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Forest restoration is receiving increased attention from many public and private actors, but few large-scale experiences exist. We explored 10 cases where forest cover had either increased or stabilized or where there was a significant drive towards forest expansion to understand which factors can facilitate the scaling up of forest restoration. We developed a data collection checklist to search the literature and we interviewed key informants. Our analysis identified 15 motivating factors for forest restoration, including the desire to mitigate land degradation, droughts or floods or to contribute to biodiversity conservation. We also identified some factors that facilitate the implementation of forest restoration, such as a supportive policy framework that includes forest restoration plans, financial incentives, truly collaborative arrangements, tenure rights to forests, trees and specific goods and services from these, the roles of specialized agencies, external stakeholders, local communities and local authorities. For restoration to be sustained, it is necessary to integrate it into national institutions, ensure sectoral integration across landscapes, ensure diversified and long-term financing and embed it in local institutions.
In nature conservation, the generation of public interest, attention or emotions is an important instrument for nature, biotope and species protection; in this, charismatic flagship species play an important role. In the present study, flagship-making affiliation to a taxonomic unit as well as morphological, ecological and conservation traits were identified by analysing vertebrate species from each of the five extant vertebrate classes (Mammalia, Aves, Reptilia, Amphibia and fishes). Google Trends data on the 20 most Googled species of each of the five classes were used, a representation index was derived and the body mass, diet and protection status of these species were analysed. A clear concentration of interest in mammalian species was evident with the help of the introduced representation index. Furthermore, species with a higher body mass were clearly overrepresented in the data. Overall, important patterns in the studied traits were determined: belonging to Mammalia, a large body mass and a carnivorous diet are frequently represented among these species. For conservation purposes, such popular species can be specifically selected as flagship species or ambassadors to help protect entire biomes, which will therefore benefit less charismatic species as well. Possible ways to use traits that are perceived to be flagship-making in order to further the global conservation endeavour are briefly discussed.
Although protected areas (PAs) play an important role in ecosystem conservation and climate change adaptation, no systematic information is available on PA protection of high-elevation freshwater ecosystems (e.g., lakes and watersheds with glaciers), their biodiversity and their ecosystem services in the tropical Andes. We therefore combined a literature review and map analysis of PAs of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and national systems of PAs and freshwater ecosystems. We found that seven national parks were created for water resources protection but were not designed for freshwater conservation (i.e., larger watersheds). High-value biodiversity sites have not been protected, and new local PAs were created due to water resource needs. We quantified 31 Ramsar sites and observed that PAs cover 12% of lakes, 31% of glacial lakes and 12% of the total stream length in the tropical Andes. Additionally, 120 watersheds (average area 631 km2) with glaciers and 40% of the total glacier surface area were covered by PAs. Future research into the role of PAs in ecosystem services provision and more detailed freshwater inventories within and around PAs, especially for those dependent on glacier runoff, will fill key knowledge gaps for freshwater conservation and climate change adaptation in the tropical Andes.
The semiarid Caatinga is the largest Seasonally Dry Tropical Forest and Woodland (SDTFW) in the Neotropics. Yet the vast majority of the Caatinga is unprotected, with severe chronic anthropogenic use, exotic species and global warming among its most immediate threats. Here, we contrast the current Caatinga protected areas (PAs) scenery with that of other SDTFWs in the Neotropics. We also analyse the growth process of the PAs in the Caatinga over time across Brazilian PA categories and jurisdictions. The percentage of Caatinga that is protected is average among the SDTFWs. Caatinga has more state than federal PAs; however, the size of the PAs is greater under a federal jurisdiction. Nonetheless, in both jurisdictions, Environmental Protected Areas, one of the least restrictive categories, are more representative in terms of total area, corresponding to nearly 80% of the Caatinga PA system. Our results are relevant for international conservation goals because they depict the current PA scenery and clarify the challenges for achieving the actual preservation of the unique Caatinga biome.
Protecting tropical forests from deforestation is important for mitigating both biodiversity loss and anthropogenic climate change. In Amazonia, a common approach to protected area (PA) impact studies has been to investigate differences among broad PA categories, such as strictly protected, sustainable use and indigenous areas, yet these may be insufficient for the management of PAs at local scales. We used a matching method to compare impacts and carbon emissions avoided during 2011–2016 of individual PAs in the state of Acre (Brazil). Although most PAs had a positive impact and effectively prevented forest loss, we observed substantial variation among them in terms of impacts, pressures and emissions during our study period. The impacts varied from 3.6% avoided to 15.6% induced forest loss compared to expected levels of deforestation estimated for each PA using the matching method. All but a few PAs helped avoid substantial amounts of emissions. Our results emphasize the need for more PA impact studies that compare multiple PAs at the individual level in Amazonia and beyond.
