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Tropical Conservation Science
December 2010 | Vol. 3 | Issue 4 | pages 361-360

Tanysiptera galatea in Papua New Guinea. Photo by Kateřina Tvardíková.
Are protected areas really protecting populations? A test with an Atlantic rain forest palm | pages 361-372
Rita de Cássia Quitete Portela, Emilio M. Bruna and Flavio Antonio Maës dos Santos

We compared the demography of the palm Euterpe edulis in a large forest fragment that is protected from palm harvesting with that in three smaller fragments where harvesting has occurred. Palms were censused from 2005 to 2007 in nine 30 m x 30 m plots in each forest fragment. Each individual was assigned to one of five stage classes: seedling, infant, juvenile, immature, and reproductive. Using summary matrices constructed for the fragments and a matrix for the population in the protected area, we compared the asymptotic growth rate (λ) in the protected and nonprotected areas. We then quantified the contribution of each lower-level vital rate to the observed differences in λ using a fixed-design LTRE. Euterpe edulis populations in the protected area are projected to shrink at rates of 4.54 to 12.6% per year, and the populations of the fragments are projected to grow at rates of 3.44 to 9.43% per year. Our LTRE analysis revealed that the generally higher λ for the summary matrix based on the populations in fragments was due primarily to greater survival of immatures and reproductives. However, seedling growth contributed negatively to λ in the fragments. We also found that great numbers of immatures and reproductives were killed by the capuchin monkey (Cebus nigritus), which apparently also contributes to the differences between the protected area and the fragments. This study lends support to the idea that small fragments in a landscape actively managed and modified by humans can be very important in maintaining viable plant populations.

Bird abundances in primary and secondary growths in Papua New Guinea: a preliminary assessment | pages 373-388
Kateřina Tvardíková

Papua New Guinea is the third largest remaining area of tropical forest after the Amazon and Congo basins and home of hundreds of unique species at the same time. Small scale slash-and-burn agriculture has occurred there for at least 5,000 years, and local people valued forests as the source of materials and animal and vegetable foodstuffs. This technique is likely to remain the economic base of a large proportion of population due to economic situation in country. However, rapid population growth and involvement in cash economies caused a shortening of rotation times and clearing of larger areas. Scientist surveyed bird communities to reveal impact of traditional agriculture on community compositions of small scale secondary growths following slash-and-burn and primary forest plots. They found primary forest more diverse and accommodating more frugivorous and insectivorous birds than small plots used as gardens 7 years ago. These results stress that changes in avian communities occur even in small secondary plots and conservation of large blocks of primary forest would be the ideal course to follow for conserving the diversity of tropical forest bird species. Considering both forest types as a whole, local people seems to increase bird species diversity, as secondary forest was not simply depleted primary forest but included unique species too. It has to be pointed out, that small scale slash-and–burn plots increase overall diversity of habitat and should not be seen as threat. However, its conservational benefit is lost at the moment when they exceed those of primary forests.

Landscape attributes drive complex spatial microclimate configuration of Brazilian Atlantic forest fragments | pages 389-402
Severino R.R. Pinto, Gabriel Mendes, André M.M. Santos, Mateus Dantas, Marcelo Tabarelli and Felipe P. L. Melo

Unfortunately tropical forests are still vanishing around the world and former large tracts of natural habitats are being converted into archipelagoes of isolated forest fragments, this is forest fragmentation. After fragmentation, exchanges of heat and moisture occur between forest and non-forest area so that forest understory near the border of the fragment begins to get warmer and drier, altering thus the microclimate of the forest and affecting inhabiting life, in most of cases negatively. In a fragmented landscape, forest remnants strongly vary in shape and size and all these features may affect forest microclimate. Our study investigated how deep these changes penetrate into the forest fragment and whether the distance to nearest edges is a good predictor of changes in microclimate of forest fragments. The study site was the hyper-fragmented Atlantic forest of northeastern Brazil, one of the most threatened portions of diverse Tropical forests in the world. Our results suggest that microclimate of forest remnants is governed by landscapes factors such as isolation rather than distance to nearest edges (i.e. forest fragment boundary). These findings contrast with previous knowledge that assumed that the microclimate of forest fragments is mainly driven by distance to the forest boundaries (edges). We demonstrate that changes in microclimate of fragmented forests are complex and influenced by landscape configuration as a whole. Therefore, important implications for landscape management and biodiversity conservation can be drawn from our results that suggest that the “edge vs. core area” paradigm is a misleading approach. Protecting large areas and preventing further fragmentation are key recommendations to avoid ecological deterioration of fragmented landscapes.

