory occurrence in the WBR and all of Scandinavia, accounting for biotic and anthropogenic variables, and we also modelled the occurrence of human-driven mortality (traffic collisions, culling and illegal killing). We integrated territory distribution and mortality models in a two-dimensional model estimating habitat suitability and mortality risk for wolves. Forest was the main variable driving territory occurrence, and mortality was a consequence of variables associated with traffic infrastructure, human population, prey densities, and wolf management levels. Only <0.1% of the WBR was not characterized by these risks. Our results confirm that human-related conflicts resulting in wolf mortality occur wherever the species is present, which leads to actions to control the population expansion. Considering the adaptability of wolves and the presence of potential suitable habitat in Scandinavia, their survival and expansion will be dependent on changes in public attitudes about illegal killing, and a review of policies and management actions. Our framework can be used to assist management of human-wildlife conflicts of recolonizing wolves elsewhere, or of other species at high risk from human-induced mortality.
Red lists in conservation science-policy interfaces: A case study from Vietnam Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-01 Thi Huong Do, Max Krott, Nataly Juerges, Michael Böcher
Red lists of threatened species have been a powerful instrument to interact loss of biodiversity in many countries. However, there have been growing concerns over the scientific basis of red lists and the influence of red lists on conservation policy formulation. This article explores science–policy interface in the development and use of the Vietnamese Red Data Book 2007 by applying the Research – Integration – Utilization (RIU) model of scientific knowledge transfer. Our study has shown the scientific weaknesses of the Vietnamese Red Data Book 2007, which arise from limited availability of updated data on rare and threatened species in Vietnam and unknown factors influencing them. Despite the existing limitations, the science-based policy advice of the Vietnamese Red Data Book 2007 has achieved certain political influence due to successful integration. Our study also reveals that good and actor-relevant communication could help to win powerful allies in conservation policy formulation, which contributes to a successful transfer of scientific knowledge. Based on our results, we recommend that the improvement of the scientific basis of the red lists is essential to enhance science-based policy support in biodiversity conservation.
Comparing citizen science reports and systematic surveys of marine mammal distributions and densities Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-08-01 Gillian K.A. Harvey, Trisalyn A. Nelson, Paul C. Paquet, Colin J. Ferster, Caroline H. Fox
Citizen science observations represent a significant and growing source of species and ecosystem knowledge. These data have potential to support traditional surveys. Databases of citizen observations of wildlife are growing, but how to use this information for scientific purposes is less clear owing to uncertainty in sampling distribution and data quality. In this study, we demonstrate how mapping cetacean patterns using citizen observations and systematic surveys generate consistent and different understandings of cetacean distributions and densities, and evaluate potential risk by assessing cumulative human effects in British Columbia, Canada. We used GIS-based map comparison methods that quantified differences and similarities between geographic datasets to locate where cetacean distributions and densities had spatially unique or spatially analogous representation. Where spatial clusters in both data sources are congruent, we interpret with a higher level of confidence that species occur, and mapped patterns accurately reflect distribution and density. In areas where datasets exhibit dissimilar species densities and distributions, we acknowledge lower confidence and advise further sampling. Regions of agreement were primarily in the central-western portion of the study area (off the southeastern coast of Haida Gwaii); areas of disagreement were heterogeneously distributed across the study area. Spatial clusters from citizen data exhibited significantly higher cumulative human effect scores than from systematic surveys, despite previous data adjustments for human effort. We demonstrate the use of citizen observations as a confirmatory dataset to broaden ecological exploration by augmenting scientific survey datasets and identifying strategic areas for future data collection efforts.
Forest structure following natural disturbances and early succession provides habitat for two avian flagship species, capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-31 Mareike Kortmann, Marco Heurich, Hooman Latifi, Sascha Rösner, Rupert Seidl, Jörg Müller, Simon Thorn
Boreal and mountainous forests are a primary focus of conservation efforts and are naturally prone to large-scale disturbances, such as outbreaks of bark beetles. Affected stands are characterised by biological legacies which persist through the disturbance and subsequent succession. The lack of long-term monitoring data on post-disturbance forest structure precludes understanding of the complex pathways by which natural disturbances affect forest structure and subsequently species presence. We analysed the response of capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and hazel grouse (Tetrastes bonasia) to bark beetle infestations. We combined high-resolution airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) with a 23-year time series of aerial photography to quantify present-day forest structure and stand disturbance history. Species presence was assessed by collecting droppings of hazel grouse and capercaillie in a citizen science project. Structural equation models showed that the probability of hazel grouse presence increased with increasing disturbance, and the probability of both hazel grouse and capercaillie presence increased with succession. Indirect effects of bark beetle infestations, such as a reduced abundance of deciduous trees and an enhanced herb layer cover, were positively associated with capercaillie presence. Decreasing canopy cover increased the probability of hazel grouse presence. The high temporal and spatial heterogeneity of bark beetle infestations created forest structures that meet the contrasting habitat requirements of both, capercaillie and hazel grouse. This heterogeneity resulted from biological legacies such as decomposing snags, and the simultaneous regrowth of natural regeneration. A benign-neglect strategy towards bark beetle infestations could hence foster capercaillie and hazel grouse in mountainous forests.
Habitat heterogeneity as a key to high conservation value in forest-grassland mosaics Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-29 László Erdős, György Kröel-Dulay, Zoltán Bátori, Bence Kovács, Csaba Németh, Péter János Kiss, Csaba Tölgyesi
Forest-grassland mosaics are widespread features at the interface between tree- and grass-dominated ecosystems. However, the importance of habitat heterogeneity in these mosaics is not fully appreciated, and the contribution of individual woody and herbaceous habitats to the overall conservation value of the mosaic is unclear. We distinguished six main habitats in the forest-grassland mosaics of the Kiskunság Sand Ridge (Hungary) and compared the species composition, species richness, Shannon diversity, naturalness, selected structural features, environmental variables, and the number of protected, endemic, red-listed and specialist species of the plant communities. Each habitat had species that were absent or rare elsewhere. Grasslands had the highest conservation importance in most respects. North-facing forest edges had the highest species richness, while south-facing edges were primarily important for tree recruitment. Among the forest habitats, small forest patches were the most valuable, while large and medium forest patches had the lowest conservation importance. We showed that the current single-habitat focus of both research and conservation in the studied forest-grassland mosaics is not justified. Instead, an integrated view of the entire mosaic is necessary. Management practices and restoration projects should promote habitat heterogeneity, e.g., by assisting tree and shrub establishment and survival in grasslands. The legislative background should recognize the existence of fine-scale forest-grassland mosaics, which are neither grasslands nor forests, but a mixture.
Does the protection status of wetlands safeguard diversity of macroinvertebrates and birds in southwestern Ethiopia? Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-29 Selamawit Negassa Chawaka, Pieter Boets, Peter L.M. Goethals, Seid Tiku Mereta
Freshwater ecosystems are highly threatened due to increased population growth, thereby affecting biodiversity. The objective of designating an area as ‘protected’ is to reduce habitat degradation and biodiversity loss. However, most protected areas focus on the conservation of the terrestrial environment and its related biodiversity. Little attention is given to the protection of freshwater biodiversity and consequently far less is known on how freshwater biodiversity differs between wetlands with a different protection status. The objectives of this study was to investigate alpha and beta diversity of macroinvertebrates and wetland dependent birds in wetlands with a different protection status and thus a different level of human impact in southwestern Ethiopia. Data on macroinvertebrates, birds, physico-chemical water quality, human disturbance and vegetation cover were collected from 42 sampling sites during dry and wet season of 2015. Besides the calculation of alpha and beta diversity, multiple regression models were used to identify the main drivers of the variation in beta diversity of macroinvertebrates and birds in these wetlands. Our results revealed that the average alpha diversity of both macroinvertebrates and wetland dependent birds was significantly higher in protected wetlands (low overall human disturbance) compared to unprotected wetlands (high overall human disturbance), whereas beta diversity was higher in unprotected wetlands for wetland dependent birds. Turnover contributed more than nestedeness to total beta diversity for both macroinvertebrates and wetland birds in protected and unprotected areas. Human disturbance, water temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen were significantly related to beta diversity of macroinvertebrates, whereas beta diversity of wetland dependent birds was significantly related to vegetation cover, nutrients and chemical oxygen demand. Conservationists should give attention to both alpha and beta diversity of freshwater wetlands in order to conserve wetland biodiversity maximally.
