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Tropical Conservation Science - Summaries for the March 2014 issue


Review paper
    Distribution and conservation status of amphibian and reptile species in the Lacandona rainforest, Mexico: an update after 20 years of research
    pp 1-25
    Omar Hernández-Ordóñez, Miguel Martínez-Ramos, Víctor Arroyo-Rodríguez, Adriana González-Hernández, Arturo González-Zamora, Diego A. Zárate, Víctor H. Reynoso.
    This paper presents an updated list of the diversity of amphibians and reptiles in the Lacandona region, Mexico, and actualized information on their distribution and conservation status. We reviewed databases of scientific collections and published herpetological lists, and added new records from our 2007 to 2013 surveys in the southeastern Lacandona rainforest. In total, we found 124 species (89 reptiles and 35 amphibians) in the region. Nine amphibians (25.7%) and two (2.2%) reptiles are endemic to the Mayan forest. Four amphibians and three reptiles appeared to be restricted to the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, suggesting that they are particularly vulnerable to habitat loss and degradation. On average, the region shares less than 60% of the species with neighboring Mexican tropical forests. Seven species are under a risk category within the Mexican government threatened species list. Our findings therefore indicate that Lacandona is of great importance for the conservation of the Mesoamerican herpetofauna. Nevertheless, increasing deforestation levels add further uncertainties to the maintenance of amphibians and reptiles in the region.

Conservation Letter
    Building a species conservation strategy for the brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba clamitans) in Argentina
    pp 26-34
    Ilaria Agostini, Ingrid Holzmann, Mario S. Di Bitetti, Luciana I. Oklander, Martín M. Kowalewski, Pablo M. Beldomnico, Silvina Goenaga, Mariela Martínez, Eduardo S. Moreno, Eduardo Lestani, Arnaud L. J. Desbiez, Philip Miller.
    The province of Misiones, in northeastern Argentina, hosts one of the few remnants of continuous South American Atlantic Forest. This is the home of a very small brown howler monkey (Alouatta guariba clamitans) population, whose presence is restricted to a tiny portion of this forest, and has been driven to the brink of extinction by recent Yellow Fever outbreaks. This epidemic disease is caused by a virus carried by mosquitoes that usually live in the forest canopy and are responsible of virus transmission to humans and monkeys. Howler monkeys are extremely susceptible to Yellow Fever, and an outbreak can decimate an entire population within a short period of time. In Misiones, two outbreaks between 2007 and 2009 have killed several howler monkeys, making the situation of the already small brown howler population highly critical. In March 2013, a group of scientists organized the first international workshop concerning brown howler monkey conservation in Argentina, with the objective of gathering all the available information and better understanding the current situation of this population and the main threats to its persistence in the future. After reviewing data and highlighting Yellow Fever as the main threat, scientists used some new modeling tools (Vortex and Outbreak softwares by IUCN/SSC CBSG) that allowed to shed light on the dynamics of the real brown howlers - disease system. By simulating how variation in one or several factors affect the final probability of species survival, it was possible to gain insight on the importance of each factor (e.g. how frequent are consecutive Yellow Fever outbreaks, what portion of the population disappear after each outbreak, etc.). This enabled scientists to identify the topics that still deserve more research and what are the most urgent actions to tackle these research and conservation needs, in the perspective of building a whole Species Conservation Strategy for the endangered brown howlers in Argentina.