Hair-snares: A non-invasive method for monitoring felid populations in the Selva Lacandona, Mexico | pages 403-411
Nashieli García-Alaníz, Eduardo J. Naranjo and Frank F. Mallory

Wildlife research projects often require collecting samples from specimens through capturing and handling them. Alternative (“noninvasive”) techniques using simple devices to collect samples without manipulating or hurting the animals are being increasingly used worldwide. Among these devices, hair-snares have been developed to catch hair samples from elusive mammalian species showing territorial behavior. Hair samples in turn may be used for species identification as well as for more sophisticated genetic analyses. In this study, hair-snares were used to collect felid and other mammalian samples in the tropical rainforest of the Selva Lacandona, Chiapas, Mexico. We obtained hair samples of wild mammals in 43 percent of snares. Species identified included margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, grey fox, tayra, coati, and two opossum species. This study allowed for the first time to collect hair samples from jaguarundi and margay in the wild, as well as hair samples from ocelots in tropical areas. This study supports the assumption that hair-snaring is a viable and cost-effective technique in tropical rainforest ecosystems such as the Selva Lacandona.

Water body use by Asian elephants in southern Sri Lanka | pages 412-422
Pastorini, Jennifer, H. G. Nishantha, H. K. Janaka, Karin Isler and Prithiviraj Fernando

Asian elephants live in forests where they are difficult to see, coming out into the open mostly after dark. They move over large areas, and are generally at low densities. Therefore it can be hard to know about elephant presence in an area. Adult male elephants are mostly solitary while females and young live in groups. Males are more widely distributed than herds because of greater tolerance of human disturbance. Information on elephant distribution and demography is important for conservation planning and managing human-elephant conflict. Such information is largely unavailable across Asian elephant range, because the available assessment techniques are mostly laborious, highly technical and costly, limiting their application. As elephants visit water sources regularly, we assessed whether elephant droppings and footprints around them could be used as an indicator of elephant presence. Since very small droppings and footprints are from babies, by measuring them we could potentially detect the presence of herds. We also wanted to know whether elephants preferred particular types of lakes, and what impact human activities had on their use by elephants, so that such factors could be taken into consideration in conservation planning. Our study area in southern Sri Lanka lay partly within the Yala National Park and had many man-made lakes. We walked around 25 lakes fortnightly for a year and recorded elephant footprints and droppings. The data confirmed the presence of elephants and that of herds throughout our study area. There were more elephants inside the park than outside. Elephants preferred lakes that held water throughout the year and avoided those with temporary huts built by farmers. Activities like fishing or collecting lotus flowers did not affect elephant use of lakes. We conclude that ‘monitoring elephant signs around water sources’ is a simple, low cost and reliable technique, widely applicable across Asian elephant range.

Effects of climate change on subtropical forests of South America | pages 423-437
Silvia Pacheco, Lucio R. Malizia and L. Cayuela

Premontane forest is the lowest altitudinal vegetation level of subtropical Andean forests in northern Argentina and southern Bolivia (Yungas). It represents a conservation priority due to its biological values, role of connectivity among different forests types and precious timber resources. Understanding forest spatial dynamics is essential for analyzing the impacts of changes of forest distribution on regional biodiversity, and for making decisions aiming to strengthen the regional system of protected areas and planning long-term forest and agricultural production systems. The objective of this study was to determine current and future distributions of premontane forest and of six distinctive tree species in response to climate change, and to relate distribution changes with the current system of protected areas. Distribution models predict a future retraction in the area occupied by premontane forest and a tendency to migrate towards higher altitudes. The species analyzed have several differences in the future individual distributions. Based on this, we might expect that species composition of future premontane forest would be different from the current one, depending on each species’ response to climate change. The Yungas Biosphere Reserve represents a main stable protection area for premontane forest. The results presented here, question the long-term viability of those systems of protected areas that have been designed to conserve particular habitat types and that might be severely affected by climate change. We propose considering the re-design of more dynamic systems, largely integrated with the non-protected landscape and focusing on the regional functionality.