Elusive species are challenging to study and conserve because basic elements of their biology may be unknown. Specimens of opportunity provide a means of collecting information on these species and may be critical for elusive species’ conservation. We used snowball sampling to identify Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens) specimens in museums and research institutions. Snowball sampling proved highly effective: we located 180 specimens from 24 institutions in North America and Europe, 62 of which were not listed in online collections databases, resulting in the largest collated dataset for this species. Analysis of these data resulted in several new findings for this species, including significant morphological variation between specimens from different collection regions, suggesting the presence of previously unidentified population structuring in this species. These data provide critical information regarding this species and demonstrate the effectiveness of specimens of opportunity for elusive species research and conservation. We recommend other researchers consider snowball sampling when designing research projects utilizing specimens of opportunity. Our results demonstrate the usefulness of snowball sampling and specimens of opportunity to elusive species research and conservation, and the methods of our study can be readily adapted for other species.
The practice and science of conservation have become increasingly interdisciplinary, and it is widely acknowledged that conservation training in higher education institutions should embrace interdisciplinarity in order to prepare students to address real-world conservation problems. However, there is little information on the extent to which conservation education at the undergraduate level meets this objective. I carried out a systematic search of undergraduate conservation degree programmes in the UK and conducted a simple text analysis of module descriptions to quantify the extent to which they provide social science training. I found 47 programmes, of which 29 provided module descriptions. Modules containing social science content ranged from 3.8% to 52.2% of modules across programmes, but only 55.2% of programmes offered a social-focused conservation module, and only one programme offered a module in social science research methods. On average, almost half of the modules offered (46.2%) comprised biology and ecology modules with no conservation focus, and 17.9% comprised skills-based modules (research and vocational skills). Conservation-focused modules comprised a mean of only 22.5% of modules. These results show that undergraduate conservation teaching in the UK is still largely biocentric and is failing to deliver the interdisciplinary education that is widely called for.
The global loss of biodiversity is one of the most important challenges facing humanity, and a multi-faceted strategy is needed to address the size and complexity of this problem. This paper draws on scholarship from the philosophy of science and environmental ethics to help address one aspect of this challenge: namely, the question of how to frame biodiversity loss in a compelling manner. The paper shows that the concept of biodiversity, like many scientific concepts, is value-laden in the sense that it tends to support some ethical or social values over others. Specifically, in comparison with other potential concepts, the biodiversity concept is tied more closely to the notion that nature has intrinsic value than to the idea that nature is valuable instrumentally or relationally. Thus, alternative concepts could prove helpful for communicating about biodiversity loss with those who emphasize different value systems. The paper briefly discusses five concepts that illustrate the potential for using different concepts in different contexts. Going forward, conservationists would do well to recognize the values embedded in their language choices and work with social scientists to develop a suite of concepts that can motivate the broadest swath of people to promote conservation.
Organizations can expand their impact through strategic partnerships. We used social network analysis to compare two network theories in order to determine whether zoos’ conservation partnerships form networks that reflect collaborative social movements or business-style competition. Data from 234 zoos revealed a conservation network involving 1679 organizations with 3018 partnerships. The network had 40 subgroups: 1 large network, 6 small networks and 33 disconnected zoos. Social network analysis metrics revealed an incohesive and low-density network. Zoos are more likely to behave competitively like businesses with limited partnerships to protect resources, rather than behaving as collaborative social movement organizations partnering to further the cause of conservation across their communities. Content analyses of organizational activities revealed that 62% of zoos’ partners display different skills and roles in conservation projects, while 38% participated in the same activities as zoos. These novel findings about zoos behaving as competitive institutions inform opportunities for better collaboration in order to expand organizations’ conservation impact.
We tested for plague (Yersinia pestis) in a puma population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) over 9 years, overlapping a case when a boy in the area became infected with plague. Antibodies to Y. pestis were detected in 8 of 17 (47%) pumas tested by complement-enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, and the organism itself was detected in 4 of 11 (36%) pumas tested after necropsy. Neither puma sex nor age was significantly associated with Y. pestis exposure or mortality, although our sample size was small. The overall prevalence of exposure we recorded was similar to that found along the western slope of Colorado, which is adjacent to the Four Corners region, a known plague hotspot in the USA. This suggests that: (1) Y. pestis may be present at higher levels in the GYE than previously assumed; (2) plague is a significant source of mortality for local pumas (6.6% of sub-adult and adult mortality); and (3) pumas may be a useful sentinel for potential risk of plague exposure to humans throughout the West. We would also emphasize that hunters and others handling pumas in this region should be made aware of the possibility of exposure.
