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  • Digital conservation in biosphere reserves: Earth observations, social media, and nature's cultural contributions to people
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2020-01-10
    Ana Sofia Vaz; Ricardo A. Moreno‐Llorca; João F. Gonçalves; Joana R. Vicente; Pablo F. Méndez; Eloy Revilla; Luis Santamaria; Francisco J. Bonet‐García; João P. Honrado; Domingo Alcaraz‐Segura

    In the “digital conservation” age, big data from Earth observations and from social media have been increasingly used to tackle conservation challenges. Here, we combined information from those two digital sources in a multimodel inference framework to identify, map, and predict the potential for nature's cultural contributions to people in two contrasting UNESCO biosphere reserves: Doñana and Sierra Nevada (Spain). The content analysis of Flickr pictures revealed different cultural contributions, according to the natural and cultural values of the two reserves. Those contributions relied upon landscape variables computed from Earth observation data: the variety of colors and vegetation functioning that characterize Doñana landscapes, and the leisure facilities, accessibility features, and heterogeneous landscapes that shape Sierra Nevada. Our findings suggest that social media and Earth observations can aid in the cost‐efficient monitoring of nature's contributions to people, which underlie many Sustainable Development Goals and conservation targets in protected areas worldwide.

  • Synthesis of wild orchid trade and demography provides new insight on conservation strategies
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2020-01-07
    Tamara Ticktin; Demetria Mondragón; Leonel Lopez‐Toledo; Daniela Dutra‐Elliott; Ernesto Aguirre‐León; Mariana Hernández‐Apolinar

    Illegal wildlife trade represents a global conservation priority, but the booming illegal trade in wild plants remains understudied. We use the Mexican orchid trade to illustrate an interdisciplinary approach to provide novel insight on conservation strategies and policies. We synthesize studies of orchid markets, national orchid confiscation records, CITES registers, and global population dynamics studies to document trade patterns and potential ecological impacts. We found 333 wild‐harvested orchid taxa illegally traded in domestic markets. Clear patterns emerged: 90% were epiphytic and <4% traded in high volumes, all of which had pseudobulbs and bloomed during cultural festivals. Most sales were pseudobulbs, not whole plants. Review of demographic studies indicates whole‐plant harvest is unviable but simulations show potential for sustainable harvest of pseudobulbs. The combination of social and ecological findings suggests a novel multipronged approach to improve conservation, including selective monitoring, enforcement focused on whole‐plant harvest, and community‐based wild harvest of pseudobulbs.

  • Tree diversity and carbon storage cobenefits in tropical human‐dominated landscapes
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2020-01-01
    Anand M. Osuri; Siddarth Machado; Jayashree Ratnam; Mahesh Sankaran; N. Ayyappan; S. Muthuramkumar; N. Parthasarathy; Raphaël Pélissier; B. R. Ramesh; Ruth DeFries; Shahid Naeem

    A lack of spatial congruence between carbon storage and biodiversity in intact forests suggests limited cobenefits of carbon‐focused policies for conserving tropical biodiversity. However, whether the same applies in tropical human‐dominated landscapes (HDLs) is unclear. In India's Western Ghats Biodiversity Hotspot, we found that while HDL forests harbor lower tree diversity and aboveground carbon stocks than relatively intact forests, positive diversity–carbon correlations are more prevalent in HDLs. This is because anthropogenic drivers of species loss in HDLs consistently reduce carbon storing biomass volume (lower basal area), and biomass per unit volume (fewer hardwood trees). We further show, using a meta‐analysis spanning multiple regions, that these patterns apply to tropical HDLs more generally. Thus, while complementary strategies are needed for securing the irreplaceable biodiversity and carbon values of intact forests, ubiquitous tropical HDLs might hold greater potential for synergizing biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation.

  • Growth‐inducing infrastructure represents transformative yet ignored keystone environmental decisions
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-12-16
    Chris J. Johnson; Oscar Venter; Justina C. Ray; James E. M. Watson

    As the defining force of the Anthropocene, human enterprise is reshaping Earth's surface and climate. As part of that process, growth‐inducing infrastructure, such as electrical transmission lines, export facilities, and roads, presents nonincremental changes in where and how natural resources are exploited. These projects open intact areas, induce or intensify industrial development, and accelerate carbon emissions. The direct impacts of large‐scale infrastructure are widely acknowledged and policy and legislation exists to account for them in environmental decisions. Yet, decision makers often ignore the secondary, growth‐induced effects, even though they can outweigh the impacts of the initial development. Given the extensive area and magnitude of such impacts, we argue that regulatory or funding approvals for growth‐inducing infrastructure represent keystone decisions. Credible approval processes require the consideration of the full range of impacts resulting from the ensuing growth. This will necessitate a shift in assessment thinking, from the traditional focus on the immediate project footprint to one that recognizes the sustainability implications of approving infrastructure that will transform the trajectory of development at regional and national scales. We identify the characteristics of growth‐inducing infrastructure and provide an overview of methods and policy that can facilitate a deliberate assessment of these keystone decisions.

  • Moving from biodiversity offsets to a target‐based approach for ecological compensation
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-12-09
    Jeremy S. Simmonds, Laura J. Sonter, James E.M. Watson, Leon Bennun, Hugo M. Costa, Guy Dutson, Stephen Edwards, Hedley Grantham, Victoria F. Griffiths, Julia P.G. Jones, Joseph Kiesecker, Hugh P. Possingham, Philippe Puydarrieux, Fabien Quétier, Helga Rainer, Hugo Rainey, Dilys Roe, Conrad E. Savy, Mathieu Souquet, Kerry ten Kate, Ray Victurine, Amrei von Hase, Martine Maron

    Loss of habitats or ecosystems arising from development projects (e.g., infrastructure, resource extraction, urban expansion) are frequently addressed through biodiversity offsetting. As currently implemented, offsetting typically requires an outcome of “no net loss” of biodiversity, but only relative to a baseline trajectory of biodiversity decline. This type of “relative” no net loss entrenches ongoing biodiversity loss, and is misaligned with biodiversity targets that require “absolute” no net loss or “net gain.” Here, we review the limitations of biodiversity offsetting, and in response, propose a new framework for compensating for biodiversity losses from development in a way that is aligned explicitly with jurisdictional biodiversity targets. In the framework, targets for particular biodiversity features are achieved via one of three pathways: Net Gain, No Net Loss, or (rarely) Managed Net Loss. We outline how to set the type (“Maintenance” or “Improvement”) and amount of ecological compensation that is appropriate for proportionately contributing to the achievement of different targets. This framework advances ecological compensation beyond a reactive, ad‐hoc response, to ensuring alignment between actions addressing residual biodiversity losses and achievement of overarching targets for biodiversity conservation.

  • Vulnerable species and ecosystems are falling through the cracks of environmental impact assessments
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-12-09
    Jeremy S. Simmonds, April E. Reside, Zoe Stone, Jessica C. Walsh, Michelle S. Ward, Martine Maron

    Proponents of development projects (e.g., new roads, mines, dams) are frequently required to assess and manage their impacts on threatened biodiversity. Here, we propose that the environmental legislation and standards that mandate such assessments are failing those threatened species and ecological communities listed as vulnerable. Using a case study of Australia's key environmental legislation, we highlight that vulnerable ecological communities receive no statutory protection, while vulnerable species are held to a less stringent standard in the impact assessment process compared with those that are endangered or critically endangered. In the 19 years since Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 was enacted, four times as many vulnerable species have declined in their threat status than have improved. Beyond Australia, we demonstrate the global relevance of this issue, as it applies to internationally recognized best practice impact assessment guidelines. These cases provide a cautionary tale: without greater attention and stricter assessment criteria in the impact assessment process, the vulnerable species of today risk becoming the endangered species of tomorrow, with all the attendant costs and missed opportunities for recovery that this implies.