Short communication
    Spread of the alien tree Piper aduncum via logging roads in Borneo
    pp 35-44
    Michael Padmanaba and Douglas Sheil
    Invasive alien (i.e., non-indigenous or exotic) species are organisms that have arrived outside their natural habitat and actively persist and spread within a new environment. Some of these species are believed to pose a significant threat to native species and ecosystems. Spiked pepper (Piper aduncum), a tree from the American tropics, is one such invasive plant that has become widely established in disturbed ecosystems throughout the tropics. One region that is so far little impacted is East Kalimantan, in Indonesian Borneo, where large areas of biodiversity-rich tropical forest still occur. But impacts may increase as the region is increasingly impacted by farming, timber extraction and other human activities. P. aduncum occurs in southern parts of East Kalimantan but is yet to reach the forests in the north. Concerned that timber extraction roads might facilitate the spread of this species, we assessed P. aduncum’s advance within one timber concession in East Kalimantan that has a well-documented history of road development. We found that while P. aduncum was already well established on the oldest logging roads in southern part of the concession, it remained absent on the newest roads in the north. Comparing road age and P. aduncum spread, and assuming that roads are the principle route for invasion, implies a minimum rate of spread between 5 and 7 km per year. We argue that guidelines and broad scale coordinated strategies are urgently required to better manage and control the spread of alien species such as P. aduncum, and thus prevent invasion of previously uninvaded areas.

Research Articles
    Using potential distribution models for patterns of species richness, endemism, and phytogeography of palm species in Bolivia
    pp 45-60
    Mónica Moraes, Boris Ríos-Uzeda, Luis René Moreno, Gladis Huanca-Huarachi, and Daniel Larrea-Alcázar
    Palm trees symbolize one of the most famous and fascinating groups of tropical plants in the world. The economic importance and ornamental value of some species are undeniable. To date 2,450 species worldwide were described, of which 87 are native to Bolivia, where many of Neotropical palms found its southern and western distribution in the Americas. Based on the current knowledge of scientific collections, publications palms native to Bolivia and tools using GIS , in this study we model the geographic distribution of each species in order to identify areas with high richness and those with highest concentration of endemic species, ie species with very restricted geographic distribution. We detected that the highest concentration of palm species occurs in the Amazon and in the humid Andean mountains of Bolivia, coinciding with the continental patterns that characterize this plant group. The concentration of endemic species would be associated with the east Andean region of the country. Both findings will be key to guide future conservation strategies and research lines of the group; for example, promoting the conservation of palm species inside and outside protected areas and analyzing their vulnerability under a landscape approach.

    Is the current network system of protected areas in the Atlantic Forest effective in conserving key species of bryophytes
    pp 61-74
    Mércia P.P. Silva, Luciana H.Y. Kamino and Kátia C. Pôrto
    Bryophytes are the simplest land plants, lacking vascular system and cuticle, and thus with no control over water loss to the external environment. Consequently, they are efficient bioindicators, disappearing or being replaced by more tolerant species under habitat loss. The formerly continuous and exuberant Atlantic Forest currently has coverage below 7% of its original area and its remnants are small (less than 100 ha), isolated, few protected fragments placed in cultivated, industrial and urban landscapes. In turn, this ecosystem is an important center of bryophyte diversity, dispersion and endemism, sheltering 94% of endangered species in Brazil. Thus, our objective was to verify whether the current Conservation Units network of the Atlantic Forest is really efficient in the conservation of endemic and/or bioindicators bryophytes (key species). To achieve this, maps were made using mathematical models of species potential distribution of ten key species to determine locations in the Atlantic Forest with high probability of species. Subsequently, those maps were superimposed to the current map of the Conservation Units network, which highlighted significant gaps in knowledge of bryophytes, considering that over 70% of the area with high potential presence to shelter endemic and/or indicators of environmental quality bryophytes species are legally unprotected. The central portion of the Atlantic Forest was the region with the greatest potential for occurrence of bryophytes, although with few protected areas, and is therefore a priority for realization of inventories and creation of reserves.