Animal diversity declines with broad-scale homogenization of canopy cover in African savannas Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-26 Robert McCleery, Ara Monadjem, Benjamin Baiser, Robert Fletcher, Karen Vickers, Laurence Kruger
Savannas are increasingly threatened by anthropogenic forces that are causing broad-scale directional shifts in woody vegetation that homogenizes their structure. Yet, whether animal communities respond consistently to changes in woody vegetation in savannas, particularly in terms of the effects of spatial scale, remains poorly understood. We addressed this gap by testing for changes in birds, bats and terrestrial small mammals across a gradient of woody cover in the savannas of southeastern Africa for two years at multiple spatial scales. We found that homogenization of vegetation structure corresponded with decreases in animal richness, diversity and functional diversity. Additionally, metrics of animal diversity declined at opposing ends of a canopy cover gradient (<10% and >65%), where we found distinctly different animal assemblages. These patterns were consistently more pronounced on a broader grid scale (30.25 ha) when compared with the plot scale (0.25 ha). The broad-scale reductions in the diversity and functions of animals observed may be indicative of reductions in the resilience, stability and ecosystem function of tropical savannas. Our results suggest that conservation and management aimed at promoting heterogeneity at broad scales may be critical for maintaining diversity and functionality in savannas.
Basin-scale distribution of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea provides basis for effective conservation actions Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-26 Ida Carlén, Len Thomas, Julia Carlström, Mats Amundin, Jonas Teilmann, Nick Tregenza, Jakob Tougaard, Jens C. Koblitz, Signe Sveegaard, Daniel Wennerberg, Olli Loisa, Michael Dähne, Katharina Brundiers, Monika Kosecka, Line Anker Kyhn, Cinthia Tiberi Ljungqvist, Iwona Pawliczka, Radomil Koza, Alejandro Acevedo-Gutiérrez
Knowledge on spatial and seasonal distribution of species is crucial when designing protected areas and implementing management actions. The Baltic Proper harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) population is critically endangered, and its distribution is virtually unknown. Here, we used passive acoustic monitoring and species distribution models to describe the spatial and seasonal distribution of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Proper. Porpoise click detectors were deployed over a systematic grid of 297 stations in eight countries from April 2011 through July 2013. Generalized additive models were used to describe the monthly probability of detecting porpoise clicks as a function of spatially-referenced covariates and time. During the reproductive season, two main areas of high probability of porpoise detection were identified. One of those areas, situated on and around the offshore banks in the Baltic Proper, is clearly separated from the known distribution range of the Belt Sea population during breeding season, suggesting this is an important breeding ground for the Baltic Proper population. We commend the designation of this area as a marine protected area and recommend Baltic Sea countries to also protect areas in the southern Baltic Sea and the Hanö Bight where additional important harbour porpoise habitats were identified. Further conservation measures should be carried out based on analyses of overlap between harbour porpoise distribution and potentially harmful anthropogenic activities. Our study shows that large-scale systematic monitoring using novel techniques can give important insights on the distribution of low-density populations, and that international cooperation is pivotal when studying transnationally migratory species.
Increased mammal nocturnality in agricultural landscapes results in fragmentation due to cascading effects Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-25 Hila Shamoon, Roi Maor, David Saltz, Tamar Dayan
Landscape conversion to agriculture is the primary cause for habitat loss worldwide. As partial mitigation, agricultural landscapes may be designated as ecological corridors due to their presumed habitability and permeability to wildlife. Behavioral changes following anthropogenic disturbance can affect species' spatio-temporal activity patterns and modify interactions, and thus influence habitat preferences. Understanding how human activity affects wildlife behavior and how such behavioral changes scale up to the community may enhance the effectiveness of conservation schemes. We used camera traps to measure the activity of five mammal species along a disturbance gradient in an agricultural-natural mosaic landscape designated as a national ecological corridor. Wildlife diurnal activity was minimal around towns, where humans were active during the day. Nevertheless, predator activity increased near towns and at other sites of high disturbance. Although attracted to highly disturbed areas, predators avoided humans temporally by restricting activity to night-time, whereas prey activity relative to less disturbed areas was negligible. We conclude that perceived threat from humans during daytime combined with elevated nocturnal predation risk exclude prey species from large areas of an agricultural region designated as ecological corridor. Human activity may have triggered a cascading effect mediated by predators' diel activity shifts, which reduced landscape permeability to prey. Our study underlines the need to consider wildlife diel activity patterns for conservation and environmental management planning.
Natural vegetation and bug abundance promote insectivorous bat activity in macadamia orchards, South Africa Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-25 Sina M. Weier, Ingo Grass, Valerie M.G. Linden, Teja Tscharntke, Peter J. Taylor
Accelerating land use change is associated with the loss of species and their ecosystem services. South Africa is the world's largest producer of macadamias and the industry continues to grow. Insectivorous bat species are important for pest control, but bat populations are declining. Therefore, proactive management of bat communities in agricultural landscapes is essential. We acoustically monitored bats and used light traps to catch arthropods during one annual cycle, sampling five macadamia orchards monthly in Limpopo, South Africa. We used GIS and R to analyse both the general bat and foraging bat activity of the two main foraging guilds (open-air/clutter edge guild) in different land use types and total activity with respect to arthropod abundances. Overall clutter edge guild activity (number of passes) decreased with macadamia and orchard (all other fruit) cover in the high season and increased with bush cover and distance to settlements (potential roosts) in the low season. Open-air guild activity increased with fallow cover in the high season. Foraging activity (feeding buzzes) of the clutter edge guild increased with bush cover over the whole year. Total activity (both guilds) increased with abundance of true bugs, including the main macadamia pests, and bush cover. In conclusion, natural and semi-natural vegetation promote bat activity in macadamia orchards, and potentially bats' provision of the ecosystem service of pest control. In times of accelerating land use change, remnants of natural vegetation are important refuges and need to be maintained or restored. The installation of bathouses might further improve bat activity.
Socioeconomic drivers of illegal bushmeat hunting in a Southern African Savanna Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-25 Matthew S. Rogan, Jennifer R.B. Miller, Peter A. Lindsey, J. Weldon McNutt
Illegal bushmeat hunting of economically and ecologically valuable wildlife populations is emerging as a threat across African savannas. Due to the cryptic nature of illegal hunting, little information exists on the drivers of the bushmeat industry. Here we report on the socioeconomic drivers identified in a broader investigation into illegal bushmeat hunting in rural villages around a southern African savanna ecosystem, the Okavango Delta, Botswana. We conducted interviews with bushmeat hunters and heads of rural households about hunting activities, rural livelihoods, attitudes towards wildlife, and market characteristics of illegal bushmeat. Using generalized linear models, we identified and investigated a set of independent variables that characterize illegal-hunter households. Results revealed that compared to non-hunter households, illegal hunter households (n = 119, 25% of the sample) lived in closer proximity to wildlife, were more likely to farm crops, and more often received income from formal employment by at least one household member. Bushmeat hunting was positively correlated with livestock wealth but not associated with household income. Only 11.4% (n = 44) of non-hunter households reported purchasing bushmeat. Most households (84%) reported incurring costs associated with living near wildlife (e.g., damages to crops or livestock), with no difference between hunter and non-hunter households. Hunters were more likely to say they valued wildlife. We conclude that bushmeat hunting in Botswana is generally supplemental to household core income sources rather than essential for subsistence. We propose two interventions to counter the negative impacts of illegal hunting on the region's lucrative wildlife-based economy: 1) more effective law enforcement that imposes costs for hunting illegally, and 2) development of alternative wildlife-based revenue streams that motivate communities to conserve wildlife.