  • Biodiversity means business: Reframing global biodiversity goals for the private sector
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-12-04
    Thomas Smith, Lucy Beagley, Joseph Bull, E. J. Milner‐Gulland, Matt Smith, Francis Vorhies, Prue F. E. Addison

    The Convention on Biological Diversity strategic goals direct the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity from global to local scales. Yet business’ role in meeting the strategic goals and being accountable for their impacts and dependencies on biodiversity are still not fully and coherently outlined. We demonstrate how business actions can contribute to the strategic goals using 10 publicly available case studies, covering businesses of various sizes, from multiple sectors, operating in different contexts. The case studies show some businesses already contribute to meeting biodiversity goals, often without realizing. We consider the drivers of business engagement with biodiversity; problems in interpreting the scale of impacts through corporate reporting; the implications for changing the way businesses engage with biodiversity goals; and how businesses could contribute more under the post‐2020 framework for biodiversity. We call for increased business accountability for nature and that all in conservation—policymakers, practitioners, researchers, communities—do more to connect businesses with the strategic goals. Clearer business roles and responsibilities within international targets form a critical step toward the fundamental systems‐level change required to reverse biodiversity loss.

  • Protected areas and freshwater biodiversity: a novel systematic review distils eight lessons for effective conservation
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-12-02
    Michael Acreman, Kathy A. Hughes, Angela H. Arthington, David Tickner, Manuel‐Angel Dueñas

    Protected areas are a global cornerstone of biodiversity conservation and restoration. Yet freshwater biodiversity is continuing to decline rapidly. To date there has been no formal review of the effectiveness of protected areas for conserving or restoring biodiversity in rivers, lakes, and wetlands. We present the first assessment using a systematic review of the published scientific evidence of the effectiveness of freshwater protected areas. Systematic searches returned 2,586 separate publications, of which 44 provided quantitative evidence comprising 75 case studies. Of these, 38 reported positive, 25 neutral, and 12 negative outcomes for freshwater biodiversity conservation. Analysis revealed variable relationships between conservation effectiveness and factors such as taxa assessed, protected area size and characteristics, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) protected area category, and ecoregion. Lack of effectiveness was attributed to many anthropogenic factors, including fishing (often with a lack of law enforcement), water management (abstraction, dams, and flow regulation), habitat degradation, and invasive non‐native species. Drawing on the review and wider literature we distil eight lessons to enhance the effectiveness of protected areas for freshwater biodiversity conservation. We urge policymakers, protected area managers, and those who fund them to invest in well‐designed research and monitoring programs and publication of evidence of protected area effectiveness.

  • Contribution of European forests to safeguard wild honeybee populations
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-28
    Fabrice Requier, Yoan Paillet, Fabien Laroche, Benjamin Rutschmann, Jie Zhang, Fabio Lombardi, Miroslav Svoboda, Ingolf Steffan‐Dewenter

    Recent studies reveal the use of tree cavities by wild honeybee colonies in European forests. This highlights the conservation potential of forests for a highly threatened component of the native entomofauna in Europe, but currently no estimate of potential wild honeybee population sizes exists. Here, we analyzed the tree cavity densities of 106 forest areas across Europe and inferred an expected population size of wild honeybees. Both forest and management types affected the density of tree cavities. Accordingly, we estimated that more than 80,000 wild honeybee colonies could be sustained in European forests. As expected, potential conservation hotspots were identified in unmanaged forests, and, surprisingly, also in other large forest areas across Europe. Our results contribute to the EU policy strategy to halt pollinator declines and reveal the potential of forest areas for the conservation of so far neglected wild honeybee populations in Europe.

  • Substantial losses in ecoregion intactness highlight urgency of globally coordinated action
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-25
    Hawthorne L. Beyer, Oscar Venter, Hedley S. Grantham, James E.M. Watson

    Human activities are altering natural areas worldwide. While our ability to map these activities at fine scales is improving, a simplistic binary characterization of habitat and non‐habitat with a focus on change in habitat extent has dominated conservation assessments across different spatial scales. Here, we provide a metric that captures both habitat loss, quality and fragmentation effects which, when combined, we call intactness. We identify nine categories of intactness of the world's terrestrial ecoregions based on changes in intactness across a 16‐year period. We found that highly impacted and degraded categories are predominant (74%) and just 6% of ecoregions are on improving trajectories. It is essential that management of degrading processes be targeted in international agendas in order to ensure that Earth's remaining intact ecosystems are effectively conserved and restored in order to achieve effective conservation outcomes.

  • Watershed complexity increases the capacity for salmon–wildlife interactions in coastal ecosystems
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-20
    Jonathan B. Armstrong, Daniel E. Schindler, Curry J. Cunningham, William Deacy, Patrick Walsh

    Habitat alteration and species exploitation are fundamental issues in conservation, yet their interacting effects on food webs are rarely considered. We used a foraging model based on the Wood River basin (Alaska, USA) to explore how watershed development and commercial fisheries affect energy flow from sockeye salmon to brown bears. We found that, where salmon are abundant, fisheries can harvest large fractions of runs without substantially reducing bear consumption of salmon, but that watershed development could strongly reduce bear consumption if it shortens the duration of foraging opportunities by reducing population‐level variation in salmon spawn timing. Habitats with the lowest resource abundance (small streams) were particularly profitable for bear foraging because they offer salmon at unique times of the season. This result challenges environmental impact assessments that assume ecological effects respond solely to changes in resource abundance.

  • Estimating IUCN Red List population reduction: JARA—A decision‐support tool applied to pelagic sharks
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-18
    Richard B. Sherley, Henning Winker, Cassandra L. Rigby, Peter M. Kyne, Riley Pollom, Nathan Pacoureau, Katelyn Herman, John K. Carlson, Jamie S. Yin, Holly K. Kindsvater, Nicholas K. Dulvy

    The International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List is the global standard for quantifying extinction risk but assessing population reduction (criterion A) of wide‐ranging, long‐lived marine taxa remains difficult and controversial. We show how Bayesian state–space models (BSSM), coupled with expert knowledge at IUCN Red List workshops, can combine regional abundance data into indices of global population change. To illustrate our approach, we provide examples of the process to assess four circumglobal sharks with differing temporal and spatial data‐deficiency: Blue Shark (Prionace glauca), Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus), Dusky Shark (Carcharhinus obscurus), and Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran). For each species, the BSSM provided global population change estimates over three generation lengths bounded by uncertainty levels in intuitive outputs, enabling informed decisions on the status of each species. Integrating similar analyses into future workshops would help conservation practitioners ensure robust, consistent, and transparent Red List assessments for other long‐lived, wide‐ranging species.

  • Molecular tools for coral reef restoration: Beyond biomarker discovery
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-18
    John Everett Parkinson, Andrew C. Baker, Iliana B. Baums, Sarah W. Davies, Andréa G. Grottoli, Sheila A. Kitchen, Mikhail V. Matz, Margaret W. Miller, Andrew A. Shantz, Carly D. Kenkel

    As coral reefs continue to decline due to climate change and other stressors, scientists have proposed adopting genomic tools, such as biomarkers, to aid in the conservation and restoration of these threatened ecosystems. Biomarkers are easily measured indicators of biological processes that can be used to predict or diagnose health, resilience, and other key performance metrics. The ultimate goal of developing biomarkers is to determine the conservation value and utility of a given coral colony, including the host animal, its algal symbionts, and their microbial partners. However, this goal remains distant because most efforts have not yet moved beyond the initial discovery phase. We review recent progress in the development of coral molecular biomarkers from a practical standpoint and consider the many challenges that remain as roadblocks to large‐scale implementation. We caution practitioners that, while biomarkers are a promising technology, they are unlikely to be available for field application in the near future barring a rapid shift in research focus from discovery to subsequent validation and field trials. To facilitate such a shift, we propose a stepwise framework to guide additional study in this area, with the aim of accelerating practical molecular biomarker development to enhance coral restoration practice.

  • The ecological outcomes of biodiversity offsets under “no net loss” policies: A global review
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-07-17
    Sophus O. S. E. zu Ermgassen, Julia Baker, Richard A. Griffiths, Niels Strange, Matthew J. Struebig, Joseph W. Bull

    No net loss (NNL) biodiversity policies mandating the application of a mitigation hierarchy (avoid, minimize, remediate, offset) to the ecological impacts of built infrastructure are proliferating globally. However, little is known about their effectiveness at achieving NNL outcomes. We reviewed the English‐language peer‐reviewed literature (capturing 15,715 articles), and identified 32 reports that observed ecological outcomes from NNL policies, including >300,000 ha of biodiversity offsets. Approximately one‐third of NNL policies and individual biodiversity offsets reported achieving NNL, primarily in wetlands, although most studies used widely criticized area‐based outcome measures. The most commonly cited reason for success was applying high offset multipliers (large offset area relative to the impacted area). We identified large gaps between the global implementation of offsets and the evidence for their effectiveness: despite two‐thirds of the world's biodiversity offsets being applied in forested ecosystems, we found none of four studies demonstrated successful NNL outcomes for forested habitats or species. We also found no evidence for NNL achievement using avoided loss offsets (impacts offset by protecting existing habitat elsewhere). Additionally, we summarized regional variability in compliance rates with NNL policies. As global infrastructural expansion accelerates, we must urgently improve the evidence‐base around efforts to mitigate development impacts on biodiversity.