    Movement and activity pattern of a collared tigress in a human-dominated landscape in central India
    pp 75-86
    Vidya Athreya, R. Navya, Girish A. Punjabi, John D. C. Linnell, Morten Odden, S. Khetarpal and K. Ullas Karanth
    A cat out of the bag: monitoring a tigress in a human use landscape in Central India. India is home to 50% of the worlds tiger population despite being home to the second highest human population in the world. Much of the tigers and their management are restricted to Protected Areas in India, but because they range over large distances, they even occur in some human use landscapes. Very little is known about tiger ecology or their interaction with humans outside protected areas in India. This paper deals with a GPS collared tigress in India who lived outside of a Protected Area, in a forest-agricultural land use mosaic during the entire monitoring period of 4 months. The GPS tracking data finds that she moved a minimum distance of 450 km in four months and used an area of about 400 sq km in a human use landscape. She was largely nocturnal and rested in dense vegetation in forest patches in the day and in the night crossed fields, railway lines and roads. Even though humans were active around her daytime resting sites, she was not involved in conflict. An integral part of carnivore biology is their dispersal and in order to do so in India.

    Filling a knowledge gap on the biodiversity of Rhodolith-Associated Echinodermata from Northeastern Brazil
    pp 87-99
    Anne Isabelley Gondim, Thelma Lúcia Pereira Dias, Rafaela Cristina de Souza Duarte, Pablo Riul, Patrícia Lacouth and Martin Lindsey Christoffersen.
    Rhodoliths are individual nodules of calcareous algae that may easily be mistaken for small pebbles. They may form large agglomerates over the sea bottom, being then referred to as rhodolith beds. Their exploration for the extraction of calcium carbonate has raised great concern for the conservation of this ecosystem. The tridimensional shape of rhodoliths permits a large variety or organisms to live associated to their surfaces, reentrances, and even within them (e.g., molluscs, polychaetes, sponges, tunicates, and echinoderms). Knowledge of the biodiversity that utilizes rhodolith beds is still insufficient worldwide, particularly in Brazil. Extensive beds have been mapped in our country, but little is known about their associated fauna. In this study we record the echinoderm fauna (sea-stars, sea-urchins, holothurians, and ophiuroids) that inhabit rhodolith beds at different depths (10 to 20 m) along the coast of the State of Paraíba, located in northeastern Brazil. Thirty-two species of echinoderms were found, some being quite abundant. Rare species and sea-stars threatened with extinction use the studied rhodoliths. Two ophiuroid species represent new records for the State of Paraíba. This study also indicated that depth may influence the associated fauna, which is richer and more abundant in shallower waters (10 m). Rhodolith beds were shown to represent an important habitat for echinoderms and other associated organisms. These ecosystems require priority in conservation initiatives. Their occurrence in shallow waters exposes them to a series of threats. These habitats and their associated fauna must urgently become the focus of research and protection.

    Density, abundance and activity patterns of the endangered Tapirus bairdii in one of its last strongholds in southern Mexico
    pp 100-114
    Authors: Juan Paulo Carbajal-Borges, Oscar Godínez-Gómez and Eduardo Mendoza
    Anthropogenic loss of natural habitats and overexploitation have in the verge of extinction almost one quarter of the species of mammals worldwide. Extinction of any wild species, as a consequence of human activities, is a regrettable event but there are some cases which have a deeper impact on biodiversity than others. Recently, experts from the Zoological Society of London classified mammal species according to its level of threat and evolutionary distinctiveness. In position 34th, among more than 4,000 species assessed, was Baird´s tapir (Tapirus bairdii). Tapirs are the only wild representative of the Order Perissodactyla in the Americas and one of the few evolutionary lineages of large-bodied mammals that survived to the wave of extinctions occurred in the continent during the end of the Pleistocene. Based on the use of camera-traps we generated very detailed data on Baird´s tapir patterns of spatial and temporal activity in one of the few remaining populations of the species dwelling in the El Triunfo Biosphere Reserve (ETBR), Chiapas, southern Mexico. Moreover, we explored the applicability of a recently developed method (Random encounter model) to estimate tapir density based on camera-trap data but without the need of individual identification. Increased availability of data, generated through standardized methods is key to allow meaningful comparisons across time and localities, and to set a baseline to assess population trends of this greatly endangered species. The urgent need of greater research and conservation attention on tapirs is underscored by the recent discovery of a new species in South America.