Is habitat fragmentation good for biodiversity? Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-24 Robert J. Fletcher, Raphael K. Didham, Cristina Banks-Leite, Jos Barlow, Robert M. Ewers, James Rosindell, Robert D. Holt, Andrew Gonzalez, Renata Pardini, Ellen I. Damschen, Felipe P.L. Melo, Leslie Ries, Jayme A. Prevedello, Teja Tscharntke, William F. Laurance, Thomas Lovejoy, Nick M. Haddad
Habitat loss is a primary threat to biodiversity across the planet, yet contentious debate has ensued on the importance of habitat fragmentation ‘per se’ (i.e., altered spatial configuration of habitat for a given amount of habitat loss). Based on a review of landscape-scale investigations, Fahrig (2017; Ecological responses to habitat fragmentation per se. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 48:1-23) reports that biodiversity responses to habitat fragmentation ‘per se’ are more often positive rather than negative and concludes that the widespread belief in negative fragmentation effects is a ‘zombie idea’. We show that Fahrig's conclusions are drawn from a narrow and potentially biased subset of available evidence, which ignore much of the observational, experimental and theoretical evidence for negative effects of altered habitat configuration. We therefore argue that Fahrig's conclusions should be interpreted cautiously as they could be misconstrued by policy makers and managers, and we provide six arguments why they should not be applied in conservation decision-making. Reconciling the scientific disagreement, and informing conservation more effectively, will require research that goes beyond statistical and correlative approaches. This includes a more prudent use of data and conceptual models that appropriately partition direct vs indirect influences of habitat loss and altered spatial configuration, and more clearly discriminate the mechanisms underpinning any changes. Incorporating these issues will deliver greater mechanistic understanding and more predictive power to address the conservation issues arising from habitat loss and fragmentation.
Routine experiences of nature in cities can increase personal commitment toward biodiversity conservation Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-24 Anne-Caroline Prévot, Hélène Cheval, Richard Raymond, Alix Cosquer
This study examines individual commitment to biodiversity during adulthood. We studied the interrelations between everyday experiences of nature, knowledge about biodiversity, connectedness with nature, and implementation of specific pro-biodiversity practices, through a survey covering 473 adults in Paris surroundings (France). More specifically, we showed that people involved in experiences of nature in which attentiveness to biodiversity is explicit (citizen science, nature watch association, environmental association) have more knowledge about biodiversity and conservation than both people involved in experiences of nature in which attention to biodiversity remains implicit (community garden, allotment, community-supported agriculture), and people without such kinds of experience of nature. However, we found that people experiencing nature as part of a daily routine, whatever the type of experience, were more connected to nature and more likely to implement active pro-biodiversity practices. With this interdisciplinary study that links conservation biology and conservation psychology, we help understand more precisely the levels of commitment of urban and sub-urban adults toward biodiversity conservation.
Patch occupancy of grassland specialists: Habitat quality matters more than habitat connectivity Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-23 Dominik Poniatowski, Gregor Stuhldreher, Franz Löffler, Thomas Fartmann
Land-use change has caused degradation, loss and fragmentation of semi-natural habitats, especially in grassland ecosystems. Today, the remaining habitats are often situated in a matrix of intensively used agricultural land and are therefore more or less isolated from each other. Connectivity, area and quality of habitat patches have been identified as the most important drivers for the persistence of grassland specialists living in metapopulations. However, the relative importance of these factors is still under debate. We used a large-scale, multi-taxon approach to obtain a general pattern which would facilitate conservationists to promote many, instead of one, species. We studied the patch occupancy of 13 grassland specialists belonging to three different insect orders within a Central European landscape with 89 fragments of calcareous grasslands. To disentangle the relative importance of the three metapopulation parameters, generalized linear models (GLM) and variation-partitioning techniques were used. Our study revealed that habitat quality was the most important factor determining the occurrence of specialized species, followed by habitat area. In comparison to habitat connectivity, the variance explained by habitat quality was significantly higher across the studied species. Nevertheless, the persistence of at least six model organisms depended on the degree of habitat connectivity. We conclude that maintaining a high habitat quality on large patches should be the first choice for the conservation of habitat specialist insects in fragmented landscapes. As a secondary measure, conservationists should concentrate on the restoration of relict sites. This increases not only the habitat area, but also contributes to better habitat connectivity.
Experts and models can agree on species sensitivity values for conservation assessments Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-21 Jason T. Bried, Brandon E. Allen, Ermias T. Azeria, Varina E. Crisfield, Matthew J. Wilson
Species sensitivity values can be used to trigger management interventions and prioritize areas for conservation, with sensitivity estimation methods ranging from expert opinion to empirical modelling. The opinion and modelling approaches each have strengths and weaknesses, raising questions of how much they (dis)agree or which one to follow in conservation assessments. We compared conservatism values assigned by botanists to modelling estimates of sensitivity (change in abundance between current and reference conditions) for 123 wetland macrophyte species across northern prairie and boreal forest regions of Alberta, Canada. Scores from each method were positively correlated and showed limited differences especially in the boreal region. Conservatism distributions for species were broadly similar between regions whereas model-based score distributions differed between regions, probably because the modelling incorporated site-specific responses of species to environmental conditions prevalent in each region. A few species had large mismatch between conservatism and model-based scores, but these cases resulted from extenuating factors and do not reflect systematic bias in expert opinions or the modelling process. Overall the results indicate potential for general agreement between quantitative and qualitative methods of sensitivity estimation, and a complementary approach of expert opinion and modelling may offer the most valuable currency for conservation assessments.
Is conservation right to go big? Protected area size and conservation return-on-investment Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-21 Paul R. Armsworth, Heather B. Jackson, Seong-Hoon Cho, Melissa Clark, Joseph E. Fargione, Gwenllian D. Iacona, Taeyoung Kim, Eric R. Larson, Thomas Minney, Nathan A. Sutton
Policy guidelines for creating new protected areas commonly recommend larger protected areas be favored. We examine whether these recommendations are justified, providing the first evaluation of this question to use return-on-investment (ROI) methods that account for how protected area size influences multiple ecological benefits and the economic costs of protection. We examine areas acquired to protect forested ecosystems in the eastern US that are rich in endemic species. ROI analyses often alter recommendations about protected area size from those obtained when considering only ecological benefits or only economic costs. Large protected areas offer a greater ecological return per dollar invested if the goal of protecting sites is to reduce forest fragmentation on the wider landscape, whereas smaller sites offer a higher ROI when prioritizing sites offering protection to more species. A portfolio of site sizes may need to be included in protected area networks when multiple objectives motivate conservation.
Rapid increase of Australian tropical savanna reptile abundance following exclusion of feral cats Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-20 Danielle Stokeld, Alaric Fisher, Tim Gentles, Brydie M. Hill, John C.Z. Woinarski, Stuart Young, Graeme R. Gillespie
Feral cats have been responsible, in part, for the extinction of many species of mammal, bird and reptile globally, especially on islands. Whilst there is extensive evidence of the predatory impacts of cats on mammals and birds, far less is known about their ecological impacts on reptiles, especially in continental situations. We conducted a field experiment to evaluate the impact of feral cats on terrestrial vertebrates in tropical savanna environments of northern Australia. Three experimental treatments were applied to six 64 ha plots to compare and contrast responses of reptile abundance and species richness to predator exclusion and the additive effects of frequent fire. Replicated pitfall-trapping was undertaken in each plot on seven sampling occasions between November 2013 and November 2015. We analysed relative abundance and species richness data using generalized linear mixed models. There was a significant increase in the abundance of reptiles over a two year period in cat-excluded plots with reptile abundance increasing at twice the rate in cat-exclusion plots compared with cat-accessible plots and there was an additive effect of time-since-fire. Cat exclusion had a positive effect on reptile species richness over time, however the evidence for this pattern was weak when seasonal variation was taken into account. Predation by cats, in synergy with other disturbance processes, could adversely impact reptile species and communities elsewhere in the world where feral cats have been established and warrants further investigation.