  • Voluntary, permanent land protection reduces forest loss and development in a rural‐urban landscape
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-04-22
    Christoph Nolte, Spencer R. Meyer, Katharine R. E. Sims, Jonathan R. Thompson

    Voluntary, permanent land protection is a key conservation process in many countries. Concerns with the effectiveness of such decentralized processes exist due to the potential for (1) selection bias, that is, the protection of parcels whose land cover would have been conserved in the absence of protection, and (2) local spillover effects, that is, protection increasing the likelihood that adjacent parcels lose land cover due to additional conversion. We examine the validity of both concerns using a quasi‐experimental approach and a dataset of 220,187 parcels and 26 years of protection and land‐cover change in Massachusetts. We find that land acquisitions and conservation restrictions implemented by state, local, and nongovernmental actors reduced forest loss and conversion to developed uses without increasing either type of land‐cover change on adjacent parcels. Our results suggest that voluntary, permanent land protection can make significant contributions in protecting land cover in landscapes dominated by private ownership.

  • Easement or public land? An economic analysis of different ownership modes for nature conservation measures in California
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-04-12
    Oliver Schöttker, Maria João Santos

    Biodiversity conservation requires space where conservation measures are implemented for a desired purpose. Setting land aside for conservation has been widely applied, while novel conservation modes (private–public partnerships, private multipurpose land management) may be fundamental to achieve conservation goals. We perform an economic analysis of the cost development for two conservation options in California, in‐fee and easements, from 1970 to today. We find that in‐fee options have lower costs than easements in the long run. While there are high costs of purchase for in‐fee, ultimately they even‐out or generate profits. Costs of easements continue growing exponentially overtaking costs of purchase. Sensitivity analysis shows increases in purchasing prices and opportunity costs positively influencing conservation costs, while increasing interest rates negatively influence them. The results suggest that easements are not yet an economically viable alternative for in‐fee conservation purchases. Our analysis is a first step to assess economic viability of choosing easements.

  • The dynamics of proclaimed privately protected areas in South Africa over 83 years
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-03-20
    Alta De Vos, Hayley S. Clements, Duan Biggs, Graeme S. Cumming

    Views that protected area (PA) expansion relies predominantly on land purchased by government are increasingly being challenged. The inclusion of privately owned PAs (PPAs) in national conservation strategies is now commonplace, but little is known about their long‐term persistence and how it compares to that of state‐owned PAs. We undertook the first long‐term assessment of the dynamics of a national system of terrestrial PPAs, assessing its growth, as well as its resilience to downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD). Between 1926 and 2018, 6.2% of all private nature reserves established in South Africa were degazetted, compared to 2.2% of state‐owned nature reserves. Privately owned PA growth exceeded that of state‐owned PAs. Trends in PA establishment differed between privately owned and state‐owned PAs, reflecting different legislative, political, and economic events. Our findings highlight the value of enabling legislative environments to facilitate PPA establishment, and demonstrate the potential of PPAs as a long‐term conservation strategy.

  • Better biodiversity accounting is needed to prevent bioperversity and maximize co‐benefits from savanna burning
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-13
    Ben Corey, Alan N. Andersen, Sarah Legge, John C. Z. Woinarski, Ian J. Radford, Justin J. Perry

    Strategies for mitigating climate change through altered land management practices can provide win–win outcomes for the environment and the economy. Emissions trading for greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement in Australia's remote, fire‐prone, and sparsely populated tropical savannas provides a financial incentive for intensive fire management that aims to reduce fire frequency, severity, and extent, and it supports important social, economic, and land management opportunities for remote communities, conservation agencies, and pastoralists. These programs now cover >20% of Australia's 1.9 million km2 tropical savanna biome, encompassing areas of globally significant biodiversity value. A common assertion is that by reducing the frequency, severity, and extent of fires for GHG abatement, these programs provide biodiversity co‐benefits. However, such biodiversity benefits have been assumed rather than demonstrated. Much better accounting of how biodiversity is responding to changed fire management is required to ensure that there are no unintended outcomes for biodiversity (bioperversity), and that biodiversity co‐benefits are maximized. Such accounting could underpin the earning of formal biodiversity credits from improved fire management, and will go a long way to understanding and improving the biodiversity outcomes of savanna fire management.

  • Gender differences in poaching attitudes: Insights from communities in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe living near the great Limpopo
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-12
    Aksel Sundström, Amanda Linell, Herbert Ntuli, Martin Sjöstedt, Meredith L. Gore

    To what extent and how do men and women differ in their attitudes about poaching? Although research suggests that women can be more concerned about environmental degradation than men, inquiries about communities in protected areas are ambiguous: women are disproportionately affected by anti‐poaching laws and can have greater motivations to violate rules. We conducted a large‐scale survey in communities within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park in Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe and explored attitudes regarding; concern about resources, rule compliance, poaching, and anti‐poaching activities. Although women's attitudes generally are not divergent from men's, we find some differences among nonelectrified households and those with a dependence on resources; these women are less likely to condemn commercial poaching and less willing to engage in anti‐poaching activities. Men in poorer households are more likely to know a poacher. We identify a need of further understanding the causes behind gender differences in conservation attitudes.

  • Ecosystem indices to support global biodiversity conservation
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-11
    Jessica A. Rowland, Lucie M. Bland, David A. Keith, Diego Juffe‐Bignoli, Mark A. Burgman, Andres Etter, José Rafael Ferrer‐Paris, Rebecca M. Miller, Andrew L. Skowno, Emily Nicholson

    Governments have committed to global targets to slow biodiversity loss and sustain ecosystem services. Biodiversity state indicators that measure progress toward these targets mostly focus on species, while indicators synthesizing ecosystem change are largely lacking. We fill this gap with three indices quantifying past and projected changes in ecosystems using data from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Ecosystems. Our indices quantify changes in risk of ecosystem collapse, ecosystem area and ecological processes, and capture variation in underlying patterns among ecosystems. We apply the indices to three case studies of regional and national assessments (American/Caribbean forests, terrestrial ecosystems of Colombia, and terrestrial ecosystems of South Africa) to illustrate the indices’ complementarity and versatility in revealing patterns of interest for users across sectors. Our indices have the potential to fill the recognized need for ecosystem indicators to inform conservation targets, guide policy, and prioritize management actions.

  • Spending to save: What will it cost to halt Australia's extinction crisis?
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-06
    Brendan A. Wintle, Natasha C.R. Cadenhead, Rachel A. Morgain, Sarah M. Legge, Sarah A. Bekessy, Matthew Cantele, Hugh P. Possingham, James E.M. Watson, Martine Maron, David A. Keith, Stephen T. Garnett, John C. Z. Woinarski, David B. Lindenmayer

    As with most governments worldwide, Australian governments list threatened species and proffer commitments to recovering them. Yet most of Australia's imperiled species continue to decline or go extinct and a contributing cause is inadequate investment in conservation management. However, this has been difficult to evaluate because the extent of funding committed to such recovery in Australia, like in many nations, is opaque. Here, by collating disparate published budget figures of Australian governments, we show that annual spending on targeted threatened species recovery is around U.S.$92m (AU$122m) which is around one tenth of that spent by the U.S. endangered species recovery program, and about 15% of what is needed to avoid extinctions and recover threatened species. Our approach to estimating funding needs for species recovery could be applied in any jurisdiction and could be scaled up to calculate what is needed to achieve international goals for ending the species extinction crisis.

