• A diversity of biogeographies in an extreme Amazonian wetland habitat

      Householder, Ethan; Janovec, John; Tobler, Mathias W.; Wittmann, Florian; Myster, Randall W. (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2017)
      Amazonian wetlands are associated with lower species diversity relative to surrounding terra firme forests, as well as compositional turnover along strong hydro-edaphic gradients. Because species differ in their ecophysiological response to soil waterlogging, hydrological regime is likely a major determinant of the local diversity, species distribution and assemblage of plant communities in wetland habitats....
    • Community-led conservation action in the Ebo forest, Cameroon.

      Abwe, Ekwoge E.; Mfossa, DM; Morgan, Bethan J. (2015)
      The Ebo forest in Littoral Region, Cameroon harbours a rich biodiversity of primates, including gorillas and chimpanzees. The government of Cameroon launched the gazettement of the Ebo forest into a national park in 2006. However, the decree creating the park is still awaited and there is little or no wildlife law enforcement on the ground (Morgan et al. 2011). The proximity of Ebo to major urban centres like Douala, Edea and Yaoundé is a major incentive to the hunting and bushmeat trade, especially as growing agricultural products is not commercially viable given the poor state of the roads around the forest. The forest is thus a main source of livelihood to adjacent communities that depend on unsustainable hunting and the bushmeat trade for protein and income (Morgan 2004). In addition to running two biological research stations in the west and east of the forest, the Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) has been working with local communities, traditional and administrative authorities around the forest to conserve its rich biodiversity and habitats while waiting for the official protection of the forest (Abwe and Morgan 2012). This article is aimed at providing a summary of the community-led conservation initiatives by traditional authorities and communities around the Ebo forest since 2012.
    • Comparative genomics reveals insights into avian genome evolution and adaptation

      Zhang, Guojie; Li, Cai; Li, Qiye; Li, Bo; Larkin, Denis M.; Lee, Chul; Storz, Jay F.; Antunes, Agostinho; Greenwold, Matthew J.; Meredith, Robert W.; et al. (2014)
      Birds are the most species-rich class of tetrapod vertebrates and have wide relevance across many research fields. We explored bird macroevolution using full genomes from 48 avian species representing all major extant clades....
    • Data gaps and opportunities for comparative and conservation biology

      Conde, Dalia A.; Staerk, Johanna; Colchero, Fernando; da Silva, Rita; Schöley, Jonas; Baden, H. Maria; Jouvet, Lionel; Fa, John E.; Syed, Hassan; Jongejans, Eelke; et al. (2019)
      Biodiversity loss is a major challenge. Over the past century, the average rate of vertebrate extinction has been about 100-fold higher than the estimated background rate and population declines continue to increase globally. Birth and death rates determine the pace of population increase or decline, thus driving the expansion or extinction of a species. Design of species conservation policies hence depends on demographic data (e.g., for extinction risk assessments or estimation of harvesting quotas). However, an overview of the accessible data, even for better known taxa, is lacking. Here, we present the Demographic Species Knowledge Index, which classifies the available information for 32,144 (97%) of extant described mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. We show that only 1.3% of the tetrapod species have comprehensive information on birth and death rates. We found no demographic measures, not even crude ones such as maximum life span or typical litter/clutch size, for 65% of threatened tetrapods. More field studies are needed; however, some progress can be made by digitalizing existing knowledge, by imputing data from related species with similar life histories, and by using information from captive populations. We show that data from zoos and aquariums in the Species360 network can significantly improve knowledge for an almost eightfold gain. Assessing the landscape of limited demographic knowledge is essential to prioritize ways to fill data gaps. Such information is urgently needed to implement management strategies to conserve at-risk taxa and to discover new unifying concepts and evolutionary relationships across thousands of tetrapod species.
    • Effect of widespread agricultural chemical use on butterfly diversity across Turkish provinces