Wildlife is an essential component of all ecosystems. Most places in the globe do not have local, timely information on which species are present or how their populations are changing. With the arrival of new technologies, camera traps have become a popular way to collect wildlife data. However, data collection has increased at a much faster rate than the development of tools to manage, process and analyse these data. Without these tools, wildlife managers and other stakeholders have little information to effectively manage, understand and monitor wildlife populations. We identify four barriers that are hindering the widespread use of camera trap data for conservation. We propose specific solutions to remove these barriers integrated in a modern technology platform called Wildlife Insights. We present an architecture for this platform and describe its main components. We recognize and discuss the potential risks of publishing shared biodiversity data and a framework to mitigate those risks. Finally, we discuss a strategy to ensure platforms like Wildlife Insights are sustainable and have an enduring impact on the conservation of wildlife.
We combined tools of phylogeography, population genetics and biogeographical interpretation to analyse a group of phylogenetically independent lineages (animals and plants) that coexist within the same geographical region, yet under markedly different environments, in order to identify generalized barriers for gene flow. We tested the hypothesis that major geographic features have produced a concordant genetic structure in phylogenetically independent lineages. A rigorous bibliographic search was performed, selecting available molecular information from six taxa occupying distinct southern biomes of South America: Yungas, Prepuna, Puna and northern Monte. We estimated within-population genetic diversity, the genetic structure and haplotype phylogenies to assemble distribution maps of genetic barriers for each species. We found a strong association between genetic variation and latitudinal distribution of populations. We detected a major barrier for six taxa at 27°S latitude and a second one for a group of three species at 25–26°S. Two alternative non-exclusive hypotheses – geology and/or climate – explain concordant genetic barriers in divergent lineages. We suggest that the term ‘biogeographically significant units’ portrays a group of populations of phylogenetically unrelated taxa that inhabit the same geographic region that have been similarly impacted by major physical events, which can be used to identify priority areas in landscape conservation.
Destruction of tropical rainforests reduces many unprotected habitats to small fragments of remnant forests within agricultural matrices. To date, these remnant forest fragments have been largely disregarded as wildlife habitat, and little is known about mammalian use of these areas in Sumatra. Here, we conducted camera trap surveys (2285 trap-nights) within Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park and five surrounding remnant forest fragments during 2010–2013 and used species composition metrics to compare use. We found 28 mammal species in the protected forest and 21 in the fragments. The fragments harboured a subset of species found in the protected forest and several species not observed in the protected forest. Critically endangered species such as Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) were found in the forest fragments, along with species of conservation concern such as marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) and Asiatic golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii). The biodiversity found within the fragments suggests that these small patches of remnant forest may have conservation value to certain mammal species and indicates the importance of further research into the role these habitats may play in landscape-level, multispecies conservation planning.
Although drones are becoming very common in the skies, most concerns about their use are not focused on their possible impact on wildlife. We used the information available from the scientific literature on the effects of drones on wildlife and complement it with Internet (YouTube) information to evaluate whether recreational activities using drones produce behavioural responses from wildlife. Scientific papers specifically evaluating the effects of drones on wildlife are scarce but increasing. Nonetheless, we found abundant videos in which many species from different taxonomic groups and multiple countries presented behavioural responses to drone overflights. Furthermore, 26% of the species that were disturbed are included in one of the International Union for Conservation of Nature categories of threat. We found that wildlife that use aerial and terrestrial habitats are more likely to show a behavioural response than those occupying aquatic habitats. The Internet is becoming a source of evidence of disturbances to wildlife that should be considered, particularly for recreational activities. We advocate for the use of technology, but argue that funding and effort should be devoted to evaluating drone impacts on wildlife. We call for educational programmes for laypeople who use drones for recreation and for more research and regulations on their use in sensitive wildlife areas.
Protected areas are frequently used loci for ecological and conservation research, with several national/international designations identifying scientific research as a key objective. For example, Ecological Stations (ESs) in Brazil are strictly protected areas with the explicit goals of protecting nature and hosting scientific research. Nevertheless, simply mandating scientific research does not necessarily translate into action. Here, we quantitatively assess the scientific productivity of ESs and identify the main socio-ecological factors associated with different levels of scientific research. Specifically, we adopt a multi-model inference approach with a hurdle regression model to independently evaluate the factors associated with the presence/absence of research and the volume of studies in ESs. Surprisingly, given their stated remit, a large proportion of ESs had little or no scientific productivity. Results also indicate that older ESs were more likely to be associated with published research and that the volume of publications was associated with the number of years since the first article was published. The presence of a management plan and a management council were also significant positive drivers of research. Our results strongly suggest that, despite their clear mandate, ESs are not effectively fulfilling their role as a policy instrument for generating valuable scientific data.
Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) is the most important Brazilian agricultural research institute and has recently published a study on the preservation status of forest fragments in more than 5 million rural properties. The authors concluded that no institution, public authority or professional category helps more in preserving Brazilian biomes than farmers (Miranda et al. 2017). The aim of the current paper is to demonstrate that these conclusions are hasty and that the real Brazilian flora preservation status in rural properties remains unknown.