  • Looking to aquatic species for conservation farming success
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-04
    Rebecca R. Gentry, Steven D. Gaines, Jeremy S. Gabe, Sarah E. Lester

    Thousands of species worldwide are threatened with extinction due to human activities. For some animals, such as elephants, totoaba, and bluefin tuna, population declines are largely driven by hunting. High prices and large profits create a strong incentive for illegal hunting, even in the face of penalties and strict international restrictions against trade. One innovative solution to help reverse the declines of such species is to farm them to increase supply, thereby reducing prices and decreasing hunting incentives. However, this idea has been criticized as impractical, though some examples exist of successful implementation. Here, we evaluate the hurdles facing endangered species farming as a market‐based mechanism to reduce illegal harvest of wild populations and provide guidance on when it is most likely to be effective. Using a simple model, we show how farming costs and enforcement of anti‐poaching measures are key drivers of success for this solution. We also argue that many of the most promising candidates are aquatic species that have been largely overlooked. Thus, while conservation farming may not be a solution for all endangered species, it should be more seriously considered for species that could be produced quickly and cost‐effectively.

  • Alternative pathways to sustainable seafood
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-11-04
    Joshua S. Stoll, Megan Bailey, Malin Jonell

    Seafood certifications are a prominent tool being used to encourage sustainability in marine fisheries worldwide. However, questions about their efficacy remain the subject of ongoing debate. A main criticism is that they are not well suited for small‐scale fisheries or those in developing nations. This represents a dilemma because a significant share of global fishing activity occurs in these sectors. To overcome this shortcoming and others, a range of “fixes” have been implemented, including reduced payment structures, development of fisheries improvement projects, and head‐start programs that prepare fisheries for certification. These adaptations have not fully solved incompatibilities, instead creating new challenges that have necessitated additional fixes. We argue that this dynamic is emblematic of a common tendency in natural resource management where particular tools and strategies are emphasized over the conservation outcomes they seek to achieve. This can lead to the creation of “hammers” in management and conservation. We use seafood certifications as an illustrative case to highlight the importance of diverse approaches to sustainability that do not require certification. Focusing on alternative models that address sustainability problems at the local level and increase fishers’ adaptive capacity, social capital, and agency through “relational” supply chains may be a useful starting point.

  • Are Brazil's Deforesters Avoiding Detection?
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2017-12-23
    Peter Richards,Eugenio Arima,Leah VanWey,Avery Cohn,Nishan Bhattarai

    Rates of deforestation reported by Brazil's official deforestation monitoring system have declined dramatically in the Brazilian Amazon. Much of Brazil's success in its fight against deforestation has been credited to a series of policy changes put into place between 2004 and 2008. In this research, we posit that one of these policies, the decision to use the country's official system for monitoring forest loss in the Amazon as a policing tool, has incentivized landowners to deforest in ways and places that evade Brazil's official monitoring and enforcement system. As a consequence, we a) show or b) provide several pieces of suggestive evidence that recent successes in protecting monitored forests in the Brazilian Amazon may be doing less to protect the region's forests than previously assumed.

  • Biodiversity funds and conservation needs in the EU under climate change.
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2014-09-30
    Tobias Lung,Laura Meller,Astrid J A van Teeffelen,Wilfried Thuiller,Mar Cabeza

    Despite ambitious biodiversity policy goals, less than a fifth of the European Union's (EU) legally protected species and habitats show a favorable conservation status. The recent EU biodiversity strategy recognizes that climate change adds to the challenge of halting biodiversity loss, and that an optimal distribution of financial resources is needed. Here, we analyze recent EU biodiversity funding from a climate change perspective. We compare the allocation of funds to the distribution of both current conservation priorities (within and beyond Natura 2000) and future conservation needs at the level of NUTS-2 regions, using modelled bird distributions as indicators of conservation value. We find that funding is reasonably well aligned with current conservation efforts but poorly fit with future needs under climate change, indicating obstacles for implementing adaptation measures. We suggest revising EU biodiversity funding instruments for the 2014-2020 budget period to better account for potential climate change impacts on biodiversity.

  • An experimental test of community‐based strategies for mitigating human–wildlife conflict around protected areas
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-10-16
    Paola S. Branco, Jerod A. Merkle, Robert M. Pringle, Lucy King, Tosca Tindall, Marc Stalmans, Ryan A. Long

    Natural habitats are rapidly being converted to cultivated croplands, and crop‐raiding by wildlife threatens both wildlife conservation and human livelihoods worldwide. We combined movement data from GPS‐collared elephants with camera‐trap data and local reporting systems in a before–after‐control‐impact design to evaluate community‐based strategies for reducing crop raiding outside Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park. All types of experimental fences tested (beehive, chili, beehive and chili combined, and procedural controls) significantly reduced the number of times elephants left the Park to raid crops. However, placing beehive fences at a subset of key crossing locations reduced the odds that elephants would leave the Park by up to 95% relative to unfenced crossings, and was the most effective strategy. Beehive fences also created opportunities for income generation via honey production. Our results provide experimental evidence that working with local communities to modify both animal behavior and human attitudes can mitigate conflict at the human–wildlife interface.

  • Collaborative conservation planning: Quantifying the contribution of expert engagement to identify spatial conservation priorities
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-10-03
    Katherine E. Selwood, Brendan A. Wintle, Heini Kujala

    The importance of expert input to spatial conservation prioritization outcomes is poorly understood. We quantified the impacts of refinements made during consultation with experts on spatial conservation prioritization of Christmas Island. There was just 0.57 correlation between the spatial conservation priorities before and after consultation, bottom ranked areas being most sensitive to changes. The inclusion of a landscape condition layer was the most significant individual influence. Changes (addition, removal, modification) to biodiversity layers resulted in a combined 0.2 reduction in correlation between initial and final solutions. Representation of rare species in top ranked areas was much greater after expert consultation; representation of widely distributed species changed relatively little. Our results show how different inputs have notably different impacts on the final plan. Understanding these differences helps plan time and resources for expert consultation.

  • Operationalizing vulnerability for social–ecological integration in conservation and natural resource management
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-10-01
    Lauric Thiault, Stefan Gelcich, Nadine Marshall, Paul Marshall, Frédérique Chlous, Joachim Claudet

    Sustaining human well‐being is intimately linked to maintaining productive and healthy ecosystems. Avoiding trade‐offs and fostering co‐benefits is however challenging. Here, we present an operational approach that integrates biodiversity conservation, human development, and natural resource management by (1) examining resource and resource user interactions through the lens of social–ecological vulnerability (i.e., encompassing exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity); (2) identifying “ecocentric” and “sociocentric” interventions that directly address the ecological or social sources of vulnerability; (3) prioritizing those expected to yield co‐benefits and minimize trade‐offs; and (4) selecting interventions that are best suited to the broader local context. Application of this approach to a coral reef fishery in French Polynesia recommended a portfolio of development‐, livelihood‐, and ecosystem‐based interventions, thus suggesting a shift from the current resource‐focused approach toward a more social–ecological perspective. Our vulnerability‐based approach provides practitioners with a valuable tool for broadening their set of management options, leading to escape from panacea traps.

  • Natural history films raise species awareness—A big data approach
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-09-30
    Darío Fernández‐Bellon, Adam Kane

    In urbanized societies that are increasingly disconnected from nature, communicating ecological and species awareness is crucial to revert the global environmental crisis. However, our understanding of the effectiveness of this process is limited. We present a framework for describing how such awareness may be transferred and test it on the popular BBC show Planet Earth 2 by analyzing Twitter and Wikipedia big data activity. Despite lacking explicit conservation themes, this show generated species awareness, stimulating audience engagement for information at magnitudes comparable to those achieved by other conservation‐focused campaigns. Results suggest that natural history films can provide vicarious connections to nature and can generate durable shifts in audience awareness beyond the broadcast of the show—key factors for changing environmental attitudes. More broadly, this study underscores how open‐source big data analysis can inform effective dissemination of ecological awareness and provides a framework for future research for investigating behavioral change.

  • Reaching consensus for conserving the global commons: The case of the Ross Sea, Antarctica
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-09-20
    Cassandra M. Brooks, Larry B. Crowder, Henrik Österblom, Aaron L. Strong

    In October 2016, the international community made history by adopting the world's largest marine protected area in the Ross Sea, Antarctica—by consensus. Achieving this feat required trade‐offs and compromise among the 24‐Member States (plus the European Union) comprising the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The process took 5 years of intense international negotiations and more than 10 years of scientific planning. Based on interviews with national delegations and other stakeholders, 5 years of participatory observation of Commission meetings (2012–2016), and analysis of hundreds of documents, we present unique insights that explain the conditions that stalled or facilitated the adoption of the Ross Sea MPA. These included economic interests, geopolitics, an erosion of trust, high‐level diplomacy, and the compromises that were ultimately necessary. We reflect on lessons learned as the world considers how to achieve future large‐scale conservation successes in the global commons.

