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Tropical Conservation Science
December 2012 | Vol. 5 | Issue 4 | pages 417-520

Last chance to see: the role of phylogeography in the preservation of tropical biodiversity | pages 417-425
Peggy Macqueen

Human-induced climate change and the destruction of forest habitats are serious threats to biological diversity. As almost half of the world’s species are found in tropical forests and deforestation in tropical regions accounts for up to 17% of global greenhouse emissions, stopping the loss of this habitat is critical. An international initiative, ‘REDD+’ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), has been established to provide incentives to developing countries for stopping tropical deforestation and conserving biodiversity. But in order to effectively combine the goals of carbon storage and species conservation, we need more information about existing levels of biodiversity in the targeted regions. In particular, we need to look below the species level and consider diversity at a ‘population’ level. This is because conservation of the wide range of genetic variation found within species is critical to their survival as a whole. Phylogeographic studies (the study of genetic variation within species across a region) can provide this kind of population-level information. They can be used to document basic biological diversity, can provide baseline genetic data to monitor changes in genetic diversity over time, and can allow the identification of ‘evolutionary hotspots’ (geographic areas where there is higher than average genetic diversity across a number of species) for conservation. The REDD+ initiative may provide the impetus for this much-needed biodiversity research in tropical countries. Specifically, in conjunction with the recent development of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), it may now be more likely that research at the population level will be considered in planning for the conservation of biodiversity.

Managing the risk of biodiversity leakage from prioritising Redd+ in more carbon-rich forests: the case study of peat-swamp forests in Kalimantan, Indonesia | pages 426-433
Mark E. Harrison and Gary D. Paoli

Forest loss and degradation is a major source of global carbon emissions. Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) initiatives aim to create an economic value for living forests by selling carbon credits acquired through protecting forests on carbon markets. This holds great potential promise for biodiversity conservation. One concern regarding the biodiversity impacts of REDD+ is displacement of threats from high-carbon forests prioritized for REDD+ to forests not currently protected or proposed to be protected under REDD+ (termed “leakage”). This is particularly concerning if those forests storing the highest amounts of carbon, and prioritized under REDD+, do not coincide with those most important for biodiversity conservation. This may result in threat displacement from relatively low to relatively high biodiversity forests, potentially producing negative overall impacts on biodiversity. To help refine management of this risk, we discuss previously overlooked considerations regarding biodiversity threat leakage, suggest novel strategies for managing leakage risk, and outline important questions to address with respect to these. We emphasize (1) that all forests are not equally vulnerable to threat displacement; and (2) that many low-carbon, non-REDD+ forests are highly vulnerable to disturbance regardless of REDD+ activities in high-carbon forests. Suggested strategies for reducing the risk of threat displacement include (1) focusing non-REDD+ conservation funding and efforts on the most vulnerable high-biodiversity forests not scheduled for protection under REDD+; (2) reducing costs, simplifying procedures and encouraging community-based approaches for pursuing REDD+ in low-carbon, high-biodiversity forests; and (3) developing more creative measures, especially fiscal and financial incentives, for protecting vulnerable low-carbon forests. Further inter-disciplinary research is urgently needed to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of these strategies, and for ensuring that REDD+ achieves its substantial potential for biodiversity conservation.  

Why poaching pays: a summary of risks and benefits illegal hunters face in western Serengeti, Tanzania | pages 434-445
Eli J. Knapp

Illegal hunting, or ‘poaching’, is a widespread and ongoing activity around the Serengeti National Park, in Tanzania. Poachers use wire snares that kill a variety of wildlife species and often work at night to better evade anti-poaching personnel. Poached wildlife is dried and sold as ‘bushmeat’ to generate income or used in the home as a supplemental protein source. While poachers and their families may benefit financially and calorically from hunting, the activity itself threatens existing wildlife populations. If populations of important species decrease appreciably, the form and function of Serengeti National Park may suffer. Poaching is not without risks, however. Poachers may be injured and killed by wildlife, or get arrested, fined, and imprisoned if they are caught by anti-poaching rangers. They may also contract disease and miss out on other potentially gainful employment. Despite these risks, poaching continues unabated, especially along the western edge of the Park. The large size of the Greater Serengeti Ecosystem, the high number of poachers, and the limited resources of the Tanzanian government make it difficult to reduce poaching through enforcement. Some research has suggested that community-based programs that reduce dependence on bushmeat by improving peoples’ livelihoods may be a better way to reduce poaching. This study sheds light on this critical issue through an assessment of the costs and benefits that poachers face over their course of their illegal hunting careers.

Factors affecting bushmeat consumption in the Katavi-Rukwa ecosystem of Tanzania | pages 446-462
Peter Mgawe, Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, Tim Caro, Andimile Martin and Christian Kiffner

Bushmeat consumption and trade are now major problems for wildlife conservation in East Africa but the factors responsible for illegal offtake are poorly understood. To investigate these factors, we interviewed 435 households in 11 villages in rural western Tanzania comprising both indigenous people and an immigrant population that has moved into the area over the last 40 years. We found that the number of wild animal carcasses reported to be brought into villages was greater in those situated nearer to an adjacent national park and game reserve than those more distant. In the indigenous sample, bushmeat consumption was more common in richer than in poorer households. This finding challenges the idea that increasing the availability of alternative protein would necessarily reduce consumption of bushmeat. In the immigrant sample, however, we found the opposite pattern. We recommend that conservation education and outreach programs be targeted at both hunters and consumers living near protected area boundaries. We also recommend that careful evaluations be made of whether it is the wealthy or the poor who are eating bushmeat, since this would call for very different kinds of outreach, conservation education, design of schemes for securing alternative protein sources, and pricing mechanisms. Our findings highlight some of the complexities of implementing practical solutions to bushmeat consumption in Africa, and reflect the value of conducting longterm research in rural communities such that reliable information can be collected on illegal behavior.