      Pekin, Burak K. (2013)
      …I assessed the effects of a major component of agricultural intensification, agricultural chemical use, and land-cover and climatic variables on butterfly diversity across 81 provinces in Turkey, where agriculture is practiced extensively but with varying degrees of intensity…. Although overall butterfly richness was primarily explained by climatic and land-cover variables, such as the area of natural vegetation cover, threatened butterfly richness and the relative number of threatened butterfly species decreased substantially as the proportion of agricultural households using pesticides increased. These findings suggest that widespread use of agricultural chemicals, or other components of agricultural intensification that may be collinear with pesticide use, pose an imminent threat to the biodiversity of Turkey.…
    • Fostering "Little Green Guards" through a collaborative partnership to create an effective conservation education program in Guizhou, China

      Tan, Chia L.; Yang, Y.; Niu, K.; Shi, L.; Zhang, W.; Riondato, I.; Giacoma, C.; Balleto, E.; Gamba, M.; Phillips, J.A. (Turin, 2014)
      San Diego Zoo Global (USA), Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve Administration (China), and the University of Torino (Italy) have partnered in a collaborative effort to promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation in Guizhou, China. The objectives of the partnership are twofold: (i) train researchers and wildlife professionals using a multidisciplinary program that employs the latest methods and tools in order to deepen their understanding of wildlife and the environment, and (ii) foster positive attitudes and behaviour toward wildlife in rural children through a creative education program called the Little Green Guards.…
    • Fostering “Little Green Guards ” through a collaborative partnership to create an effective conservation education program for rural children in Guizhou, China

      Tan, Chia L.; Yang, Y.; Niu, Kefeng; Lei, Shi; Weiyong, Zhang; Riondato, Isidoro; Giacoma, Cristina; Balletto, Emilio; Gamba, Marco; John, A. Phillips (2013)
      San Diego Zoo Global (USA), Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve Administration (China), and the University of Torino (Italy) have partnered in a collaborative effort to promote environmental sustainability and biodiversity conservation in Guizhou, China. The objectives of the partnership are twofold: (i) train researchers and wildlife professionals using a multidisciplinary program that employs the latest methods and tools in order to deepen their understanding of wildlife and the environment, and (ii) foster positive attitudes and behaviour toward wildlife in rural children through a creative education program called the Little Green Guards. A recent development of the education program is the Little Green Guards Club for children whose houses border nature reserves. During club meetings, staff of the three cooperating institutions and volunteers participated in teaching English and natural history lessons. Club activities included animal themed art projects, games, movies, and field trips designed to cultivate empathy for animals and appreciation for nature in these children. Evaluations conducted before and after implementation of the education program showed a significant increase in children’s knowledge of and affection for wildlife, and sometimes coincided with positive behavioural changes toward native species. Here we feature our collaborative effort in China as a model which can be adopted in other geographic regions where species and habitat conservation must become a top priority. We will discuss the role of Universities in critical assessment of previous experiences in order to enhance the effectiveness of cooperation with other development stakeholders (e.g. governmental and local authorities, civil society and NGOs, foundations and private companies, and local associations).
    • Large carnivores and zoos as catalysts for engaging the public in the protection of biodiversity

      Consorte-McCrea, Adriana; Fernandez, Ana; Bainbridge, Alan; Moss, Andrew; Prévot, Anne-Caroline; Clayton, Susan; Glikman, Jenny A.; Johansson, Maria; López-Bao, José Vicente; Bath, Alistair J.; et al. (2019)
      Addressing the biodiversity crisis requires renewed collaborative approaches. Large carnivores are ambassador species, and as such they can aid the protection of a wide range of species, including evolutionarily distinct and threatened ones, while being popular for conservation marketing. However, conflicts between carnivores and people present a considerable challenge to biodiversity conservation. Our cross disciplinary essay brings together original research to discuss key issues in the conservation of large carnivores as keystone species for biodiversity rich, healthy ecosystems. Our findings suggest the need to promote coexistence through challenging ‘wilderness’ myths; to consider coexistence/conflict as a continuum; to include varied interest groups in decision making; to address fear through positive mediated experiences, and to explore further partnerships with zoos. As wide-reaching institutions visited by over 700 million people/year worldwide, zoos combine knowledge, emotion and social context creating ideal conditions for the development of care towards nature, pro-environmental behaviors and long-term connections between visitors and carnivores. Based on current research, we provide evidence that large carnivores and zoos are both powerful catalysts for public engagement with biodiversity conservation, recognizing barriers and suggesting future ways to collaborate to address biodiversity loss.
    • Low MHC variation in the polar bear: Implications in the face of Arctic warming?