  • Moderately common plants show highest relative losses
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-09-17
    Florian Jansen, Aletta Bonn, Diana E. Bowler, Helge Bruelheide, David Eichenberg

    Nature conservation efforts often focus on rare species. Common and moderately common species, however, receive much less attention. Our analysis of occupancy change of flora using a grid survey in 1980 and a habitat mapping survey in 2000 in Northeast Germany revealed significant losses for most of the 355 modeled plant species. Highest losses were recorded for moderately common species. Plant species occurring in 20–40% of grid cells declined on average by 50% in 20 years, although there were some methodological uncertainties. We found no correlation between occupancy decline and Red List category, but habitat loss seems to be a main driver. We suggest to rethink conservation indicators by including previously common species in monitoring. Our approach to estimating trends, using the association of species to habitat types and occupancy–area relationships, can be applied to other regions with heterogeneous resurvey data, but it cannot replace urgently needed monitoring schemes.

  • Conservation risk of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans to endemic lungless salamanders
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-09-17
    Edward Davis Carter, Debra L. Miller, Anna C. Peterson, William B. Sutton, Joseph Patrick W. Cusaac, Jennifer A. Spatz, Louise Rollins‐Smith, Laura Reinert, Markese Bohanon, Lori A. Williams, Andrea Upchurch, Matthew J. Gray

    The emerging fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), is a significant conservation threat to salamander biodiversity in Europe, although its potential to affect North American species is poorly understood. We tested the susceptibility of two genera (Eurycea and Pseudotriton) and three populations of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) to Bsal. All species became infected with Bsal and two (Pseudotriton ruber and Eurycea wilderae) developed chytridiomycosis. We also documented that susceptibility of E. wilderae differed among populations. Regardless of susceptibility, all species reduced feeding when exposed to Bsal at the highest zoospore dose, and P. ruber and one population of E. wilderae used cover objects less. Our results indicate that Bsal invasion in eastern North America could have significant negative impacts on endemic lungless salamander populations. Future conservation efforts should include surveillance for Bsal in the wild and in captivity, and championing legislation that requires and subsidizes pathogen‐free trade of amphibians.

  • Soy expansion in Brazil's Cerrado
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-08-27
    Lisa L. Rausch, Holly K. Gibbs, Ian Schelly, Amintas Brandão, Douglas C. Morton, Arnaldo Carneiro Filho, Bernardo Strassburg, Nathalie Walker, Praveen Noojipady, Paulo Barreto, Daniel Meyer

    The Cerrado biome is Brazil's breadbasket and a major provider of ecosystem services, though these dual roles are increasingly at odds, in part because there are few mechanisms to protect remaining vegetation from large‐scale agricultural expansion. We assessed Cerrado conversion to soy using over 580,000 property boundaries, covering 77% of the biome that is eligible for commercial land use, and using microwatersheds, to cover 100% of eligible areas. Soy expansion accounted for 22% of conversion during 2003–14. Only 15% of clearing exceeded restrictions on private properties under the Forest Code (FC). However, 51% of soy farms have violated the FC, five times the rate of other farms. As a leading cause of both Cerrado conversion and FC violations, the soy sector has environmental and economic incentives to shift production to already cleared land. We used suitability maps to identify potential pathways for soy expansion across both old and new cropland frontiers.

  • Open access principles and practices benefit conservation
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-08-26
    Jesse M. Alston

    Open access is often contentious in the scientific community, but its implications for conservation are under‐discussed or omitted entirely from scientific discourse. Access to literature is a key factor impeding implementation of conservation research, and many open access models and concepts that are little‐known by most conservation researchers may facilitate implementation. Conservation professionals working outside academic institutions should have more access to research so that conservation is better supported by current science. In this perspective, I present elements missing from current discussions of open access and suggest potential pathways for journal publishers and researchers to make conservation publications more open. There are many promising avenues for open access to play a larger role in conservation research, including archiving pre‐prints and post‐prints, more permissive “green” open access policies, and increasing access to older articles. Collectively supporting open access practices will benefit our profession and the species we are working to protect.

  • Genetics of century‐old fish scales reveal population patterns of decline
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-08-20
    Michael H.H. Price, Brendan M. Connors, John R. Candy, Brenda McIntosh, Terry D. Beacham, Jonathan W. Moore, John D. Reynolds

    Conservation scientists rarely have the information required to understand changes in abundance over more than a few decades, even for important species like Pacific salmon. Such lack of historical information can underestimate the magnitude of decline for depressed populations. We applied genetic tools to a unique collection of 100‐year‐old salmon scales to reveal declines of 56%–99% in wild sockeye populations across Canada's second largest salmon watershed, the Skeena River. These analyses reveal century‐long declines that are much greater than those based on modern era abundance data, which suggested that only 7 of 13 populations declined over the last five decades. Populations of larger‐bodied fish have declined the most in abundance, likely because of size‐selective commercial fisheries. Our findings illustrate how a deep historical perspective can expand our understanding of past abundances to a time before species incurred significant losses from fishing, and help inform conservation for diminished populations.

  • Designing a global mechanism for intergovernmental biodiversity financing
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-08-07
    Nils Droste, Joshua Farley, Irene Ring, Peter H. May, Taylor H. Ricketts

    The Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol display a broad international consensus for biodiversity conservation and equitable benefit sharing. Yet, the Aichi biodiversity targets show a lack of progress and thus indicate a need for additional action such as enhanced and better targeted financial resource mobilization. To date, no global financial burden‐sharing instrument has been proposed. Developing a global‐scale financial mechanism to support biodiversity conservation through intergovernmental transfers, we simulate three allocation designs: ecocentric, socioecological, and anthropocentric. We analyze the corresponding incentives needed to reach the Aichi target of terrestrial protected area coverage by 2020. Here we show that the socioecological design would provide the strongest median incentive for states which are farthest from achieving the target. Our proposal provides a novel concept for global biodiversity financing, which can serve as a starting point for more specific policy dialogues on intergovernmental burden and benefit‐sharing mechanisms to halt biodiversity loss.

  • Final countdown for biodiversity hotspots
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-08-05
    Jan C. Habel, Livia Rasche, Uwe A. Schneider, Jan O. Engler, Erwin Schmid, Dennis Rödder, Sebastian T. Meyer, Natalie Trapp, Ruth Sos del Diego, Hilde Eggermont, Luc Lens, Nigel E. Stork

    Most of Earth's biodiversity is found in 36 biodiversity hotspots, yet less than 10% natural intact vegetation remains. We calculated models projecting the future state of most of these hotspots for the year 2050, based on future climatic and agroeconomic pressure. Our models project an increasing demand for agricultural land resulting in the conversion of >50% of remaining natural intact vegetation in about one third of all hotspots, and in 2–6 hotspots resulting from climatic pressure. This confirms that, in the short term, habitat loss is of greater concern than climate change for hotspots and their biodiversity. Hotspots are most severely threatened in tropical Africa and parts of Asia, where demographic pressure and the demand for agricultural land is highest. The speed and magnitude of pristine habitat loss is, according to our models, much greater than previously shown when combining both scenarios on future climatic and agroeconomic pressure.

  • First camera survey in Burkina Faso and Niger reveals human pressures on mammal communities within the largest protected area complex in West Africa
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-07-29
    Nyeema C. Harris, Kirby L. Mills, Yahou Harissou, Emmanuel M. Hema, Isaac T. Gnoumou, Jenna VanZoeren, Yayé I. Abdel‐Nasser, Benoit Doamba

    The dearth of ecological data from protected areas at relevant scales challenges conservation practice in West Africa. We conducted the first camera survey for Burkina Faso and Niger to elucidate interactions between resource users and mammals in the largest protected area complex in West Africa (W‐Arly‐Pendjari, WAP). We differentiated direct (e.g., poaching) and indirect (e.g., domestic animals) human activities to determine their effects on species richness, composition, and behavior. Livestock was the dominant human pressure while gathering was the most prevalent direct human activity. Human pressure did not influence species richness or composition, but reduced mammal activity with greater consequences from indirect activities. We also found distinct differences among guilds in their behavioral responses to human pressures as wild ungulates exhibited the greatest sensitivities to livestock presence. Our findings, that aggregated socioecological data, transition the WAP complex from the singular mandate of nature conservation to a dynamic coupled human‐natural ecosystem.