Vanishing wildlife corridors and options for restoration: a case study from Tanzania | pages 463-474
Trevor Jones, Andrew J. Bamford, Daniella Ferrol-Schulte, Proches Hieronimo, Nicholas McWilliam and Francesco Rovero

Wildlife corridors are thin stretches of land in a matrix of modified habitat that allow the connection between large mammal populations across ecosystems to persist, a vital need to ensure genetic viability of these populations. We report on the loss of corridors for elephants and other large mammals in southern Tanzania. Here, the stunning wetlands in the Kilombero Valley provide an emblematic case study of the most pressing conservation issues facing East Africa. With the rapidly increasing growth in human population, these landscapes are changing , as more mouths require more food, and fertile lowlands becomes overexploited for farming . This comes at a huge cost, as the threats to wildlife and their habitat is also a loss of natural heritage for future generations of local people. Getting the balance right between short-term needs and long-term stewardship of the environment is one of the vital challenges of our times. Our study documented the closing of vital connectivity between the Selous Game Reserve and the Udzungwa Mountains, two of Africa's most important ecosystems, over the last five years. However, evidence shows that not all is lost, and we highlight options for wiser management of the landscape that can restore and protect the important wildlife corridors of Tanzania - actions that have never been more urgent, as new multi-million dollar farming initiatives (e.g. SAGCOT) are currently being proposed for the area. We have the knowledge and tools to conserve ecological connectivity across Tanzania, but do we have the political will?

Recovery of Atlantic Rainforest altered by distinct land uses in northeastern Brazil | pages 475-494
Larissa Rocha-Santos and Daniela C. Talora

Forests are very important in the world, for performing environmental services such as maintenance of air quality, soil and blue water. Due to forest destruction and degradation, these services are collapsing and can no longer be replenished. Understand how forests recover after different disturbances, can help restore areas of much value to the world. The aim of this study was to compare forest areas under different types of disturbance with the same recovery time (60 years) in private reserve in southern Bahia/Brazil. These areas suffered slash-and-burn for agriculture and selective logging in two intensities: low and high (timber for construction and furniture making). Although it was expected that the most aggressive disturbance (slash and burn) present the worst recovery in all aspects studied, this area had a greater number of species than the area of high-impact logging. On the other hand, in areas that suffered logging showed more typical species of conserved forest, indicating better recovery. The results indicate that forest areas replaced by agriculture, require action from government or private management for their recovery, such as planting common species of preserved forests that can’t come back naturally. Already, forest that suffered logging tend to naturally recover, especially low-impact logging that recover only with protection against future disturbances such as hunting, timber or burned.

Nutrient Dynamics in Coastal Lagoons and Marine Wat ers of Vieques, Puerto Rico | pages 495-509
David Whitall, Andrew Mason, and Anthony Pait

The growth of plants and algae in marine environments is often controlled by the amount of nutrients that the ecosystem receives; however, too many nutrients can cause environmental problems. A recent study by NOAA researchers evaluated the extent of nutrient pollution in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Until 2003, Vieques was used by the US Navy for a variety of training activities. As a result, a portion of the island is uninhabited today. The unique land use history of the island allowed scientists to address how human populations are affecting nutrient pollution in the lagoons and nearshore waters of the island. Surface water from forty field sites, visited monthly, was analyzed for a suite of nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus, silica) compounds. Concentrations of nutrients in Vieques were similar to what has been observed in other coastal areas of Puerto Rico. Unexpectedly, there were no differences in nutrient concentrations between the inhabited part of the island and the uninhabited part of the island. One possible explanation for this is that the nutrient levels in the lagoons appear to be controlled by their depth and how connected to the ocean they are, rather than pollution coming from the land. This research is not only important to understand the controlling factors behind nutrient chemistry in tropical systems, but it also serves as a “baseline” of current environmental conditions against which future change can be measured. As the economy of Vieques shifts towards tourism, these data can be used to verify that conservation efforts to preserve the ecology of the coastal waters are succeeding.

Using natural marks to estimate free-roaming dog Canis familiaris abundance in a MARK-RESIGHT framework in suburban Mumbai, India | pages pp 510-520.
Girish Arjun Punjabi, Vidya Athreya, John D. C. Linnell

Free-ranging dogs are a major ecological problem in the tropics, as they often interact with wildlife as predators, prey, or competitors. They are also reservoirs of disease, such as rabies, which can be transmitted to both, wildlife and people. Therefore, dog management is important, which may involve sterilization, euthanasia or other approaches. All management initiatives require systematic monitoring to understand if they are working and such monitoring methods need to be time- and cost-effective. We describe in this study, a simple method that utilizes natural marks on the dogs themselves, along with counts of unmarked individuals to estimate the total number of dogs in an area. Using the method, we found a total of 681 dogs (actual number may vary between 617 to 751 dogs), in a suburban area of Mumbai city, India. The suburban area, Aarey Milk Colony (AMC), measures c. 12.8 km2, therefore this corresponds to nearly 57 dogs every km2 of the area (51 to 63 dogs). The AMC is situated at the border of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a protected area, and leopards (Panthera pardus) are often seen in the precincts of the AMC, since dogs are important prey for them in the region. This pilot study demonstrates the large number of dogs available as prey for leopards, and the high risk of rabies transmission to humans’ dogs possess due to their sheer numbers. We recommend dog control initiatives in the AMC, and our study demonstrates a useful method to monitor such initiatives. This method may also be applied to count other species of feral animals such as cats and pigs, where some individuals can be identified by natural marks.
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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.

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