      Weber, D.S.; Van Coeverden de Groot, P.J.; Schrenzel, Mark D.; Perez, D.A.; Thomas, S. (2013)
      Animals in the Arctic have low pathogen diversity but with rapid climate warming, this is expected to change. One insidious consequence of climate change is exposure of Arctic species to new pathogens derived from more southern species expanding their range northward. To assess potential vulnerability of polar bears to disease exposure, we examined genetic variation in major histocompatibility complex (MHC) loci (part of immune system) in Canadian polar bears and found low genetic diversity, consistent with long?standing exposure to low pathogen/parasite loads....
    • Nanopore sequencing of long ribosomal DNA amplicons enables portable and simple biodiversity assessments with high phylogenetic resolution across broad taxonomic scale

      Krehenwinkel, Henrik; Pomerantz, Aaron; Henderson, James B.; Kennedy, Susan R.; Lim, Jun Y.; Swamy, Varun; Shoobridge, Juan D.; Patel, Nipam H.; Gillespie, Rosemary G.; Prost, Stefan (2019)
      Background: In light of the current biodiversity crisis, DNA barcoding is developing into an essential tool to quantify state shifts in global ecosystems. Current barcoding protocols often rely on short amplicon sequences, which yield accurate identification of biological entities in a community, but provide limited phylogenetic resolution across broad taxonomic scales. However, the phylogenetic structure of communities is an essential component of biodiversity. Consequently, a barcoding approach is required that unites robust taxonomic assignment power and high phylogenetic utility. A possible solution is offered by sequencing long ribosomal DNA (rDNA) amplicons on the MinION platform (Oxford Nanopore Technologies). Results: Using a dataset of various animal and plant species, with a focus on arthropods, we assemble a pipeline for long rDNA barcode analysis and introduce a new software (MiniBar) to demultiplex dual indexed nanopore reads. We find excellent phylogenetic and taxonomic resolution offered by long rDNA sequences across broad taxonomic scales. We highlight the simplicity of our approach by field barcoding with a miniaturized, mobile laboratory in a remote rainforest. We also test the utility of long rDNA amplicons for analysis of community diversity through metabarcoding and find that they recover highly skewed diversity estimates. Conclusions: Sequencing dual indexed, long rDNA amplicons on the MinION platform is a straightforward, cost effective, portable and universal approach for eukaryote DNA barcoding. Long rDNA amplicons scale up DNA barcoding by enabling the accurate recovery of taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity. However, bulk community analyses using long-read approaches may introduce biases and will require further exploration.
    • Portable sequencing as a teaching tool in conservation and biodiversity research

      Watsa, Mrinalini; Erkenswick, Gideon A.; Pomerantz, Aaron; Prost, Stefan (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2020)
      As biodiversity loss continues to accelerate, there is a critical need for education and biomonitoring across the globe. Portable technologies allow for in situ molecular biodiversity monitoring that has been historically out of reach for many researchers in habitat nations. In the realm of education, portable tools such as DNA sequencers facilitate in situ hands-on training in real-time sequencing and interpretation techniques. Here, we provide step-by-step protocols as a blueprint for a terrestrial conservation genetics field training program that uses low-cost, portable devices to conduct genomics-based training directly in biodiverse habitat countries.
    • Righting past wrongs and ensuring the future

