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The degradation, alteration and depletion of riparian habitats caused by river regulation are among critical conservation concerns. Aquatic and riparian habitats support not only river-dwelling biota such as macroinvertebrates and fish, but also waterbirds, the top predators in the aquatic food web. Despite the intimate relationships between fish and waterbirds, the two groups are often investigated separately. Using an integrative approach, we examined the effects of dams on fish and scaly-sided merganser (Mergus squamatus), an endangered, iconic riverine species, where the lack of knowledge about habitat preferences greatly hampers long-term conservation efforts. Our analysis quantified three causal links: (1) water depth had direct, comparable, negative effects on both fish and waterbirds, and the path coefficients for fish and birds are –0.31 and –0.46, respectively; (2) river landscape heterogeneity directly and positively affected fish and waterbirds, and the path coefficients for fish and birds are 0.63 and 0.19, respectively; and (3) depth and river landscape also exerted indirect effects on waterbirds through their impacts on fish abundance, and the path coefficients for fish and birds are –0.15 and 0.28, respectively. Our findings could contribute to the rational spatial planning and sustainable operation of dams in that maintaining instream habitat availability and heterogeneity would benefit the whole riverine ecosystem.
Identifying the drivers of bushmeat consumption and hunting is important for informing conservation strategies and recognizing challenges to human food security. However, studies often neglect the importance of landscape context, which can influence bushmeat supply and demand. Here, by quantifying bushmeat consumption and hunting in 262 households in a post-frontier region in Amazonia, we tested the hypotheses that bushmeat consumption and hunting are positively associated with two landscape characteristics: (1) forest cover, which has been shown to define game availability; and (2) remoteness, which is related to limited access to marketed meat. Bushmeat consumption was widespread but more likely in remote forested areas. Hunting was more likely in more forested areas, especially nearer to urban centres. Our findings suggest that bushmeat remains an important food source even in heavily altered forest regions and that landscape context is an important determinant of bushmeat consumption and hunting. Although people living in remote, forested areas are likely to be the most dependent on bushmeat, those living in more populous, peri-urban areas are likely the actors contributing most to total hunting effort, due to a higher probability of hunting combined with higher human population densities. This finding undermines the assumption that rural–urban migration in the tropics will deliver a much-needed reprieve for many overhunted species.
Providing benefits to local people from forest conservation programmes is an important issue for policy makers. Livelihood projects are a common way to provide benefits, but there is little information about their costs. We analysed 463 livelihood projects in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) pilot project in Madagascar to understand how different approaches to delivering livelihood projects affect costs. We compared costs across four approaches: conservation agreements, small grants, direct implementation and application of social safeguards. The approach impacted overall costs and the proportion of funds reaching communities. Projects implemented as safeguards were most expensive and had the lowest proportion of expenditures reaching the community. Projects provided as part of conservation agreements directed the highest proportion of expenditures to communities. Our results highlight that how livelihood projects are delivered has implications for project costs and community benefits and should be an important consideration in the design and implementation of REDD+ and forest conservation policies.
In spite of significant investment, community-based conservation often suffers from a lack of appropriate design. In this study, drawing on 86 interviews around six national parks in tropical Africa, we analyse the perceptions of different stakeholders (e.g. governmental officials, non-governmental organization staff and researchers) regarding community participation. Our results mainly reveal the absence of a clear and shared definition of community participation. While 67% of the participants defined community participation as a community's support of nature protection (low empowerment) and/or as its participation in conservation implementation (medium empowerment), 28% mentioned that the community should also participate in decision-making (high empowerment). Our study shows that participants with no university degree, belonging to governmental organizations and/or employed as workers tend to propose a lower level of empowerment, while those educated to a postgraduate level, belonging to research institutes and/or employed as researchers propose higher degrees of empowerment. Our study mainly suggests that the different degrees of empowerment proposed by the stakeholders depend on their relation to the space of conservation and their daily connection to practical management as drivers of the inclusion or exclusion of local communities in conservation decision-making. To properly design and implement community-based conservation, conservation actors above all must share a common definition of the concept.
The expansion of human settlements and primary-sector activities (agriculture and forestry) has resulted in the fragmentation of forests, but the impacts of this are still poorly understood. We examined the effect of patch size on the presence of plant functional groups along an edge–interior gradient. Plant species were classified based on a two-way indicator species analysis in order to determine their establishment thresholds and vulnerability along the gradient, while detrended correspondence analyses and canonical correspondence analyses were performed to identify environmental gradients related to vegetation distribution. Two groups of plant species were recognized in all patch sizes: one commonly found towards the edge and the other in the interior zone. The incidence of these groups was correlated with environmental factors associated with the edge–interior gradient, mainly with humidity, soil moisture and light (canopy opening and global site factor) in the edge zone and with litter cover, depth of litter, slope and soil and air temperature in the interior zone. Identifying the species’ threshold responses to fragmentation is key, as they provide tools to prevent the potential local extinction of species.
The illegal wildlife trade is covert by nature, and thus is often challenging to study. Seizure data is traditionally the most common means to gain insight into the trade for many species. Online media-sourced seizure records were applied to study the illegal trade of Siamese rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis), one of 33 timber species of hongmu (rosewood), which is logged to produce luxury products predominantly for Chinese markets. Despite recent international pressure to strengthen the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulations, illegal trade of Siamese rosewood is prevalent in its range states. This paper will explore seizure reports in Thai online media and analyse spatial, temporal and other factors that potentially explain the trade. Between January 2014 and April 2016, 835 independent seizures were reported in 37 of 76 provinces in Thailand. Seizures occurred mostly in the north-eastern and eastern provinces with higher numbers of seizures closer to the border. The number of seizure reports decreased over time, and the average number of logs seized per seizure was consistent over the 28-month study period. Inadequate domestic legislation is a key factor facilitating the trade. Improvements are needed to the legislation and enforcement ahead of implementing other regional timber-specific initiatives and regulations. In this specific context, CITES also appears to be unacknowledged and ineffective in hampering the Siamese rosewood trade. Importantly, we find that using media-sourced seizure data is highly apt in Thailand's context, considering Thailand's sensitive political state and the prevalence of trade in other non CITES-listed rosewood species. The approach demonstrated here is applicable to many other wildlife species.
