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Tropical Conservation Science
March 2009 | Vol. 2 | Issue 1 | 1 - 115

Is oil palm the next emerging threat to the Amazon? | 1-10
Butler, R. A. and Laurance, W. F.

The Amazon Basin appears poised to experience rapid expansion of oil palm agriculture, a development that could increase deforestation and biodiversity loss in the region, report Rhett A. Butler and William Laurance in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. With nearly half the Amazon suitable for oil palm cultivation, the Brazilian government is weighing a law that would count oil palm as "forest" towards a landowner's forest reserve requirement. This—coupled with the crop's favorable economic returns relative to soy and cattle ranching, new infrastructure projects to facilitate access to forests, and emerging interest among major palm oil operators—could spur large-scale forest conversion for oil palm plantations in Amazonia. While Laurance and Butler express concern over the potential impacts on climate and biodiversity, they highlight ways to temper the most serious environmental consequences of expansion. These include requiring palm oil producers to adopt environmentally-responsible cultivation methods, establishing wildlife corridors and riparian buffer zones, and encouraging plantations on degraded, rather than forest, lands.

Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute and its implications for conservation | 11-24
Perez, A., Chin-Ta, C. and Afero, F.

Political drivers such as those related to territorial disputes between tropical countries can result in direct and indirect ramifications negatively impacting conservation of native ecosystems report Arlenie Perez, Chuang Chin-Ta and Farok Afero in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. These authors document the historical and political base of the territorial disputes between Belize and Guatemala and its consequences for ecosystem conservation and management and people’s well-being. The still unresolved territorial disputes between these two countries has lead to loss of biodiversity resulting from illicit settlements, illegal logging, unregulated hunting and fishing, unsanctioned land subdivision, and illegal harvesting of forest and marine products. Further consequences have been the loss of property and threat to human life. Both countries continue to work on a bilateral agreement through the Organization of American States and other international agencies for a peaceful settlement.

Butterfly (Papilionoidea and Hesperioidea) rapid assessment of a coastal countryside in El Salvador | 34-51
Bonebrake, T. C. and Sorto, R.

In the March 2009 volume of Tropical Conservation Science, Tim Bonebrake and Rubén Sorto report the results of a rapid assessment survey of butterfly diversity undertaken at Playa El Icacal, a coastal countryside of Eastern El Salvador. The authors stress that anthropogenic disturbances such as habitat degradation and climate change increasingly threaten biodiversity throughout the tropics. The limited time available for research and costs associated with monitoring pose barriers to fully documenting the ecological communities of biodiversity-rich tropical ecosystems. Bonebreak and Sorto indicate that rapid assessment surveys provide useful information about ecological communities and can guide conservation organizations in prioritizing recommendations for sustainable development. Hence, in nine days of survey work at Playa El Icacal , they recorded 84 species and over 1,500 individual butterflies. With this information at hand and using a variety of estimation techniques, Bonebrake and Sorto calculated there to be 100-200 species total in the area of Playa El Icacal. The survey logged relatively higher species richness in tropical dry forest habitat under conservation programs. Bonebrake and Sorto emphasize that the accelerating pace of human impacts on the environment means that as time runs out for many species and populations, rapid assessments will become increasingly important and valuable for conservation diagnostics.

Genetic relationships among accessions of four species of Desmodium and allied genera (Dendrolobium triangulare, Desmodium gangeticum, Desmodium heterocarpon, and Tadehagi triquetrum) | 52-69
Heider, B., Fischer, E., Berndl, T., and Schultze-Kraft, R.

In the March 2009 volume of Tropical Conservation Science Bettina Heider, Elke Fischer, Tanja Berndl, and Rainer Schultze-Kraft, report that for thousands of years farmers took advantage of plant species and their ability to adapt to varying environmental conditions. Without this diversity agriculture development would not have been possible. Even to this day, natural plant diversity is fundamental for food security and poverty alleviation, especially in the lesser developed regions of our planet. Yet, through human interference and despite its vital importance, plant diversity is at risk. The worldwide growing concern about diminishing plant genetic diversity resulted in increasing numbers of conservation efforts and in intensified searches for plants with special traits adapted to the marginal farming systems of tropical smallholders. In light of this, Heider and collaborators state that “since conservation in gene banks is a cost-intensive endeavor, studies are required to describe the given diversity and ensure that the maximum of the genetic diversity of certain areas or plant species is stored in gene bank collections.” The authors used a molecular marker technology, random amplified polymorphic DNA marker (RAPD), to investigate the genetic relatedness among seed samples of four Desmodium and allied genera collected in Bac Kan province, Northeast Vietnam. They indicate that these legume plant species naturally occur in tropical and subtropical Asia, Australia, and Oceania, and possess a potential as forage or medicinal plants. Southeast Asia is widely recognized as one of the most important centers of diversity for legume species. Their study provides baseline data for future seed collecting and gene bank conservation strategies.

Mammalian density in response to different levels of bushmeat hunting in the Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania | 70-87
Topp-Jørgensen, E., Nielsen, M. R., Marshall, A. and Pedersen, U.

Hunting of wildlife for food is one of the most immediate threat to wildlife populations in tropical forests. This includes the forests of the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania - a component of the globally important Eastern Afromontane biodiversity hotspot report Elmer Topp-Jørgensen, Martin Reinhardt Nielsen, Andrew Marshall y Ulrik Pedersen in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. The impact of hunting was compared between three areas differing from little hunted over medium-hunted to intensively hunted. Of the 22 mammal species recorded, 20 were present in the little hunted, 17 in the medium hunted and only 12 in intensively hunted area. Most large species (>40 kg.) were absent from hunted areas, while medium-sized species were reduced more than smaller species. These authors indicate that the effect of hunting appears to be proportional to the size of the species and the intensity of hunting. Reductions of hunting levels are paramount to the survival of large bodied species in the medium hunted area and for the continued presence of most species in the intensively hunted area. The results of this study is furthermore important for evaluating the effect of current efforts to implement Joint Forest Management where forest management rights and responsibilities are handed over to local communities.

The Role of Traditional Management Practices in Enhancing Sustainable Use and Conservation of Medicinal Plants in West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania | 88-105
Msuya, T. S. and Kideghesho, J. R.

Traditional practices contribute to conservation of medicinal plants in West Usambara Mountains, Tanzania, report Tuli S Msuya and Jafari R Kideghesho in the March issue of the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science. These practices are domestication; beliefs on sacredness of trees; beliefs on sacred forests; respect of cultural forests; protection of plants at the burial sites; selective harvesting; secrecy; collection of dead wood for firewood and; use of energy saving traditional stoves. However, the medicinal plants are increasingly vanishing, not only because they are highly demanded for primary health care, but also because they cater for several other purposes such as trade, food, timber, firewood and building poles. Land clearing (for agriculture, settlements and other developments) and accidental and deliberate fires also contribute to loss of these species. In conclusion, these authors underscore the role of traditional management practices in enhancing conservation of biodiversity and as a tool for ensuring the primary health care.

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   Tropical Conservation Science is an open-access e-journal that publishes research relating to conservation of tropical forests and other tropical ecosystems.

Volume 2: Issue 1
Table of Contents

Estrada & Butler
Butler & Laurance
Perez et al.
Jenkins et al.
Bonebrake & Sorto
Heider et al.
Msuya et al.
de La Gálvez & Pacheco

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