      Moehrenschlager, Axel; Shier, Debra M.; Moorhouse, Tom P.; Price, Mark R. Stanley (John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2013)
      The near-exponential growth in the frequency of reintroductions surely indicates that reintroductions are now a highly effective tool to combat the increasing loss of global biodiversity. This chapter discusses the questions regarding risks, the initiation of reintroductions, the refinement of reintroduction techniques and evaluations of reintroduction programme success. It examines key components that comprise the status quo of reintroduction science and proposed crucial advancements where appropriate. The remainder of this chapter also examines the increasing challenges and possible responses of the future, particularly within the context of emerging infectious diseases, increasing habitat loss and climate change. It outlines some of the ways in which rigour could be implemented to improve the success rates - and their definition - of reintroductions. The chapter poses the question of whether reintroductions are on the verge of a disciplinary shift within the conservation toolbox.
    • San Basilio: Biodiversidad y Conservación/Biodiversity and Conservation

      Vanderplank, Sula E.; Favoretto, F.; Mascareñas, I.; Aburto, O.; Vanderplank, Sula E.; Favoretto, F.; Mascareñas, I.; Aburto, O. (International Community Foundation, 2020)
      The bay of San Basilio, Baja California Sur, is immediately remarkable to any visitor for its stunning landscape and heterogeneity of landforms and habitats. This secret corner of the peninsula quietly boasts abundant natural resources and phenomenal biodiversity. The whole bay is alive, above and below the rich lands and waters of this coastal paradise. The marine elements include rocky reefs, and both sandy and rocky shores, which span an ecotone of taxonomic biodiversity. The land-sea fringe is home to mangroves, salt-marshes, dunes and estuaries. The influences of land and sea support the presence of a plethora of coastal species, and further inland a healthy arid scrub complex with seasonal lagoons and permanent freshwater pools is home to several rare and endangered species, and elevated numbers of species in general. The mangroves show the distinct footprint of sea-level rise with areas of die-off towards the coast and areas of new colonization occurring above the current water-line. The biological riches of San Basilio remain threatened. Biodiversity at the coast is certainly impacted by the presence of humans and free-roaming dogs. Tourism on the beaches is putting considerable pressure on the coastal habitats, especially with regard to waste, trash, and mis-use of the beaches. Overfishing, through both industrial harvest and unsustainable take of top predators (e.g., sharks and groupers) is adversely affecting the marine ecosystems. Cattle are reducing the inland terrestrial biodiversity and abundance; more restrictions to cattle entry and the fencing of priority habitats are advised. Through the findings of this report we connect the conservation challenges of marine and terrestrial biodiversity, with recommendations for the long-term conservation of the San Basilio region.
    • The conservation status of the world’s reptiles

      Böhm, Monika; Collen, Ben; Baillie, Jonathan E.M.; Bowles, Philip; Chanson, Janice; Cox, Neil; Hammerson, Geoffrey; Hoffmann, Michael; Livingstone, Suzanne R.; Ram, Mala; et al. (2013)
      …We present the first ever global analysis of extinction risk in reptiles, based on a random representative sample of 1500 species (16% of all currently known species). To our knowledge, our results provide the first analysis of the global conservation status and distribution patterns of reptiles and the threats affecting them, highlighting conservation priorities and knowledge gaps which need to be addressed urgently to ensure the continued survival of the world’s reptiles….
    • The expectations and challenges of wildlife disease research in the era of genomics: forecasting with a horizon scan-like exercise

      Fitak, Robert R.; Antonides, Jennifer D.; Baitchman, Eric J.; Bonaccorso, Elisa; Braun, Josephine; Kubiski, Steven V.; Chiu, Elliott; Fagre, Anna C.; Gagne, Roderick B.; Lee, Justin S.; et al. (2019)
      The outbreak and transmission of disease-causing pathogens are contributing to the unprecedented rate of biodiversity decline....
    • The face of conservation responding to a dynamically changing world

      Wiederholt, Ruscena; Trainor, Anne M.; Michel, Nicole; Shirey, Patrick D.; Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Tallamy, Doug; Cook-Patton, Susan C. (2015)
      …Here, we highlight contemporary and emerging trends and innovations in conservation science that we believe represent the most effective responses to biodiversity threats. We focus on specific areas where conservation science has had to adjust its approach to address emerging threats to biodiversity, including habitat destruction and degradation, climate change, declining populations and invasive species….
    • The i5K Initiative: Advancing arthropod genomics for knowledge, human health, agriculture, and the environment