Population declines, genetic bottlenecks and potential hybridization in sea snakes on Australia's Timor Sea reefs Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-28 Vimoksalehi Lukoschek
Population bottlenecks can result in loss of genetic variation, increased extinction risk, and hybridization with related sympatric species. Many challenges are associated with empirical detection of population declines, thus conservation biologists often use molecular approaches as surrogates. This study explored whether declines in abundances of viviparous sea snakes on Australia's Timor Sea reefs could have been foreshadowed using genetic surveys. Ashmore Reef (the largest Timor Sea reef) once hosted large breeding populations of sea snakes. Abundances have declined precipitously since 1994 and Ashmore Reef has been devoid of snakes since 2012. Moreover, high rates of hybridization between two sympatric species have been documented on Timor Sea reefs, possibly associated with sea snake declines. I analysed mitochondrial DNA and 11 nuclear microsatellites for >250 sea snakes from three species, Aipysurus laevis, Aipysurus fuscus and Emdocephalus annulatus, sampled on four Timor Sea reefs in 2002 and 2010. While there was strong spatial genetic structure among reefs, there was little temporal genetic divergence for A. laevis at Ashmore Reef, despite the massive declines in abundance during that temporal window. Positive Tajima's D and Fu's FS values at Ashmore Reef indicated demographic contraction for: A. laevis in 2002 and 2010; E. annulatus (2002); but not A. fuscus (2002). Microsatellites showed inbreeding depression (positive Fis values) and non-random mating (heterozygote deficit) for all three species at Ashmore Reef, consistent with population declines. Bottleneck tests were equivocal, with significant heterozygous excesses at Ashmore Reef, but non-significant M-ratios or mode-shifts in allele frequencies, with the significance of tests differing markedly with microsatellite mutation models. Thus genetic analyses alone would not have been sufficient to provide managers with unequivocal evidence of population declines. There was little evidence for hybridization between A. laevis and A. fuscus, despite previous research suggesting that the Endangered A. fuscus was at risk of reverse speciation secondary to the highly porous reproductive barriers between these species.
The threat of biological invasions is under-represented in the marine protected areas of the European Natura 2000 network Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Antonios D. Mazaris, Stelios Katsanevakis
To effectively tackle the challenge of biological invasions through targeted strategies and mitigation measures, managers and policy makers require adequate reporting and flow of information. For this reason, the European ‘Natura 2000’ network of protected areas, which is the main conservation tool of the European Union, is supported by a standardized database. All threats to biodiversity are supposed to be reported in sufficient detail through that database. We compared the reported threats by ‘invasive non-native species’ in the Natura 2000 database with the actual cumulative impacts of invasive alien species on marine habitats in the Mediterranean using the CIMPAL index (Cumulative IMPacts of invasive ALien species). CIMPAL estimates cumulative impact scores on the basis of the distributions of invasive species and ecosystems, and both the documented magnitude of negative ecological impacts and the strength of such evidence. We showed that the threat of invasive alien species is substantially under-reported in the official documentation. Specifically, among the 1455 marine sites of the network, no threat was officially reported in one third of the sites. The threat of biological invasions was only reported in 154 sites, despite negative impacts by invasive alien species being predicted for 98% of all sites when using CIMPAL. In fact, in the subgroup of sites where no threats have been officially reported, the impacts predicted by CIMPAL were the highest. Such, inadequate and insufficient reporting of threats in the Mediterranean marine Natura 2000 sites presents a significant obstacle to the flow of accurate information needed to support conservation policies and marine management.
Comparison of climate vulnerability among desert herpetofauna Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Kerry L. Griffis-Kyle, Krista Mougey, Matt Vanlandeghem, Sharmistha Swain, Joseph C. Drake
Globally, biodiversity is declining, and a major driver of this decline is climate change; consequently, we need ways to evaluate the vulnerability of species to this change. We assessed 25 species of herpetofauna (7 amphibians and 18 reptiles) using multi-model averaging of NatureServe's Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), a qualitative trait-based vulnerability assessment tool. We calculated vulnerability across model runs varying type and extent of spatial data and climate model scenario. Amphibians were more vulnerable than reptiles. The most vulnerable species were those that were dependent on water for their habitat, high elevation species, and habitat specialists. For reptiles in particular, the projected downscaled extent of temperature change and change in moisture availability were also important in delineating vulnerability. Unfortunately, the invasive American Bullfrog was less vulnerable than any of the native amphibians, which highlights the importance of considering invasives when planning for climate change. Snakes that were riparian specialists also were ranked as highly vulnerable. Lizards were ranked as less vulnerable related to projected differences in the proportion of their range experiencing larger changes in temperature. We suggest improvements to the CCVI vulnerability index. For example, certain aspects of reptile biology that are critical to climate-related vulnerability are not included in the current generation of the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, specifically reproductive strategy and the difference in vulnerability between viviparous and oviparous species. Methods for assessing vulnerability will need continued refinement as we contend with climate change and other human-caused factors that are driving the biodiversity crisis.
Mudflat species: Threatened or hidden? An extensive seed bank survey of 108 fish ponds in Southern Germany Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Peter Poschlod, Sergey Rosbakh
Mudflats are the most endangered habitats in Central Europe. In Germany, 60% of mudflat plant species are listed as endangered on the national Red List. The main causes are human activities such as the straightening and construction of barrages along large rivers and the abandoning or changing management of fish ponds. Species from ephemeral habitats, such as mudflats, typically have a persistent soil seed bank. However, it has not yet been examined whether mudflat species are still present but hidden in the sediment seed bank. To answer this question, we studied the seed bank of 108 ponds in Southern Germany. More than 300,000 seeds from mudflat species germinated from the sediment samples. Species listed on the national or regional Red Lists were found in all but three ponds, with all ponds containing up to 11 species. Some Red List species were present at very high density (up to nearly 3000 seeds/l). Although the pond locations in this study had been intensively floristically monitored for over half a century some species with >20 records were determined to be new in two study locations. Based on the last drainage date or record we conclude that seeds of mudflat species may survive between 50 years or even a century. It is, therefore, important that this hidden diversity should be considered in future conservation management practices. Furthermore, Red Lists should revise their entries on species with extremely long-term persistent seed banks by stating that they may be not extinct but hidden.
Consequences of captive breeding: Fitness implications for wild-origin, hatchery-spawned Atlantic salmon kelts upon their return to the wild Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 X. Bordeleau, B.G. Hatcher, S. Denny, M.D. Fast, F.G. Whoriskey, D.A. Patterson, G.T. Crossin
Broodstock collection and enhancement programs are a widely-used management practice within the Atlantic salmon's (Salmo salar) native range. Wild-origin adult salmon captured as part of these programs experience multiple stressors during their time in hatcheries. However, no studies have assessed the potential consequences of hatchery practices on the physiology (stress and immune states), migratory behaviour, and long-term survival of hatchery-spawned kelts that are subsequently released back to their natal river. To address these knowledge gaps, we obtained blood samples from, and acoustically tagged 30 hatchery-spawned kelts and 31 wild-spawned kelts, originating from endangered populations native to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Canada during the autumns of 2014 and 2015. We then tracked individuals for up to two years through their downstream river migration, estuarine residence, ocean entry, and subsequent return as repeat-spawners. Our results indicated that hatchery-spawned kelts showed significantly higher stress levels (elevated plasma cortisol and glucose), as well as potentially altered immune states (increased circulating prostaglandin E2) in comparison to wild-spawned individuals. Behaviourally, hatchery-spawned kelts exited freshwater prematurely (~66 days earlier on average) compared to wild-spawned counterparts, which was associated with a marked increase in estuarine mortality. Furthermore, survival to repeat-spawning was 0% (0/30) for hatchery-spawned kelts and 6.5% (2/31) for wild-spawned. Given that female repeat-spawners are generally larger and have increased fecundity, our findings suggest that a reduction in the fitness of post-spawners and likelihood of repeat-spawning as a result of hatchery stressors could have population-level consequences. Such impacts should be considered in conservation and management planning.