  • Impacts of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems on conservation policy and practice
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-07-24
    Lucie M. Bland, Emily Nicholson, Rebecca M. Miller, Angela Andrade, Aurélien Carré, Andres Etter, José Rafael Ferrer‐Paris, Bernal Herrera, Tytti Kontula, Arild Lindgaard, Patricio Pliscoff, Andrew Skowno, Marcos Valderrábano, Irene Zager, David A. Keith

    In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature adopted the Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) criteria as the global standard for assessing risks to terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems. Five years on, it is timely to ask what impact this new initiative has had on ecosystem management and conservation. In this policy perspective, we use an impact evaluation framework to distinguish the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the RLE since its inception. To date, 2,821 ecosystems in 100 countries have been assessed following the RLE protocol. Systematic assessments are complete or underway in 21 countries and two continental regions (the Americas and Europe). Countries with established ecosystem policy infrastructure have already used the RLE to inform legislation, land‐use planning, protected area management, monitoring and reporting, and ecosystem management. Impacts are still emerging due to varying pace and commitment to implementation across different countries. In the future, RLE indices based on systematic assessments have high potential to inform global biodiversity reporting. Expanding the coverage of RLE assessments, building capacity and political will to undertake them, and establishing stronger policy instruments to manage red‐listed ecosystems will be key to maximizing conservation impacts over the coming decades.

  • Operationalizing the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems in public policy
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-07-19
    Alberto J. Alaniz, Jorge F. Pérez‐Quezada, Mauricio Galleguillos, Alexis E. Vásquez, David A. Keith

    Threats to ecosystems are closely linked to human development, whereas lack, insufficiency, and inefficiency of public policies are important drivers of environmental decline. Previous studies have discussed the contribution of IUCN's Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) in conservation issues; however, its applications in different policy fields and instruments for achieving biodiversity conservation have not been explored in detail. Here, we introduce a framework to operationalize the RLE in public policy, facilitating work of governments, practitioners, and decision makers. Our analysis identified 20 policy instruments that could reduce risks to ecosystems highlighted by different Red List criteria. We discuss how RLE could inform the policy process by analyzing different instruments that could be designed, implemented, and modified to achieve risk reduction. We also present practical examples from around the world showing how ecosystem conservation could be improved by operationalizing the RLE in policy instruments. The RLE criteria can inform the policy process by helping to shape objectives and identifying policy instruments that directly address the causes and severity of risks illuminated in Red List assessments. We conclude that RLE could be expanded into a broader holistic spectrum of policy instruments, which could be a key to achieving the ecosystem conservation.

  • Costs are not necessarily correlated with threats in conservation landscapes
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-07-08
    Edmond Sacre, Robert L. Pressey, Michael Bode

    The priority of an area for conservation is determined by three primary factors: its biodiversity value, the level of threat it is facing, and its cost. Although much attention has been paid to the spatial relationship between biodiversity value and threats, and between biodiversity value and costs, little is known about how costs and threats are spatially correlated. The orthodox assumption in conservation science is that costs and threats are positively correlated. Here, we adapt a classic economic theory of land use to explain how conservation scientists came to expect a positive correlation between costs and threats. We then use high‐resolution, ground‐truthed datasets of land sales and habitat clearance to show that this assumption is false in the state of Queensland, Australia. Our results provide an empirical counterargument to a widespread assumption in conservation science, and illustrate why spatial prioritization needs to include independent measures of costs and threats.

  • Sharper eyes see shyer lizards: Collaboration with indigenous peoples can alter the outcomes of conservation research
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-03-12
    Georgia Ward‐Fear, Balanggarra Rangers, David Pearson, Melissa Bruton, Rick Shine

    Our ecological studies on large varanid lizards in a remote region of tropical Australia reveal a direct benefit to collaboration with local indigenous people. Although they worked together, in pairs, western scientists and indigenous rangers found lizards with different behavioral phenotypes (“personalities”). The resultant broader sampling of the lizard population enabled us to detect positive effects of a conservation management intervention. Those effects would not have been evident from the subset of animals collected by western scientists, and hence, involvement by researchers from both cultures critically affected our conclusions and paved the way for large‐scale deployment of a novel conservation initiative in Northern Australia.

  • Local support for conservation is associated with perceptions of good governance, social impacts, and ecological effectiveness
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-03-12
    Nathan J. Bennett, Antonio Di Franco, Antonio Calò, Elizabeth Nethery, Federico Niccolini, Marco Milazzo, Paolo Guidetti

    Local support is important for the longevity of conservation initiatives. The literature suggests that perceptions of ecological effectiveness, social impacts, and good governance will influence levels of local support for conservation. This paper examines these relationships using data from a survey of small‐scale fishermen in 11 marine protected areas from six countries in the Mediterranean Sea. The survey queried small‐scale fishermen regarding perceptions and support for conservation. We constructed composite scores for three categories of perceptions—ecological effectiveness, social impacts, and good governance—and tested the relationship with levels of support using ordinal regression models. While all three factors were positively correlated with support for conservation, perceptions of good governance and social impacts were stronger predictors of increasing support. These findings suggest that employing good governance processes and managing social impacts may be more important than ecological effectiveness for maintaining local support for conservation.

  • Marine protected areas enhance coral reef functioning by promoting fish biodiversity
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-03-01
    Zachary M. Topor, Douglas B. Rasher, J. Emmett Duffy, Simon J. Brandl

    Preserving biodiversity and ecosystem function in the Anthropocene is one of humanity's greatest challenges. Ecosystem‐based management and area closures are considered an effective way to maintain ecological processes, especially in marine systems. Although there is strong evidence that such measures positively affect community structure, their impact on the rate of key ecological processes remains unclear. Here, we provide evidence that marine protected areas enhance herbivory rates on coral reefs via direct and indirect pathways. Using meta‐analysis and a path‐analytical framework, we demonstrate that, on average, protected areas increase the species richness of herbivorous fishes, which, in turn, enhances browsing rates on macroalgae. However, in all three regions studied (the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Ocean), a small subset of the herbivore assemblage accounted for the majority of browsing. Our results therefore indicate that ecosystem functioning on coral reefs may respond positively to both area closures and the protection of key species.

  • A risk‐based forecast of extreme mortality events in small cetaceans: Using stranding data to inform conservation practice
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-02-27
    Colin Bouchard, Cameron Bracken, Willy Dabin, Olivier Van Canneyt, Vincent Ridoux, Jérôme Spitz, Matthieu Authier

    Effective conservation requires monitoring and pro‐active risk assessments. We studied the effects of at‐sea mortality events (ASMEs) in marine mammals over two decades (1990–2012) and built a risk‐based indicator for the European Union's Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Strandings of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), short‐beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), and striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) along French coastlines were analyzed using Extreme Value Theory (EVT). EVT operationalizes what is an extreme ASME, and allows the probabilistic forecasting of the expected maximum number of dead animals assuming constant pressures. For the period 2013–2018, we forecast the strandings of 80 harbor porpoises, 860 common dolphins, and 57 striped dolphins in extreme ASMEs. Comparison of these forecasts with observed strandings informs whether pressures are increasing, decreasing, or stable. Applying probabilistic methods to stranding data facilitates the building of risk‐based indicators, required under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, to monitor the effect of pressures on marine mammals.