      Evans, Jay D.; Brown, Susan J.; Hackett, Kevin J.; Robinson, Gene; Richards, Stephen; Lawson, Daniel; Elsik, Christine; Coddington, Jonathan; Edwards, Owain; Emrich, Scott; et al. (2013)
      Insects and their arthropod relatives including mites, spiders, and crustaceans play major roles in the world’s terrestrial, aquatic, and marine ecosystems. Arthropods compete with humans for food and transmit devastating diseases. They also comprise the most diverse and successful branch of metazoan evolution, with millions of extant species. Here, we describe an international effort to guide arthropod genomic efforts, from species prioritization to methodology and informatics. The 5000 arthropod genomes initiative (i5K) community met formally in 2012 to discuss a roadmap for sequencing and analyzing 5000 high-priority arthropods and is continuing this effort via pilot projects, the development of standard operating procedures, and training of students and career scientists. With university, governmental, and industry support, the i5K Consortium aspires to deliver sequences and analytical tools for each of the arthropod branches and each of the species having beneficial and negative effects on humankind.
    • The past, present, and future of using social marketing to conserve biodiversity

      Veríssimo, Diogo (2019)
      Since the establishment of social marketing as a discipline, it was clear that environmental sustainability would be part of its scope. Yet, whereas the academic scope of the field was broadly defined, the origins of social marketing practice, which were heavily linked to the promotion of family planning, meant that the development of this practice-led field has been historically focused on public health....
    • The value of ecosystem services from giant panda reserves

      Wei, Fuwen; Costanza, Robert; Dai, Qiang; Stoeckl, Natalie; Gu, Xiaodong; Farber, Stephen; Nie, Yonggang; Kubiszewski, Ida; Hu, Yibo; Swaisgood, Ronald R.; et al. (2018)
      Ecosystem services (the benefits to humans from ecosystems) are estimated globally at $125 trillion/year [1, 2]. Similar assessments at national and regional scales show how these services support our lives [3]. All valuations recognize the role of biodiversity, which continues to decrease around the world in maintaining these services [4, 5]....
    • Ungulate browsing maintains shrub diversity in the absence of episodic disturbance in seasonally-arid conifer forest

      Pekin, Burak K.; Wisdom, Michael J.; Endress, Bryan A.; Naylor, Bridgett J.; Parks, Catherine G. (2014)
      Ungulates exert a strong influence on the composition and diversity of vegetation communities. However, little is known about how ungulate browsing pressure interacts with episodic disturbances such as fire and stand thinning. We assessed shrub responses to variable browsing pressure by cattle and elk in fuels treated (mechanical removal of fuels followed by prescribed burning) and non-fuels treated forest sites in northeastern Oregon, US. Seven treatment paddocks were established at each site; three with cattle exclusion and low, moderate and high elk browsing pressure, three with elk exclusion and low, moderate and high cattle browsing pressure, and one with both cattle and elk exclusion. The height, cover and number of stems of each shrub species were recorded at multiple plots within each paddock at the time of establishment and six years later. Changes in shrub species composition over the six year period were explored using multivariate analyses. Generalized Linear Mixed Models were used to determine the effect of browsing pressure on the change in shrub diversity and evenness. Vegetation composition in un-browsed paddocks changed more strongly and in different trajectories than in browsed paddocks at sites that were not fuels treated. In fuels treated sites, changes in composition were minimal for un-browsed paddocks. Shrub diversity and evenness decreased strongly in un-browsed paddocks relative to paddocks with low, moderate and high browsing pressure at non-fuels treated sites, but not at fuels treated sites. These results suggest that in the combined absence of fire, mechanical thinning and ungulate browsing, shrub diversity is reduced due to increased dominance by certain shrub species which are otherwise suppressed by ungulates and/or fuels removal. Accordingly, ungulate browsing, even at low intensities, can be used to suppress dominant shrub species and maintain diversity in the absence of episodic disturbance events.