Despite the plethora of discourse about how sustainable development should be pursued, the production of agricultural commodities is held responsible for driving c. 80% of global deforestation. Partially as a response, the private sector has made commitments to eliminate deforestation, but it is not yet clear what factors these commitments should take into account to effectively halt deforestation while also contributing to broader sustainable development. In the context of private sector commitments to zero-deforestation, this study characterizes the perceptions of different types of stakeholders along the cocoa and chocolate supply chain in order to determine the main challenges and solutions to encourage sustainable production. The main purpose is to understand the key factors that could facilitate a transition to a more sustainable supply while harmonizing the multiple actors’ interests. A qualitative thematic analysis of perceptions was conducted based on responses from 59 interviews with different stakeholders along the cocoa and chocolate supply chain in six key producing and consuming countries. Thematic analysis of the responses revealed six main themes: (1) make better use of policies, regulations and markets to help promote sustainability; (2) improve information and data (e.g., impacts of climate change on cocoa) to inform sound interventions; (3) focus on the landscape rather than the farm-level alone and improve integration of supply chain actors; (4) promote better coordination between stakeholders and initiatives (e.g., development assistance projects and corporate sustainability efforts); (5) focus on interdependent relationships between social, environmental and economic dimensions to achieve sustainable development; and (6) engage with the private sector. The study shows the importance of identifying different stakeholder priorities in order to design solutions that accommodate multiple interests. It also emphasizes the need to improve coordination and communication between stakeholders and instruments in order to address the three different dimensions of sustainability in a synergistic manner, considering the interactions from production of raw material to end consumer.
Using islands as a model system, this paper seeks to understand how ecosystem service valuation (ESV) has and can move from a monetized, single-service paradigm to an integrated valuation paradigm, a participatory approach that represents a more diverse set of the values of nature, and beyond, to a more fully realized conception of the island social–ecological systems. A systematic literature review of 314 island ESV studies reveals developments in the design, implementation and adoption of ESV studies over time. We complement the review with three cases where this evolution is happening, thereby offering insights into successful means of translating ESV into information useful for island system-scale management, policy design and planning. Over the past 30 years, both the number of studies and the number of services addressed per study have steadily grown, and valuation methods have become more inclusive of multiple values. The cases reveal lessons for ESV practice. Insights are that ESV should increasingly: (i) recognize strong interconnections between ecosystems and between human and environmental systems; (ii) move towards more integrated valuation methods that better capture the diverse values of nature; and (iii) be based on an iterative process where knowledge and decision-support tools are co-created with decision-makers and stakeholders.
Species distribution data are critical information sources when it comes to implementing the multiple Aichi Targets set by the international Convention on Biological Diversity. Although there have been international-scale efforts to aggregate distribution data, the magnitudes and locations of the gaps in biodiversity knowledge remain unclear. In this study, we use a large database, including over 200 000 species occurrence records, to identify knowledge gaps in biodiversity inventories for nine animal taxa in a Mediterranean biodiversity hotspot. Spatial modelling methods were employed to relate the completeness of inventories to population, road and protected area density. The completeness of faunistic inventories was correlated with the amount of protected areas, roads and population density. Despite more than 200 years of faunistic sampling, knowledge of the distributions of most animal taxa is still limited, especially for invertebrates. As the window of opportunity for achieving Aichi Targets 11 and 19 begins to close, means of filling such knowledge gaps are required. We argue that a combination of quantitative tools and citizen science data collection programmes may help inform conservation decisions.
Because the Anthropocene by definition is an epoch during which environmental change is largely anthropogenic and driven by social, economic, psychological and political forces, environmental social scientists can effectively analyse human behaviour and knowledge systems in this context. In this subject review, we summarize key ways in which the environmental social sciences can better inform fisheries management policy and practice and marine conservation in the Anthropocene. We argue that environmental social scientists are particularly well positioned to synergize research to fill the gaps between: (1) local behaviours/needs/worldviews and marine resource management and biological conservation concerns; and (2) large-scale drivers of planetary environmental change (globalization, affluence, technological change, etc.) and local cognitive, socioeconomic, cultural and historical processes that shape human behaviour in the marine environment. To illustrate this, we synthesize the roles of various environmental social science disciplines in better understanding the interaction between humans and tropical marine ecosystems in developing nations where issues arising from human–coastal interactions are particularly pronounced. We focus on: (1) the application of the environmental social sciences in marine resource management and conservation; (2) the development of ‘new’ socially equitable marine conservation; (3) repopulating the seascape; (4) incorporating multi-scale dynamics of marine social–ecological systems; and (5) envisioning the future of marine resource management and conservation for producing policies and projects for comprehensive and successful resource management and conservation in the Anthropocene.