Setting baited hooks by stealth (underwater) can prevent the incidental mortality of albatrosses and petrels in pelagic longline fisheries Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Graham Robertson, Phillip Ashworth, Peter Ashworth, Ian Carlyle, Sebastián Jiménez, Rodrigo Forselledo, Andrés Domingo, Steven G. Candy
For many decades pelagic longline fisheries have been responsible for the deaths of large numbers of seabirds worldwide. Baited hooks deployed onto the sea surface attract seabirds to fishing vessels leading to attacks on baits, capture and death by drowning. An alternative is to deploy baits underwater where they are less detectable, more difficult to reach and less likely to be taken by seabirds. In 2010 and 2012 proof-of-concept experiments were conducted in the Uruguayan pelagic longline fishery with a newly developed device designed to set baits underwater. The experiments examined the differences between setting baits at the sea surface and setting baits underwater with regard to the abundances of seabirds following the vessel, incidences of attacks on baits and mortality. Underwater setting led to marked reductions in the numbers of seabirds following the fishing vessel and attacks on baits, the behavioural precursors to mortality. Mortality rates of seabirds on baits set to the relatively shallow depth of 4 m were 87% lower than on baits set at the surface. No seabirds were caught on baits released 10 m underwater, a reduction of 100% compared to the surface setting mortality of 11.6 birds/1000 hooks. No differences were detected between the two setting methods in the catch rates of target and non-target fish species. The evidence from the experiments, combined with the known dive depths of the white-chinned petrel (Procellaria aequinoctialis), a deep diving, difficult-to-deter species, suggests that baits released 10 m underwater could reduce the incidental mortality of albatrosses and petrels to negligible levels.
Long-term impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea corals detected after seven years of monitoring Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Fanny Girard, Charles R. Fisher
Cold-water corals form high biodiversity habitats in the deep sea. They are generally long-lived, slow-growing, and thus particularly vulnerable to anthropogenic impact. We used high-definition imagery to quantify the impact and assess the recovery of deep-sea corals that were affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Over three hundred Paramuricea spp. colonies were imaged yearly between 2011 and 2017 at five sites, and the images were digitized to quantify health, hydroid overgrowth, identify branch loss, and track recovery patterns. Although the median level of impact decreased after 2011 at all impacted sites, it has been stable since then and remained higher than at the reference sites. Recovery depended on the initial level of impact to the colonies, which negatively affected the ability of individual branches to recover or remain healthy. The effect of initial impact on recovery between consecutive years was still visible seven years after the spill, indicating a long-term, non-acute, impact on the colonies. Injured corals were also more likely to lose branches, and branch loss was still significantly higher at some of the impacted sites between 2016 and 2017, indicating an ongoing effect of the spill, which may eventually lead to delayed mortality. The methodology we employed allows us to successfully detect small changes in the health of corals. We suggest the establishment of image-based coral-monitoring sites to collect baseline data on coral biology, assess the efficacy of Marine Protected Areas, and detect future anthropogenic impact to these vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems.
Anthropogenic disturbance effects remain visible in forest structure, but not in lemur abundances Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Iris de Winter, Sebastiaan van der Hoek, Jeroen Schütt, Ignas M.A. Heitkönig, Pim van Hooft, Gerrit Gort, Herbert H.T. Prins, Frank Sterck
The persistence of tropical rainforests, together with their flora and fauna, is highly threatened by anthropogenic disturbances. In this study, we investigate to what extent selective logging influences the structure and composition of a tropical rainforest in Madagascar and subsequently lemur encounter rates and cluster sizes. We quantified forest structure variables and conducted transect surveys of seven sympatric diurnal lemur species in five protected forest sites with different logging histories. We found that DBH, tree height, the interquartile ranges of DBH and tree height (measure of forest heterogeneity), tree species and family richness were relatively high and tree density was relatively low in less disturbed compared to disturbed sites. Although the disturbed forests have not fully recovered to previous conditions, they seem to have recovered from a functional perspective into suitable lemur habitat, as lemur encounter rates and cluster sizes were similar in disturbed and less disturbed sites. We only found slightly higher encounter rates for Varecia variegata (P = 0.078) and lower encounter rates for Eulemur rufifrons (P = 0.059) in less disturbed forests. This is one of the first studies that report the presence of V. variegata, a species characterised by its drastic decline, in previously logged sites. Lemurs travelling between disturbed and less disturbed sites disperse seeds and hereby facilitate forest regeneration. Therefore, we promote the need for better attention to the value of logged forests for biodiversity conservation in Madagascar and suggest that there is considerable potential for regenerating logged forests to support lemur communities.
Uniquity: A general metric for biotic uniqueness of sites Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Rasmus Ejrnæs, Tobias G. Frøslev, Toke Thomas Høye, Rasmus Kjøller, Andrea Oddershede, Ane Kirstine Brunbjerg, Anders J. Hansen, Hans Henrik Bruun
1.Species richness is unrivalled as the most reported biodiversity metric in ecological and conservation research. Unfortunately, species richness ignores the scale-dependency of biodiversity.2.We propose the metric uniquity, a quantitative and spatially scalable measure of uniqueness of a site based on a species-by-site matrix and a site-by-habitat type classification with area weights for habitat types correcting for sampling biases.3.An example of uniquity is presented using vascular plant data from 130 sites representing a larger region (Denmark). We demonstrate the importance of the scale parameter of uniquity for the prediction of independent uniqueness indices calculated from species distribution data and the number of recorded red listed species.4.We compare the performance of uniquity with the performance of the indices Local Contribution to Beta Diversity (LCBD) and Range Rarity Richness (RRR), and we investigate its sensitivity to small sample size and poorly resolved habitat classification.5.We assess the performance of the uniquity metric applied to DNA metabarcoding data for plants, fungi and eukaryotes from the same set of study sites.6.Uniquity is a strong predictor of site uniqueness based on national distribution data and also correlates neatly with the observed number of red listed species. Uniquity based on DNA metabarcoding corresponds well with the number of red listed species observed.7.Perspective: Uniquity is generally applicable to biotas sampled with comparable effort, including field inventories, trap sampling, and DNA metabarcoding data. To our knowledge uniquity is the first index of uniqueness that explicitly considers spatial scale and sampling biases, while simultaneously accepting non-annotated DNA-data as input. Based on our study we offer general recommendations for further use and testing of uniquity as conservation value metric.
Size, shape and maintenance matter: A critical appraisal of a global carnivore conflict mitigation strategy – Livestock protection kraals in northern Botswana Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Florian J. Weise, Matthew W. Hayward, Rocky Casillas Aguirre, Mathata Tomeletso, Phemelo Gadimang, Michael J. Somers, Andrew B. Stein
Fortified kraals are predator-proof enclosures designed to protect livestock at night. Globally, they show great promise in reducing depredation by carnivores, thus promoting co-existence with people. Their efficacy depends on effectiveness, durability, regular use, owner satisfaction, cost-efficiency, and design. We monitored 32 fortified kraals for 18 months in a high conflict area in northern Botswana (n = 427 kraal months) where lions (Panthera leo) frequently kill cattle. Monthly kraal use was 60% and was significantly influenced by kraal type, age, and shape. When used and maintained, kraals stopped livestock depredation. Due to poor maintenance, however, kraal age had a significant, negative influence on kraal use and effectiveness, compromising sustainability and cost-effectiveness. Fortified kraals built by a non-governmental organisation cost US$1322.36 per unit (n = 20) and mitigated a mean annual loss of $187.32. This suggests cost-recuperation after 7.0 years, or 2.3 times longer than observed kraal lifetime. Conversely, owner-built replicates cost $579.90 per unit (n = 4), recuperating investment after 3.1 years. Owner satisfaction was significantly higher for fortified kraals when compared with traditional kraals. However, owners of fortified kraals did not kraal their cattle more frequently than owners of traditional kraals. Regionally, the mean annual kraaling rate for 29 GPS-monitored cattle herds (n = 3360 nights) was 40%, leaving cattle vulnerable to depredation, and highlighting the importance of promoting vigilant herding together with kraaling to prevent losses. This combination could reduce regional livestock losses by 80%, or >$38,000 annually, however, kraal fortification alone does not provide a blanket solution to carnivore conflicts in Africa's agro-pastoral landscapes.
