"This past July, some 50 environmental defenders, most of them women, from across Indonesia’s rural areas gathered for a discussion at an Islamic boarding school in West Java. The event highlighted women’s increasingly leading role in the grassroots movement to protect the country’s indigenous cultures, its natural resources and its long-held, but now threatened, traditional wisdoms and customs that champion sustainable development. Researchers say these women are at the leading edge of a new wave to defend and protect their homeland."
28 December 2017
23 December 2017
Detailed maps of forest biodiversity from a new study in Peru could pinpoint the most important areas for conservation. The research employs technology that, if deployed in a satellite, would provide a global picture of biodiversity. The research uses the chemical signals of tree communities to reveal their different survival strategies and identify priority areas for protection. Currently, the Carnegie Airborne Observatory’s airplane provides the only way to create these biodiversity maps. But the team is working to install the technology in an Earth-orbiting satellite. Once launched, the $200 million satellite would provide worldwide biodiversity mapping updated every month.
21 December 2017
Pangolins in Indonesia are at risk of extinction because of an illicit trade that sees thousands of the critically endangered animals trafficked each year, a study showed Thursday. More than 35,000 pangolins -- docile, ant-eating mammals with a thick armour -- were seized by Indonesian authorities between 2010 and 2015, exposing the scale of the illegal business, the study by wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic said.
Abstract: "Understanding global patterns of biodiversity change is crucial for conservation research, policies and practices. However, for most ecosystems, the lack of systematically collected data at a global level limits our understanding of biodiversity changes and their local-scale drivers. Here we address this challenge by focusing on wetlands, which are among the most biodiverse and productive of any environments1,2 and which provide essential ecosystem services3,4, but are also amongst the most seriously threatened ecosystems3,5. Using birds as an indicator taxon of wetland biodiversity, we model time-series abundance data for 461 waterbird species at 25,769 survey sites across the globe. We show that the strongest predictor of changes in waterbird abundance, and of conservation efforts having beneficial effects, is the effective governance of a country. In areas in which governance is on average less effective, such as western and central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South America, waterbird declines are particularly pronounced; a higher protected area coverage of wetland environments facilitates waterbird increases, but only in countries with more effective governance. Our findings highlight that sociopolitical instability can lead to biodiversity loss and undermine the benefit of existing conservation efforts, such as the expansion of protected area coverage. Furthermore, data deficiencies in areas with less effective governance could lead to underestimations of the extent of the current biodiversity crisis."
Read More: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature25139
16 December 2017
"A study in South Africa’s Kruger National Park found that hanging pairs of beehives—one active, the other inactive—from tree branches was more effective than wrapping trunks with wire netting at protecting the trees from damage by hungry elephants. Elephants damaged 2% of 50 bee-protected trees, 28% of wire-netted trees, and 54% of unprotected “control” trees, but even bees did not keep elephants from impacting neighboring trees. Installing and maintaining beehives in tree branches is far more expensive than installing wire netting and requires more maintenance, but it offers reserves with sufficient resources an effective way to protect large, valuable trees from elephant impact."
‘A Vicious Cycle Towards Extinction:’ Hunting and trade can push even abundant wildlife populations to the brink
"Researchers at the University of Queensland looked at something called the anthropogenic Allee effect (AAE), a theory that proposes a critical population level threshold below which the likelihood of a species going extinct increases substantially due to rising prices for rare animals incentivizing more hunting. Using mathematical models to determine how quickly wildlife populations can decrease as prices for animal products rise in response to animal scarcity, the researchers found that the population thresholds proposed by AAE theory can drastically underestimate extinction risks. While these findings would appear to call into question the biological sustainability of trophy hunting, the debate over trophy hunting is typically centered on social and economic outcomes."