CSR, Oil Palm and the RSPO: Translating boardroom philosophy into conservation action on the ground | pages 438-446
Gary D. Paoli, Betsy Yaap, Philip L. Wells and Aisyah Sileuw

For those who follow social or environmental issues in Southeast Asia, the phrase ‘oil palm development’ evokes stark images of expanding monoculture plantations, elimination of native biodiversity, pollution of water-courses, and the marginalization of disempowered local communities. In an effort to transform this image and the business as usual practices that lead to it, the palm oil industry and other concerned parties have been taking steps to promote socially and environmentally responsible practices throughout the oil palm supply chain. The initiative has taken root through a third-party certification scheme established by the multi-stakeholder Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO, www.rspo.org). Eight years running, the RSPO has made substantial inroads to improve the environmental and social performance of Southeast Asia’s largest, most profitable and fastest growing plantation industry. Yet, serious challenges remain for RSPO to achieve its goal of mainstreaming responsible practices throughout the industry. Based on experiences working with multi-stakeholder groups to implement RSPO, including industry, government, local communities and NGOs, this paper highlights areas where further change is required by palm oil producers, as well as the broader RSPO membership to build on recent achievements and accelerate progress. Major changes necessary include: (i) better translation of progressive boardroom philosophies into responsible practice on the ground, (ii) pushing RSPO member processors & traders, manufacturers and retailers, who profit from palm oil, to share the cost burden of implementing sustainability in plantations, (iii) expanding and strengthening NGO partnerships with companies to provide the social and environmental expertise companies require but still lack, and (iv) creating a more supportive regulatory framework in producer countries to help companies implement sustainability. The paper concludes that challenges to RSPO progress can be overcome, and it will require coordinated action to ensure that the scale and pace of change on the ground delivers long-term benefits for the environment before it is too late.

L’utilisation du dina comme outil de gouvernance des ressources naturelles : leçons tirés de Velondriake, sud-ouest de Madagascar (with an Addendum in English)
The use of dina as a natural resource governance tool; lessons learned from Velondriake, south-west Madagascar | pages 447-472 Gildas Andriamalala and Charlie J. Gardner

In Madagascar, the state has historically struggled to effectively govern land and resource use in rural areas, and so has progressively decentralised management authority to local communities in the form of contractual management transfers and a new generation of community-managed (or co-managed) protected areas. In order to govern such sites, the state has adopted the dina, traditionally an unwritten set of rules and social norms that govern life in rural communities. A new analysis by researchers from Blue Ventures Conservation and the University of Kent has for the first time examined the creation and application of such dina as tools for the governance of new protected areas, using a case study of Velondriake, a community-managed marine protected area in southwest Madagascar. The article describes the process of dina creation, from village-level meetings in which rules were decided to the legalisation of the dina in court, and summarises the hierarchical enforcement procedures; rule-breakers are initially tried and fined in village meetings, but the legalisation of the dina allows villagers to call on legal procedures in case local enforcement fails. The authors then discuss several problems encountered with dina application in the area, in order to share experiences and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the approach; these include overcoming social cohesion, which can prevent villagers enforcing the rules against each other. After reviewing the use of dina elsewhere in Madagascar, the authors conclude that such agreements can only be effective when they reflect the wishes of the community, and that externally-imposed dina may lack legitimacy and will therefore not be respected.

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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 3: Issue 3
Table of Contents

Estrada & Butler
Portela at al.
Pinto et al.
García-Alaníz at al.
Pastorini et al.
Pacheco at al.
Paoli at al.
Andriamalala & Gardner

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