The threefold potential of environmental citizen science - Generating knowledge, creating learning opportunities and enabling civic participation Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Tabea Turrini, Daniel Dörler, Anett Richter, Florian Heigl, Aletta Bonn
Citizen science offers significant innovation potential in science, society and policy. To foster environmental and conservation goals, citizen science can (i) generate new knowledge, (ii) enhance awareness raising and facilitate in-depth learning as well as (iii) enable civic participation. Here, we investigate how these aims are realised in citizen science projects and assess needs and challenges for advancing citizen science and stimulating future initiatives. To this end, we conducted a quantitative, web-based survey with 143 experts from the environmental and educational sector in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Our findings show that citizen science project managers pursue goals related to all three areas of potential impact. Interestingly, enabling civic participation was considered slightly less important in relation to generating new knowledge and creating learning opportunities. Different areas of necessary action emerge from our analysis. To fully realize the potential of citizen science for generating knowledge, priority should be given to enhance capacities to more effectively share research results with the scientific community through publication, also in scientific journals. Systematic evaluation is needed to gain a better understanding of citizen science learning outcomes, for which criteria need to be developed. Fostering project formats that allow participants to get involved in the whole research process – from posing the study question to implementing results – could enhance the transformative aspect of citizen science at a societal level. Important structural aspects that need to be addressed include adjustments in funding schemes, facilitation of communication between citizens and academia-based scientists, and offers for training, guidance and networking.
Time-lagged lichen extinction in retained buffer strips 16.5 years after clear-cutting Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Victor Johansson, Carl-Johan Wikström, Kristoffer Hylander
Tree retention on clear-cuts is a relatively new measure in forestry aimed at ‘lifeboating’ forest species during young seral periods. However, the effectiveness of tree retention for maintaining biodiversity for more than a few years is still poorly known. We investigated lichen persistence in retained buffer strips along small streams after clear-cutting of the surrounding forest, and compared with clear-cuts and un-cut references. Specifically, we compared richness and frequency of red-listed/signal species, calicioids and pendulous species before clear-cutting with 2.5 years and 16.5 years after clear-cutting, and also analysed their colonization-extinction dynamics over time. The results show that the richness of red-listed/signal species and calicioids in buffer strips had declined significantly after 16.5 years, but not after 2.5 years, while frequency displayed a significant difference already after 2.5 years. The richness of pendulous lichens remained relatively stable over time, but the frequency had declined significantly after 16.5 years. In clear-cuts all groups declined more than in buffer-strips (~2–3.5 times more) and the main decline had occurred already after 2.5 years. References remained stable over time. The colonization-extinctions dynamics reflected the richness declines, with high early extinction in clear-cuts and lower but late extinction in buffer-strips, and low (re)colonization. We conclude that retained buffer strips cannot maintain lichen richness over time due to time-lagged extinction, but they are clearly more effective than clear-cuts. Wider buffer strips could potentially reduce tree mortality and decrease lichen extinction. The large amounts of standing dead wood makes buffer strips potential future colonization targets.
A critical evaluation of the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 and the Mediterranean MPA network, two years ahead of its deadline Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 J. Amengual, D. Alvarez-Berastegui
The marine conservation strategy focused on the establishment of marine protected areas (MPAs) has been adopted widely in the Mediterranean, in line with the main international conservation conventions and agreements. Of particular relevance is the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where signature countries agreed to protect and effectively manage 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. The convention also specifies a number of qualitative elements that MPAs should encompass in order to be effective. But as 2020 approaches, this objective is far from being achieved and the deadline is necessitating a pace of planning, declaration, management and evaluation of the Mediterranean network of MPAs that is unattainable for most of the Southeast Mediterranean riparian states. The Aichi target 11 objectives encompass countries with remarkably different economical, historical and cultural backgrounds and varying degrees of technical capacity and political stability. Here we explore how the area-based conservation policy at both the national and international level is evolving in the Mediterranean in relation to the Aichi target 11 objectives. We evidence strong shortcomings in the Mediterranean MPAs highlight potential risks derived from conservation policy failure, and propose alternatives towards effective conservation. We suggest that the prevailing area-based strategy in the Mediterranean should be substituted by a procedure that is not time-limited and that is based on environmental and social sciences, supported by marine spatial planning and balancing the scientific and socioeconomic drivers of change in a specific national or sub-regional context.
Difficult decisions: Strategies for conservation prioritization when taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional diversity are not spatially congruent Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Marc W. Cadotte, Caroline M. Tucker
Preventing further loss of biodiversity is the most important challenge for conservation biology. The loss of species and the functions and services they provide has negative implications for human well-being. However, conservation efforts focussed on sites with high numbers of species may inadvertently under-represent other facets of biodiversity such as phylogenetic and functional diversity. Further, because these different biodiversity facets vary in their degree of spatial congruence, methods of site selection that maximize phylogenetic, functional, and species diversity are necessary to represent biodiversity in a holistic fashion. In this paper we discuss approaches to such multi-faceted site-level prioritization. Specifically, we examine complementarity algorithms and provide strategies to weight species selection by their trait or phylogenetic distinctiveness. Further, we explore approaches that integrate diversity facets into a single measure of prioritization and incorporate complementarity such that the goal is not just optimizing the protection of biodiversity, but to prioritize the addition of sites representing unprotected biodiversity across different facets. We highlight the strengths and limitations of such an approach. These types of holistic approaches to reserve design should provide flexibility in the face of changing knowledge and priorities.
A conceptual model for the integration of social and ecological information to understand human-wildlife interactions Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 Stacy A. Lischka, Tara L. Teel, Heather E. Johnson, Sarah E. Reed, Stewart Breck, Andrew Don Carlos, Kevin R. Crooks
There is growing recognition that interdisciplinary approaches that account for both ecological and social processes are necessary to successfully address human-wildlife interactions. However, such approaches are hindered by challenges in aligning data types, communicating across disciplines, and applying social science information to conservation actions. To meet these challenges, we propose a conceptual model that adopts a social-ecological systems approach and integrates social and ecological theory to identify the multiple, nested levels of influence on both human and animal behavior. By accounting for a diverse array of influences and feedback mechanisms between social and ecological systems, this model fulfills a need for approaches that treat social and ecological processes with equal depth and facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the drivers of human and animal behaviors that perpetuate human-wildlife interactions. We apply this conceptual model to our work on human-black bear conflicts in Colorado, USA to demonstrate its utility. Using this example, we identify key lessons and offer guidance to researchers and conservation practitioners for applying integrated approaches to other human-wildlife systems.