"Indigenous Papuans of Saubeba
village last month gave their support for a government-backed program to
designate Tambrauw district, rich in biodiversity, a conservation zone. The
villagers already practice sustainable management of the district’s
lush forests and its resources, on which their lives depend. The
discussion also sought to find solutions for land conflicts that often
put legally vulnerable ethnic groups in peril as Tambrauw district
pushes for the passage of an indigenous rights bill. One
anticipated outcome of all this is the prospect of developing an
ecotourism industry centered on the region’s natural riches, including
14 December 2017
"Wilderness areas, defined as areas free of industrial scale activities and other human pressures which result in significant biophysical disturbance, are important for biodiversity conservation and sustaining the key ecological processes underpinning planetary life-support systems. Despite their importance, wilderness areas are being rapidly eroded in extent and fragmented. Here we present the most up-to-date temporally inter-comparable maps of global terrestrial wilderness areas, which are essential for monitoring changes in their extent, and for proactively planning conservation interventions to ensure their preservation. Using maps of human pressure on the natural environment for 1993 and 2009, we identified wilderness as all ‘pressure free’ lands with a contiguous area >10,000 km2. These places are likely operating in a natural state and represent the most intact habitats globally. We then created a regionally representative map of wilderness following the well-established ‘Last of the Wild’ methodology; which identifies the 10% area with the lowest human pressure within each of Earth’s 60 biogeographic realms, and identifies the ten largest contiguous areas, along with all contiguous areas >10,000 km2."
Read More: https://www.nature.com/articles/sdata2017187
10 December 2017
Heterogeneous Responses of Temperate-Zone Amphibian Populations to Climate Change Complicates Conservation Planning
"The pervasive and unabated nature of global amphibian declines suggests common demographic responses to a given driver, and quantification of major drivers and responses could inform broad-scale conservation actions. We explored the influence of climate on demographic parameters (i.e., changes in the probabilities of survival and recruitment) using 31 datasets from temperate zone amphibian populations (North America and Europe) with more than a decade of observations each. There was evidence for an influence of climate on population demographic rates, but the direction and magnitude of responses to climate drivers was highly variable among taxa and among populations within taxa. These results reveal that climate drivers interact with variation in life-history traits and population-specific attributes resulting in a diversity of responses. This heterogeneity complicates the identification of conservation ‘rules of thumb’ for these taxa, and supports the notion of local focus as the most effective approach to overcome global-scale conservation challenges."
"The continuing development of improved capture–recapture (CR) modeling techniques used to study apex predators has also limited robust temporal and cross-site analyses due to different methods employed. We develop an approach to standardize older non-spatial CR and newer spatial CR density estimates and examine trends for critically endangered Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) using a meta-regression of 17 existing densities and new estimates from our own fieldwork. We find that tiger densities were 47% higher in primary versus degraded forests and, unexpectedly, increased 4.9% per yr from 1996 to 2014, likely indicating a recovery from earlier poaching. However, while tiger numbers may have temporarily risen, the total potential island-wide population declined by 16.6% from 2000 to 2012 due to forest loss and degradation and subpopulations are significantly more fragmented. Thus, despite increasing densities in smaller parks, we conclude that there are only two robust populations left with >30 breeding females, indicating Sumatran tigers still face a high risk of extinction unless deforestation can be controlled."
04 December 2017
"Our incomplete taxonomic knowledge impedes our attempts to protect biodiversity. A renaissance in the classification of species and their interactions is needed to guide conservation prioritization."
The country-scale rate of biodiversity decline (BDS) depends on conservation spending levels.
"Halting global biodiversity loss is central to the Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but success to date has been very limited. A critical determinant of success in achieving these goals is the financing that is committed to maintaining biodiversity; however, financing decisions are hindered by considerable uncertainty over the likely impact of any conservation investment. For greater effectiveness, we need an evidence-based model that shows how conservation spending quantitatively reduces the rate of biodiversity loss. Here we demonstrate such a model, and empirically quantify how conservation investment between 1996 and 2008 reduced biodiversity loss in 109 countries (signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Development Goals), by a median average of 29% per country. We also show that biodiversity changes in signatory countries can be predicted with high accuracy, using a dual model that balances the effects of conservation investment against those of economic, agricultural and population growth (human development pressures). Decision-makers can use this model to forecast the improvement that any proposed biodiversity budget would achieve under various scenarios of human development pressure, and then compare these forecasts to any chosen policy target. We find that the impact of spending decreases as human development pressures grow, which implies that funding may need to increase over time. The model offers a flexible tool for balancing the Sustainable Development Goals of human development and maintaining biodiversity, by predicting the dynamic changes in conservation finance that will be needed as human development proceeds."