    Monkeys in a West African bushmeat market: implications for cercopithecid conservation in eastern Liberia
    pp 115-125
    Ryan Covey and W. Scott McGraw
    Illegal hunting of wild primates has led to a dramatic population decline in many primate species around the world, particularly in West Africa. The goal of this study was to examine a bushmeat market in the West African country of Ivory Coast in order to determine how much bushmeat, or wild animal meat, was being hunted from the forests of Liberia. A market in Ivory Coast, along the Cavally River, is supplied daily with illegal bushmeat that comes from the forests of Liberia’s Konobo District. Purchased meat is redistributed to many other local markets or restaurants for personal consumption. We visited the market eight times on one of its busiest days of the week in 2009 and 2010, observing over 723 animals for sale including 264 primates. A host of animals were observed for sale at this market including numerous duiker species including the endangered zebra duiker, chimpanzees, eight monkey species, porcupines, civets, snakes, and crocodiles. Our results predict that approximately 9,464 primates are sold at this market annually. This total represents a significant portion of a primate population that faces many other threats in addition to hunting such as illegal logging, conversion of forests to palm oil plantations, and agricultural expansion. Without immediate protection, primates and other wildlife of Eastern Liberia are at risk of becoming extinct in this area of West Africa.

    Changes in floristic composition, community structure and species diversity across a tropical coniferous-broadleaved forest ecotone
    pp 126-144
    Zhang Junyan, Cheng Kewu, Zang Runguo and Ding Yi
    In the natural ecosystems, an ecotone is a transition area between two distinct plant communities. Due to it connected two different community types (such as conifer forest and broadleaved forest), the species occurred in ecotones may come from both communities and can create a diverse ecosystem thereafter. Compared with two other transition zones, the ecotone represents more dynamic natural system. It may be narrow or wide, and it may be local (the zone between a agricultural field and forest) or regional (the transition between forest and grassland ecosystems). Ecotones are particularly significant for mobile animals, as they can exploit more than one set of habitats within a short distance. In the low altitude tropical forest region of south China, ecotones exist between tropical coniferous forest and tropical broadleaved forest. In this study, we intend to find out the different characters of ecotones as well as the two different forest types. The results of our field observation revealed distinct feature among three zones (coniferous forest, ecotone, and boardleaved forest) in species number, stem density, community structure, dominate species, and tree size in a short distance (ca. 30 - 90 m). Generally, ecotones were more similar to the boardleaved forest, which indicated the species in the boardleaved forest have higher chance to expand into ecotones, which increased the distribution area of boardleaved forest with time in our study region.

    Hunting and use of wildlife in an Atlantic forest remnant of northeastern Brazil
    pp 145-160
    J. Barcellos de Souza and Rômulo Romeu Nóbrega Alves
    The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is one of the most important rainforests of the world. This region hosts different vertebrates species, many of which are vulnerable or threatened as a result of human activities, including hunting and wildlife use. This situation evidenciates that ethnozoological studies are essential in the formulation of plans for the management and proposals for the regulation of hunting. In this study, we analyzed the hunting of wild animals in an Atlantic Forest remnant of northeastern Brazil. We interviewed local hunters that cited a total of 68 species of wild animals, which are collected or hunted for food (mainly), pets and traditional medicine. Additionally, some species are hunted and killed due to conflicting relations with people. The main reasons for the conflicts include attacks on livestock and crop damage. Of the game species cited by the hunters, some are in threatened species lists, reinforcing the need for more efficient actions and public policies that address the region’s wildlife management.

    Spatial and temporal variation in population density of an endemic and endangered bird, the Cauca Guan (Penelope perspicax)
    pp 161-170
    Gustavo H. Kattan, Néstor Roncancio, Yurany Banguera, Margarita Kessler-Rios, Gustavo A. Londoño, Oscar Humberto Marín and Marcia C. Muñoz.

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