Evaluating abundance trends of iconic species using local ecological knowledge Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-07-17 César Peñaherrera-Palma, Ingrid van Putten, Yuliya V. Karpievitch, Stewart Frusher, Yasmania Llerena-Martillo, Alex R. Hearn, Jayson M. Semmens
Abundance is commonly used to assess the status of wildlife populations and their responses to changes in management frameworks. Monitoring abundance trends often requires long-term data collection programs, which are not always carried out. One alternative to scientific surveys is to utilize the local ecological knowledge (LEK), from people in continuous interactions with the environment. We developed a semi-quantitative approach to assess shark population trends by using the LEK of non-extractive resource users. We carried out structured interviews with dive guides regarding the abundance trends of six shark species in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (GMR) across decades since the 1980s. Based on dive guides' LEK, we developed a virtual abundance change (VAC) model to assess the changes in abundance across decades. Our VAC analysis showed a 50% decline in hammerhead sharks and 30% decline in whitetip reef sharks. Silky sharks and Galapagos sharks were perceived to suffer an initial decline by 25% and 30% then stabilized. Whale shark abundance did not appear to have changed. Finally, blacktip sharks showed an apparent recovery after a decline by 25%. Furthermore, our VAC results were comparatively similar to empirical datasets from the GMR and neighboring protected areas of the Eastern Tropical Pacific. Our study highlights the value of LEK in assessing the state of marine resources in data-limited management regions. Our VAC method offers an alternative approach by which LEK can provide valuable insights into the historical trends of species abundance.
How reliable are your data? Verifying species identification of road-killed mammals recorded by road maintenance personnel in São Paulo State, Brazil Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-23 Fernanda D. Abra, Marcel P. Huijser, Camylla S. Pereira, Katia M.P.M.B. Ferraz
Across the world, many wildlife studies rely on data collected by volunteers. Roadkill studies often rely on data collected by non-experts including road maintenance personnel and volunteers, but data quality control is rarely applied. We investigated whether maintenance personnel correctly identified the species of road-killed mammals along toll roads in São Paulo State, Brazil. We investigated 3222 images of road-killed animals and compared the original species descriptions by road maintenance personnel (non-experts) with our identification (experts). We also presented images of alive and road-killed mammals to road maintenance personnel (n = 179) and asked them to describe the species. We found that road maintenance personnel typically correctly identified certain common, large, or highly recognizable species. However, rare or rarely seen species, species that resemble other species (e.g. small wild canids and felids), or species that are not highly recognizable were often misidentified, ambiguously described, or not identified at all. We also found that the ability of road maintenance personnel to correctly identify the most common road-killed small wild canids and felids is dependent on the context. When similar species are rare, road maintenance personnel typically correctly identifies the most common road-killed small wild canids and felids. However, common small canids and felids are not reliably identified if similar species are more abundant. To improve the reliability of species identification by non-experts, we recommend training in species identification, including images with a scale to accompany all roadkill records, and verification of the roadkill records and associated images for selected species by experts.
Decline in colonial waterbird breeding highlights loss of Ramsar wetland function Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-23 K.J. Brandis, G. Bino, J.A. Spencer, D. Ramp, R.T. Kingsford
Water resource development on rivers significantly affects life cycles of species reliant on wetlands. However, assessing ecological impacts is often difficult because they are realised over long-time periods and large spatial scales, particularly on highly variable dryland rivers. Thirty percent of all Ramsar wetlands are in drylands. We examined the effects of diversions of water upstream on colonial waterbird breeding at the Narran Lakes, supplied by a highly variable dryland river. Narran Lakes is an important Ramsar-listed wetland in Australia for its provision of habitat for wetland fauna during key life history stages, including colonially breeding waterbirds. We use historical ibis breeding data over five decades (1970–2016) to determine the flow requirements for colonial waterbird breeding and modelled the impacts of water resource management options (current and restoration) on breeding. We identified thresholds (>154,000 ML in 90 days with a secondary threshold of >20,000 ML in the first 10 days) of river flow volume necessary to stimulate breeding. Water resource development reduced the frequency of large flows resulting in ibis breeding by 170%, from 1 in 4.2 years to 1 in 11.4 years. Restoration efforts by government to recover water for the environment was predicted to improve colonial waterbird breeding frequency associated with large flow events to 1 in 6.71 years, representing a 59% reduction from pre-development periods. Our framework has global application as a method for identifying long-term impacts of water resource development on key Ramsar wetland areas. This is important, as few mechanisms exist for assessing impacts and identifying restoration options on the listed criteria for many Ramsar wetlands.
Implementing a new approach to effective conservation of genetic diversity, with ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in the UK as a case study Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-23 Sean Hoban, Simon Kallow, Clare Trivedi
Gene conservation programs help safeguard species and tangibly benefit ecological restoration, agriculture, forestry, and horticulture. Here we describe a new method for deciding which and how many populations and individuals to conserve ex situ, and we demonstrate the method by evaluating collections of European Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) for an ongoing seed-banking project, the UK National Tree Seed Project (NTSP). The method uses simulations and geographic distribution data, and does not require (but can utilize) genetic data. We estimate that NTSP collections have captured >90% of all alleles and of locally common alleles. We identified optimal sampling solutions at large and small spatial scales, and for northern isolated vs. southern core populations. We also quantified genetic “points of diminishing returns” with a more precise method than previous studies. This analysis revealed that (for European ash, for a goal of capturing one copy of each allele) an optimal “stopping point” is approximately 35 populations, 10 to 30 trees per population, and 30 seeds per tree. Overall, we conclude that the NTSP protocol of random sampling of at least 15 trees per population from two populations per seed zone is effective. We demonstrated how collectors can adjust the number of populations, individuals and seeds sampled using the concept of “genetic equivalence”, allowing projects to accommodate practical or ecological constraints. Lastly we showed that for a conservation goal of 50 allele copies rather than one copy, a much larger sampling effort is needed (>150 populations). This new approach can be tailored to any species. It is applicable to any seed collection seeking to capture genetic diversity, as well as in situ gene conservation approaches. We emphasize that the ability to quantitatively estimate the outcome of gene conservation activities can help design, justify, or evaluate future programs.
Impacts of selective logging management on butterflies in the Amazon Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-23 Gabriela Montejo-Kovacevich, Matthew G. Hethcoat, Felix K.S. Lim, Charles J. Marsh, Dayana Bonfantti, Carlos A. Peres, David P. Edwards
Selective logging for timber production affects vast areas across the tropics, yet we lack detailed understanding of the impacts of logging intensity on biodiversity. These impacts can be studied at two levels: the impacts of logging intensity on overall diversity and community composition; and how logging intensity affects individual species' abundance-logging yield relationships. The latter underpins whether land-sharing logging (i.e. low intensity throughout) or land-sparing logging (i.e. high intensity with retention of some primary forest) is the optimal strategy. We examine both levels to determine the impacts of local-scale logging intensity on butterflies in Rondônia, Brazil, the global epicenter of butterfly alpha-diversity. Overall butterfly abundance was highest at intermediate logging intensity, whereas species richness increased after logging but was not affected by logging intensity, and that species composition increasingly changed from the primary community composition at higher logging intensities. Using individual species' abundance-yield curves, we then simulated species responses to a suite of logging strategies, ranging from total sharing to total sparing. Logging simulations predicted that more butterfly species would benefit from low-intensity land-sharing logging, having higher abundances than under land-sharing scenarios. However, some butterfly clades benefited disproportionally from the retention of primary forest within land-sparing logging concessions. Butterflies overall may benefit from intermediate logging strategies that promote a combination of low and high intensity logged areas, with some protected primary forest.
Using network analysis to identify indicator species and reduce collision fatalities at wind farms Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-12 Esther Sebastián-González, Juan Manuel Pérez-García, Martina Carrete, José Antonio Donázar, José Antonio Sánchez-Zapata
The adverse effects of wind farms on wildlife, mainly the mortality of flying animals at turbines, should be carefully studied to reconcile renewable energy production and biodiversity conservation. The growing consensus about the aggregated pattern of this mortality at particular turbines suggests that the identification of high-mortality turbines can decisively aid in the implementation of effective management actions. Here, taking advantage of a long-term monitoring program of animal mortality at wind farms (10,017 fatalities of 170 bird and bat species between 1993 and 2016) in two Spanish regions, we demonstrate the utility of network analysis in identifying species indicative of high-risk turbines whose stoppage could significantly reduce the mortality of other species. Our protocol can be easily applied to any region with available data on animal mortality to help managers reduce the negative impacts of wind farms.
