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The Asian elephant Elephas maximus is at risk of extinction as a result of anthropogenic pressures, and remaining populations are often small and fragmented remnants, occupying a fraction of the species' former range. Once widely distributed across China, only a maximum of 245 elephants are estimated to survive across seven small populations. We assessed the Asian elephant population in Nangunhe National Nature Reserve in Lincang Prefecture, China, using camera traps during May–July 2017, to estimate the population size and structure of this genetically important population. Although detection probability was low (0.31), we estimated a total population size of c. 20 individuals, and an effective density of 0.39 elephants per km2. Social structure indicated a strong sex ratio bias towards females, with only one adult male detected within the population. Most of the elephants associated as one herd but three adult females remained separate from the herd throughout the trapping period. These results highlight the fragility of remnant elephant populations such as Nangunhe and we suggest options such as a managed metapopulation approach for their continued survival in China and more widely.
Transboundary haze pollution as a result of indiscriminate land clearance by fire has significant health and economic impacts on member states of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN). Meanwhile the impact of the associated carbon emissions, ecological disturbance and biodiversity loss extends well beyond South-east Asia. This is despite the fact there are relatively well-established mechanisms to combat forest fires, and policy-level solutions have existed on paper for years. Although the fires are mostly in Indonesian territory, the involvement of multiple hierarchies of stakeholders in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore adds complexity to the quest for lasting solutions. A more robust approach is required from the region's governments, especially in instilling accountability among large companies, and this is feasible without increasing political tensions within ASEAN. Indonesia's ratification of the Haze Agreement is a significant development but needs to be complemented with actions at the local (e.g. grassroot initiatives in forest protection, firefighting, policing of illegal clearance practices), national (e.g. centralizing ministry-level control of forestry resources) and regional levels (e.g. implementing compliance mechanisms and legal standards to tackle haze and forest fires). Ultimately, actions to combat forest fires may also help secure the long-term conservation of biodiversity-rich peat swamps. Rather than being a source of discord, combating haze pollution could become South-east Asia's defining environmental project.
We compare forests dominated by Gilbertiodendron dewevrei at the Dja Biosphere Reserve (Cameroon) with adjacent high-diversity mixed forests in terms of tree-species composition and stand structure, in order to understand the co-occurrence of mixed forest tree species in the monodominant forest. A total of 18 1-ha permanent plots were established in the two forest types. In each plot, all trees with dbh ≥10 cm were identified as were those <10 cm dbh within a subsample of 300 m2. Species richness was significantly different between the two forest types. Mixed forest had an average of 109 species ha−1 for trees ≥10 cm dbh and 137 species for trees <10 cm dbh. By contrast, G. dewevrei-dominated forest had an average of 47 species ha−1 (≥10 cm dbh) and 92 species (<10 cm dbh). There was no significant difference in terms of stem density of the trees with dbh <10 cm between the two forests (mixed: 3.7 stems m−2; monodominant: 3.1 stems m−2). As G. dewevrei is a shade-tolerant species that can regenerate under its own shade, its higher stem density and basal area can reduce species richness of an area.
To assess the impact of habitat fragmentation on tropical avian communities, we sampled lowland forest birds on six land-bridge islands and two mainland forest sites in Lake Kenyir, Peninsular Malaysia using timed point counts, hypothesizing that insectivorous birds are the worst affected guild. We used an information-theoretic approach to evaluate the effects of area, isolation, primary dietary guild (omnivore, frugivore and insectivore) and their interactions in predicting species richness, abundance and diversity. Our analysis showed that a model that considered the effects of area, dietary guild and their interaction best explained observed patterns of species richness. But a model considering both area and dietary guild best explained the variation in abundance. Notably, insectivorous birds were singled out as the dietary guild most sensitive to fragmentation, followed by frugivorous and omnivorous birds and hence provide support for our hypothesis. Assemblages of insectivorous birds were clearly depauperate on anthropogenic forest islands in Lake Kenyir and are consistent with forest fragmentation studies in the Neotropics. Given their specialized foraging ecology and diversity, conservation of intact communities of insectivorous bird guilds in Malaysia will be critical for maintaining predator–prey interactions in lowland tropical forests.
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