  • Conservation or politics? Australia's target to kill 2 million cats
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-02-19
    Tim S. Doherty, Don A. Driscoll, Dale G. Nimmo, Euan G. Ritchie, Ricky‐John Spencer

    The Australian Government's 5‐year Threatened Species Strategy contains four priority action areas and associated targets. Here, we argue that the well‐publicized target to cull 2 million feral cats has a weak scientific basis because: (1) reliable estimates of Australia's cat population size did not exist when the target was set; (2) it is extremely difficult to measure progress (numbers of cats killed) in an accurate, reliable way; and, most importantly, (3) the cull target is not explicitly linked to direct conservation outcomes (e.g., measured increases in threatened species populations). These limitations mean that the cull target fails to meet what would be considered best practice for pest management. The focus on killing cats runs the risk of distracting attention away from other threats to biodiversity, most prominent of which is widespread, ongoing habitat loss, which has been largely overlooked in the Threatened Species Strategy. The culling target is a highly visible symbol of a broader campaign around feral cat research and management in Australia, rather than a direct indicator of conservation action and success. We are concerned that progress toward the 2 million target could be misinterpreted as progress toward conserving threatened species, when the link between the two is not clear.

  • Should potential for climate change refugia be mainstreamed into the criteria for describing EBSAs?
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-02-11
    David Edward Johnson, Ellen Lorraine Kenchington

    The world's oceans are subject to the influence of climate change at all latitudes and depths. There is a growing body of literature on the responses of species to climate change, which has a strong deterministic component indicating that responses can be predicted. At the same time, advances in oceanographic data acquisition and modeling have facilitated the identification of potential climate change refugia. The Convention on Biological Diversity's “Voluntary Specific Workplan on Biodiversity in Cold‐Water Areas within the Jurisdictional Scope of the Convention” explicitly calls for the identification and protection of refugia in cold‐water areas. We propose adding “Climate Change Refugium” as an integral consideration for identification of Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs). We provide a description of this as a potential eighth criterion. We then briefly discuss the pros and cons of introducing this eighth criterion, or an alternative strategy to develop guidelines that explicitly link refugia to the rationale of existing EBSA criteria, in the hope that this opinion piece will launch further discussion on this notion.

  • Leveraging conservation action with open‐source hardware
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-06-27
    Andrew P. Hill, Alasdair Davies, Peter Prince, Jake L. Snaddon, C. Patrick Doncaster, Alex Rogers

    Data collection by conservation biologists is undergoing radical change, with researchers collaborating across disciplines to create bespoke, low‐cost monitoring equipment from open‐source hardware (OSH). Compared to commercial hardware, OSH dramatically reduces participation costs. Four barriers currently hold back its wide adoption: (1) user inexperience inhibits initial uptake; (2) complex and costly manufacturing/distribution procedures impede global dissemination; (3) lack of creator support results in lapsed projects; and (4) lack of user support degrades continued utility in the field. Here, we propose a framework to address these barriers, illustrating how OSH offers a route to rapid expansion of community‐driven conservation action.

  • The prevalence, characteristics and effectiveness of Aichi Target 11′s “other effective area‐based conservation measures” (OECMs) in Key Biodiversity Areas
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-06-20
    Paul F. Donald, Graeme M. Buchanan, Andrew Balmford, Heather Bingham, Andrew R. Couturier, Gregorio E. de la Rosa, Paul Gacheru, Sebastian K. Herzog, Girish Jathar, Naomi Kingston, Daniel Marnewick, Golo Maurer, Leeann Reaney, Tatyana Shmygaleva, Sergey Sklyarenko, Candice M.D. Stevens, Stuart H.M. Butchart

    Aichi Target 11 of the CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity commits countries to the effective conservation of areas of importance for biodiversity, through protected areas and “other effective area‐based conservation measures” (OECMs). However, the prevalence and characteristics of OECMs are poorly known, particularly in sites of importance for biodiversity. We assess the prevalence of potential OECMs in 740 terrestrial Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) outside known or mapped protected areas across ten countries. A majority of unprotected KBAs (76.5%) were at least partly covered by one or more potential OECMs. The conservation of ecosystem services or biodiversity was a stated management aim in 73% of these OECMs. Local or central government bodies managed the highest number of potential OECMs, followed by local and indigenous communities and private landowners. There was no difference between unprotected KBAs with or without OECMs in forest loss or in a number of state‐pressure‐response metrics.

  • Conservation performance of tropical protected areas: How important is management?
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-06-19
    Judith Schleicher, Carlos A. Peres, Nigel Leader‐Williams

    Increasing the coverage of effectively managed protected areas (PAs) is a key focus of the 2020 Aichi biodiversity targets. PA management has received considerable attention, often based on the widely held, but rarely examined, assumption that positive conservation outcomes will result from increased PA management inputs. To shed light on this assumption, we integrated data on PA management factors with 2006–2011 avoided forest degradation and deforestation across the Peruvian Amazon, using a counterfactual approach, combined with interviews and ranking exercises. We show that while increasing PA management input to Amazonian PAs tended to reduce likelihoods of forest degradation and deforestation, the associations were weak. Key challenges facing PAs ranked by PA managers included wider law enforcement, corruption and land title issues, rather than local management factors. We therefore encourage the post‐2020 conservation targets to adopt holistic approaches beyond PA management, incorporating political, institutional and governance contexts across scales.

  • Strengthening China's national biodiversity strategy to attain an ecological civilization
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-06-10
    Ruidong Wu; Hugh P. Possingham; Guangzhi Yu; Tong Jin; Junjun Wang; Feiling Yang; Shiliang Liu; Jianzhong Ma; Xi Liu; Haiwei Zhao

    Biodiversity conservation is essential for realizing China's new vision of an ecological civilization. China has been implementing numerous massive ecological sustainability and protected area (ES&PA) programs across the entire country. These programs have greatly restored degraded ecological environments, improved provisions of critical ecosystem services and increased rural livelihoods. However, despite the general improvements in environmental quality, the trend of rapid biodiversity loss has not been significantly reduced. We found that most of the current ES&PA programs lack explicit biodiversity goals, and thus have limited contributions to the conservation of biodiversity. Given the limited resources available for and huge investments associated with these programs, achieving greater biodiversity gains under them is the most cost‐effective way to conserve biodiversity. We recommend six strategies for strengthening the country's biodiversity conservation, that is, strengthening biodiversity in ES&PA programs, PAs as the core, integrating biodiversity and ecosystem services, delivering effective monitoring, broad inclusiveness of stakeholders and mainstreaming biodiversity. These strategies also highlight China's priorities for achieving significant progresses toward the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, and should be important options for developing China's post‐2020 biodiversity framework.

  • Hybridization as a conservation management tool
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-05-17
    Wing Yan Chan; Ary A. Hoffmann; Madeleine J. H. van Oppen

    The recent extensive loss of biodiversity raises the question of whether organisms will adapt in time to survive the current era of rapid environmental change, and whether today's conservation practices and policies are appropriate. We review the benefits and risks of inter‐ and intraspecific hybridization as a conservation management tool aimed at enhancing adaptive potential and survival, with particular reference to coral reefs. We conclude that hybridization is underutilized and that many of its perceived risks are possibly overstated; the few applications of hybridization in conservation to date have already shown positive outcomes. Moreover, perceptions of potential risk change significantly when the focus of conservation is on preserving the adaptive potential of a species/population, instead of preserving the species in its original state. Further, we suggest that the uncertain legal status of hybrids as entities of protection can be costly to society and ecosystems, and that a legislative revision of hybrids and hybridization is overdue. We present a decision tree to help assess when and where hybridization can be a suitable conservation tool, and whether inter‐ or intraspecific hybridization is the preferred option.

  • Mapping status and conservation of global at‐risk marine biodiversity
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-05-06
    Casey C. O'Hara; Juan Carlos Villaseñor‐Derbez; Gina M. Ralph; Benjamin S. Halpern

    To conserve marine biodiversity, we must first understand the spatial distribution and status of at‐risk biodiversity. We combined range maps and conservation status for 5,291 marine species to map the global distribution of extinction risk of marine biodiversity. We find that for 83% of the ocean, >25% of assessed species are considered threatened, and 15% of the ocean shows >50% of assessed species threatened when weighting for range‐limited species. By comparing mean extinction risk of marine biodiversity to no‐take marine reserve placement, we identify regions where reserves preferentially afford proactive protection (i.e., preserving low‐risk areas) or reactive protection (i.e., mitigating high‐risk areas), indicating opportunities and needs for effective future protection at national and regional scales. In addition, elevated risk to high seas biodiversity highlights the need for credible protection and minimization of threatening activities in international waters.