Quantifying impacts of oil palm expansion on Colombia's threatened biodiversity Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-05 Natalia Ocampo-Peñuela, John Garcia-Ulloa, Jaboury Ghazoul, Andres Etter
Large-scale conversion of forest to oil palm has precipitated severe environmental impacts in the lowlands of Malaysia and Indonesia. It is a major conservation priority to ensure that projected expansion of oil palm in Africa and Latin America does not lead to analogous environmental devastation in these mega-diverse places. In an effort to minimize negative impacts from a species conservation perspective, we present a framework for spatial planning that accommodates inevitable oil palm expansion into regions of high biodiversity. Using megadiverse Colombia as an example, we investigated current and projected impacts of oil palm on threatened vertebrates (birds, mammals, and amphibians). We highlight a few areas where expansion would be detrimental to threatened fauna and should be avoided, but generally, there is minimal overlap between suitable areas for oil palm production and threatened vertebrate distributions. Our analysis demonstrates that there is room for oil palm to expand in Colombia without incurring severe conservation risks for threatened vertebrates, so long as it avoids a few high-priority areas such as la Serranía de la Macarena, the Andes-Amazon transition, the Darién, and the Tumaco forests. By applying this approach to other countries facing imminent oil palm expansion, it may be possible to meet a growing commodity demand without severely exacerbating the biodiversity crisis.
Automated monitoring for birds in flight: Proof of concept with eagles at a wind power facility Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-05-26 Christopher J.W. McClure, Luke Martinson, Taber D. Allison
Automated surveys for wildlife have the potential to improve data collection while averting mortality of animals. Collisions of eagles at wind power facilities are particularly of concern and therefore an automated system that could detect birds, determine if they are eagles, and track their movement, might aid in curtailing wind turbines before collisions occur. Here, we use human observers and photographs to test the ability of a camera-based monitoring system, called IdentiFlight, to detect, classify, and track birds. IdentiFlight detected 96% of the bird flights detected by observers and detected 562% more birds than did observers. The discrepancy between observers and IdentiFlight seemed to be because the ability of observers to detect birds declined sharply by distance and toward the west. We reviewed photographs taken by IdentiFlight and determined that IdentiFlight misclassified nine of 149 eagles as non-eagles for a false negative rate of 6%, and 287 of 1013 non-eagles as eagles for a false positive rate of 28%. The median distance at classification for birds classified as eagles was 793 m and the median time from detection till classification was 0.4 s. Collectively, our results suggest that automated cameras can be effective means of detecting birds in flight and identifying eagles.
Illegal hunting as a major driver of the source-sink dynamics of a reintroduced lynx population in Central Europe Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-26 M. Heurich, J. Schultze-Naumburg, N. Piacenza, N. Magg, J. Červený, T. Engleder, M. Herdtfelder, M. Sladova, S. Kramer-Schadt
Large carnivores, such as wolves and lynx, are strictly protected by law in most European countries. However, they are still vulnerable due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. The Bohemian Forest Ecosystem lynx population is exemplary as a reintroduced carnivore population in Central Europe. The population expanded rapidly after the reintroduction (phase I) but then declined and stagnated at a low population size (phase II). There is some evidence that illegal hunting might have caused this development, but reliable data on the intensity of illegal hunting is lacking, and hence long-term consequences for the population cannot be assessed. We used a spatially-explicit individual-based dispersal and population model to inversely fit mortality probabilities to long-term monitoring data; the model integrated both chance observations and telemetry data, and discriminated between baseline mortality, road mortality and added unknown mortality. During phase I, the estimated added unknown mortality ranged between 3 and 4%, with an extinction rate < 5%; during phase II, the estimated added unknown mortality reached 15–20%, which would prevent animals from colonizing new habitat patches. The probability of extinction in phase II ranged between 13 and 74%, thereby reaching a tipping point at which the additional unknown mortality of a few animals could drive the population to extinction. However, when we considered the national parks as fully protected, the extinction probability dropped to <1%. Based on our results, we conclude that the added unknown mortality is most likely explained by illegal hunting and therefore the highest priority for the conservation of the lynx population in the Bohemian Forest Ecosystem should be the prevention of illegal hunting in national parks and their immediate surroundings.
Importance of dam-free tributaries for conserving fish biodiversity in Neotropical reservoirs Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-22 Hugo Marques, João Henrique Pinheiro Dias, Gilmar Perbiche-Neves, Elaine Antoniassi Luiz Kashiwaqui, Igor Paiva Ramos
Dams change the hydrological dynamics, patterns of biological production and distribution of organisms in space and time. In contrast, tributary rivers can function as source areas in reservoirs, since they harbor spawning and early development grounds for native fish species. Here, we analyze a time series of the first 14 years after the impoundment of the Porto Primavera Reservoir, a large reservoir with free tributaries in southeastern Brazil. To evaluate the impact of damming on the fish assemblage, we evaluated the abundance (catch per unit effort, CPUE) and α (species richness and Shannon-Wiener index) and β (Sørensen dissimilarity and turnover) diversity of four sites distributed along the reservoir. Overall, there was no decreasing trend in the α diversity and no increasing trend in the β diversity relative to the initial year or among the sites over time. Despite the expected disturbance in the fish assemblage at the lacustrine site, the sites located near the tributary mouths presented resistant fish assemblages, compensating the results of the overall assessment. We attribute this unusual variation in the ecological attributes to source-sink demographic dynamics, with the undammed tributaries as the source and the reservoir as the sink for native species. We highlight that the presence of these rivers minimized the expected trend towards biotic homogenization, and the preservation of the tributaries is imperative since they contribute to diversity maintenance in areas that are already impacted by damming. The inclusion of this agenda in environmental management programs and new impoundment plans will allow a balance between the demand for electricity production and the conservation of fish diversity.
Cross-taxonomic surrogates for biodiversity conservation in human-modified landscapes – A multi-taxa approach Biol. Conserv. (IF 4.66) Pub Date : 2018-06-21 Ding Li Yong, Philip S. Barton, Karen Ikin, Maldwyn John Evans, Mason Crane, Sachiko Okada, Saul A. Cunningham, David B. Lindenmayer
Cross-taxonomic surrogates are often used in conservation planning because inventorying large suites of taxa is either not feasible or too costly. However, cross-taxonomic surrogates are seldom tested rigorously using both correlational and representation-based approaches at the spatial scales at which conservation management occurs. Here, we evaluated the effectiveness of five ecologically contrasting taxa (birds, herpetofauna, wild bees, beetles, trees) as cross-taxonomic surrogates in native woodland patches within a heavily modified, farming and plantation-dominated landscape. We first compared species richness and compositional heterogeneity across taxa before testing for cross-taxonomic congruence using a correlative approach. We then quantified how well each taxon incidentally represented other taxa in their best patch sets, and the costs of doing so using a complementarity-based approach. We found significant pairwise associations between some taxa (birds, bees), but no single taxon was strongly correlated with all other taxa. Woodland patch sets prioritised for beetles represented other taxa best, followed by birds, but were the costliest and required the largest amount of woodland. This contrasted with patch sets prioritised for wild bees or herpetofauna, which achieved higher representation of other taxa at lower costs. Our study highlighted the influence of taxon-specific patterns of diversity and heterogeneity on how remnant vegetation patches should be prioritised for conservation, a consideration not immediately obvious in correlative analyses of surrogacy. Second, taxa that are not the most speciose (e.g. wild bees) can be efficient surrogates, achieving higher incidental representation for other taxa at lower costs. Thus, while species-rich taxa are ideal as surrogates for prioritising conservation, conservation planners should not overlook the potential of less speciose taxa such as bees, while considering the cost-effectiveness of surveying multiple different taxa.
Some contents have been Reproduced by permission of The Royal Society of Chemistry.
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