In the Arctic, rapid climate change has kindled efforts to delineate and project the future of important habitats for marine birds and mammals. These animals are vital to subsistence economies and cultures, so including the needs of both animals and hunters in conservation planning is key to sustaining social-ecological systems. In the northeast Chukchi Sea, a nearshore corridor of open water is a major spring migration route for half a million eider ducks that are hunted along the landfast ice. Zoning areas for industrial activities or conservation should consider both eider habitat and hunter access to those habitats from the variable ice edge. Based on benthic sampling in 2010‒2012, a model of eider foraging energetics and satellite data on ice patterns in April and May 1997‒2011, we mapped the range of positions of the landfast ice edge relative to a given dispersion of habitat suitable for eider feeding. In some sectors, feeding areas were too limited or too far from landfast ice to provide regular hunting access. In other sectors, overlap of the ice edge with eider feeding habitat was quite variable, but often within a consistent geographic range. Areas accessible to hunters were a small fraction of total eider habitat, so areas adequate for conserving eiders would not necessarily include areas that meet the hunters’ needs. These results can inform spatial planning of industrial activities that yield cash income critical to subsistence hunting in less developed locations. Our study provides an approach for mapping ‘subsistence conservation areas’ throughout the Arctic and an example for such efforts elsewhere.
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.
Recent evidence has shown that most tropical species are declining as a result of global change. Under this scenario, the prevalence of tolerant species to disturbances has driven many biological communities towards biotic homogenization (BH). However, the mechanisms that drive communities towards BH are not yet thoroughly understood. We tested effects of recurring wildfires on woody species richness and composition in six seasonally flooded Amazonian forests and whether these fires reduce species composition (i.e., taxonomic homogenization) over short periods of time. Our results show that these forests are undergoing taxonomic homogenization in response to recurring fire events. Species richness decreased as a result of local extinctions and floristic similarity increased among forest communities. Fire was selecting tolerant (‘winner’) species and eliminating the more sensitive (‘loser’) species. BH leads to biodiversity erosion, which can deeply alter ecosystem processes such as productivity, nutrient cycling and decomposition, resulting in important consequences for conservation.
Bivalves are among the main groups of invasive freshwater species, with the Asian clam genus Corbicula in particular being widely distributed. While global studies have focused on Corbicula fluminea (Müller, 1774), the invasive potential of Corbicula largillierti (Philippi, 1844) and Corbicula fluminalis (Müller, 1774) is still unknown. The spread of invasive species may be intensified by climate change. We estimated and compared environmentally suitable areas for these species under hypothetical climate scenarios, generating global maps of invasion risk. We found large climatically suitable areas for C. largillierti and C. fluminalis (under species distribution models) and that their invasive potential is currently underestimated. The analysis revealed many areas in which changing climate may favour the invasion of Corbicula spp.
Aspects of species life histories may increase their susceptibility to climate change. Owing to their exclusive reliance on environmental sources of heat for incubation, megapodes may be especially vulnerable. We employed a trait-based vulnerability assessment to weigh their exposure to projected climate variables of increasing temperatures, fluctuating rainfall and sea level rise and their biological sensitivity and capacity to adapt. While all 21 species were predicted to experience at least a 2 °C increase in mean annual temperature, 12 to experience a moderate or greater fluctuation in rainfall and 16 to experience rising seas, the most vulnerable megapodes are intrinsically rare and range restricted. Species that employ microbial decomposition for incubation may have an adaptive advantage over those that do not and may be more resilient to climate change. The moderate microclimate necessary for mound incubation, however, may in some areas be threatened by anthropogenic habitat loss exacerbated by warmer and seasonally drier conditions. As with many avian species, little is known about the capacity of megapodes to adapt to a changing climate. We therefore recommend that future research efforts investigate megapode fecundity, gene flow and genetic connectivity at the population level to better determine their adaptive capacity.
Growing concern about the biodiversity crisis has led to a proliferation of conservation responses, but with wide variation between countries in the levels of engagement and investment. Much of this variation is inevitably attributed to differences between nations in wealth. However, the relationship between environmentalism and wealth is complex and it is increasingly apparent that other factors are also involved. We review hypotheses that have been developed to explain variation in broad environmentalism and show that many of the factors that explain such variation in individuals, such as wealth, age and experience, also explain differences between nation states. We then assess the extent to which these factors explain variation between nation states in responses to and investment in the more specific area of biodiversity conservation. Unexpectedly, quality of governance explained substantially more variation in public and state investment in biodiversity conservation than did direct measures of wealth. The results inform assessments of where conservation investments might most profitably be directed in the future and suggest that metrics relating to governance might be of considerable use in conservation planning.
Urban areas host many bird species, and urban species richness can be compared with that in natural areas using species–area relationships (SARs). We used a multimodel selection approach to investigate the influence of area, human population, elevation and climatic variables on species richness of breeding birds from 34 towns and 54 nature reserves in Italy. Using the linearized power function, area was identified as the most important correlate of avian species richness in both urban and natural areas. The SARs did not differ significantly between towns and reserves, although human density had a negative effect on bird richness. These findings underline the possible importance of urban areas in biodiversity conservation, but also stress that human density is a factor reducing species richness. However, species richness alone cannot inform conservation priorities because it does not take into account the different conservation values of species.