  • Integrating spatially realistic infrastructure impacts into conservation planning to inform strategic environmental assessment
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-04-12
    Ayesha I.T. Tulloch; Ascelin Gordon; Claire A. Runge; Jonathan R. Rhodes

    Infrastructures such as roads and pipelines have environmental impacts that diffuse far beyond the local development footprint, including fragmenting habitat or changing hydrology. Broad‐scale diffuse impacts are challenging to incorporate into conservation planning and strategic environmental assessment due to difficulties in determining how impacts spread across landscapes. We built curves representing expert‐elicited magnitudes and spatial extents of direct and diffuse impacts of infrastructure on biodiversity groups, to incorporate these impacts into a spatial conservation prioritization. We demonstrate how different prioritization outputs inform different steps of the impact assessment mitigation hierarchy. In southern Australia we find the diffuse‐impact footprint to be four times higher than direct (i.e., local) infrastructure impacts, with >75,000 km2 of spatial priority areas for mitigation and >37,000 km2 of spatial priority areas for offsets potentially missed if diffuse impacts are ignored. Understanding both direct and diffuse infrastructure impacts will avoid inefficient spatial allocation of environmental mitigation, restoration, and offsetting efforts.

  • Restoration priorities to achieve the global protected area target
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-04-04
    Bonnie Mappin; Alienor L.M. Chauvenet; Vanessa M. Adams; Moreno Di Marco; Hawthorne L. Beyer; Oscar Venter; Benjamin S. Halpern; Hugh P. Possingham; James E.M. Watson

    With much of Earth's surface already heavily impacted by humans, there is a need to understand where restoration is required to achieve global conservation goals. Here, we show that at least 1.9 million km2 of land, spanning 190 (27%) terrestrial ecoregions and 114 countries, needs restoration to achieve the current 17% global protected area target (Aichi Target 11). Restoration targeted on lightly modified land could recover up to two‐thirds of the shortfall, which would have an opportunity cost impact on agriculture of at least $205 million per annum (average of $159/km2). However, 64 (9%) ecoregions, located predominately in Southeast Asia, will require the challenging task of restoring areas that are already heavily modified. These results highlight the need for global conservation strategies to recognize the current level of anthropogenic degradation across many ecoregions and balance bigger protected area targets with more specific restoration goals.

  • Are coastal habitats important nurseries? A meta‐analysis
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-03-25
    Jonathan S. Lefcheck; Brent B. Hughes; Andrew J. Johnson; Bruce W. Pfirrmann; Douglas B. Rasher; Ashley R. Smyth; Bethany L. Williams; Michael W. Beck; Robert J. Orth

    Nearshore‐structured habitats—including underwater grasses, mangroves, coral, and other biogenic reefs, marshes, and complex abiotic substrates—have long been postulated to function as important nurseries for juvenile fishes and invertebrates. Here, we review the evolution of the “nursery habitat hypothesis” and use >11,000 comparisons from 160 peer‐reviewed studies to test whether and which structured habitats increase juvenile density, growth, and survival. In general, almost all structured habitats significantly enhanced juvenile density—and in some cases growth and survival—relative to unstructured habitats. Underwater grasses and mangroves also promoted juvenile density and growth beyond what was observed in other structured habitats. These conclusions were robust to variation among studies, although there were significant differences with latitude and among some phyla. Our results confirm the basic nursery function of certain structured habitats, which lends further support to their conservation, restoration, and management at a time when our coastal environments are becoming increasingly impacted. They also reveal a dearth of evidence from many other systems (e.g., kelp forests) and for responses other than density. Although recent studies have advocated for increasingly complex approaches to evaluating nurseries, we recommend a renewed emphasis on more straightforward assessments of juvenile growth, survival, reproduction, and recruitment.

  • Quantifying habitat losses and gains made by U.S. Species Conservation Banks to improve compensation policies and avoid perverse outcomes
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2019-01-28
    Laura J. Sonter; Megan Barnes; Jeffrey W. Matthews; Martine Maron

    Compensation policies seek to counterbalance biodiversity losses caused by development; however, their effectiveness is rarely tested. We examined U.S. Species Conservation Banks (SCBs) in California, a compensation program initiated 30 years ago. We quantified the effect of 59 SCBs (15,350 ha) on habitat extent using statistical matching methods. SCBs averted a small, yet significant, amount of habitat loss (62 ha) between 2001 and 2011. However, unexpectedly, SCBs also averted significant habitat gains (1,424 ha). It is not possible to determine if losses averted by SCBs equaled losses caused by development for which credits were sold (because records of the latter do not exist), but estimated averted gains were 35 times greater than averted losses. To improve practice, SCBs must be designed to achieve outcomes that are additional and avoid crowding out other programs incentivizing statewide conservation goals.

  • Rise and fall of forest loss and industrial plantations in Borneo (2000–2017)
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2018-12-18
    David L.A. Gaveau; Bruno Locatelli; Mohammad A. Salim; Husna Yaen; Pablo Pacheco; Douglas Sheil

    The links between plantation expansion and deforestation in Borneo are debated. We used satellite imagery to map annual loss of old‐growth forests, expansion of industrial plantations (oil palm and pulpwood), and their overlap in Borneo from 2001 to 2017. In 17 years, forest area declined by 14% (6.04 Mha), including 3.06 Mha of forest ultimately converted into industrial plantations. Plantations expanded by 170% (6.20 Mha: 88% oil palm; 12% pulpwood). Most forests converted to plantations were cleared and planted in the same year (92%; 2.83 Mha). Annual forest loss generally increased before peaking in 2016 (0.61 Mha) and declining sharply in 2017 (0.25 Mha). After peaks in 2009 and 2012, plantation expansion and associated forest conversion have been declining in Indonesia and Malaysia. Annual plantation expansion is positively correlated with annual forest loss in both countries. The correlation vanishes when we consider plantation expansion versus forests that are cleared but not converted to plantations. The price of crude palm oil is positively correlated with plantation expansion in the following year in Indonesian (not Malaysian) Borneo. Low palm oil prices, wet conditions, and improved fire prevention all likely contributed to reduced 2017 deforestation. Oversight of company conduct requires transparent concession ownership.

  • Managing uncertainty in movement knowledge for environmental decisions
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2018-12-03
    Annabel L. Smith; Heini Kujala; José J. Lahoz‐Monfort; Lydia K. Guja; Emma L. Burns; Ran Nathan; Erika Alacs; Philip S. Barton; Sana Bau; Don A. Driscoll; Pia E. Lentini; Alessio Mortelliti; Ross Rowe; Yvonne M. Buckley

    Species’ movements affect their response to environmental change but movement knowledge is often highly uncertain. We now have well‐established methods to integrate movement knowledge into conservation practice but still lack a framework to deal with uncertainty in movement knowledge for environmental decisions. We provide a framework that distinguishes two dimensions of species’ movement that are heavily influenced by uncertainty: knowledge about movement and relevance of movement to environmental decisions. Management decisions can be informed by their position in this knowledge‐relevance space. We then outline a framework to support decisions around (1) increasing understanding of the relevance of movement knowledge, (2) increasing robustness of decisions to uncertainties and (3) improving knowledge on species’ movement. Our decision‐support framework provides guidance for managing movement‐related uncertainty in systematic conservation planning, agri‐environment schemes, habitat restoration and international biodiversity policy. It caters to different resource levels (time and funding) so that species’ movement knowledge can be more effectively integrated into environmental decisions.

  • Increase anti‐poaching law‐enforcement or reduce demand for wildlife products? A framework to guide strategic conservation investments
    Conserv. Lett. (IF 7.397) Pub Date : 2018-12-02
    Matthew H. Holden; Duan Biggs; Henry Brink; Payal Bal; Jonathan Rhodes; Eve McDonald‐Madden

    Donors, NGOs, and governments increasingly invest in campaigns to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products in an attempt to prevent the decline of overexploited and poached species. We provide a novel framework to aid these investment decisions based on a demand reduction campaign's return on investment compared to antipoaching law enforcement. A resulting decision rule shows that the relative effectiveness of demand reduction compared to increased enforcement depends entirely on social and economic uncertainties rather than ecological ones. Illustrative case studies on bushmeat and ivory reveal that campaigning to reduce demand may be more cost‐effective than antipoaching enforcement if demand reduction campaigns drive modest price reductions. The outputs from this framework can link targeted monitoring of wildlife product prices to management decisions that protect species threatened by harvest and trade.

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