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Tropical Conservation Science - Summaries for the June 2014 issue

Short communication
    First Photographic Evidence of flat- headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) in Pasoh Forest Reserve, Peninsular Malaysia
    pp 171-177
    J. Wadey, C. Fletcher, and A. Campos-Arceiz
    The flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) is the smallest and one of the least known felids in Southeast Asia. Flat-headed cats are similar in size to domestic cats and their fur is brown-reddish with no distinct stripes or spots. As their name suggests, they have a depression in the front of the skull, giving the head a flat appearance. Flat-headed cats are known to occur in Borneo, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, and the south of Thailand. But little detail is known about their distribution in these areas, the status of their populations, and even less about their behavior and ecology. Here we report a photographic capture of two flat-headed cats using remotely-triggered camera-traps in Pasoh Forest Reserve, in Peninsular Malaysia. Interestingly, this capture occurred with a camera-trap that had been moved by macaques and was, as a consequence, much lower (10 cm above ground) than it meant to be (30-40 cm). Pasoh is different to other areas where flat-headed cats have been previously described in that it is a highly fragmented landscape and lacks large water bodies that the species is supposed to prefer. Our finding of flat-headed cats in Pasoh is relevant because: (1) it adds valuable information on the distribution of the species; (2) it expands the range of habitats where the species has been previously described; and (3) it points out to the importance of species-specific camera-trap work to study rare species such as flat-headed cats.

Research Articles
    The dangers of carbon-centric conservation for biodiversity: a case study in the Andes
    pp 178-191
    Alvaro Duque, Kenneth J. Feeley, Edersson Cabrera, Ricardo Callejas and Alvaro Idarraga
    The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ameliorate climate change has triggered the launch of programs that aim to avoid deforestation in tropical regions, such as REDD+ (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). Due that the amount of carbon (CO2) released to the atmosphere by deforestation is proportional to the aboveground biomass (AGB) stored in the natural ecosystems, the higher the AGB the higher the probability to get funding to implement conservation programs. In this study, we show that under this sort of “carbon-centric” conservation view, the lack of congruence between AGB and species richness or endemism could increase the risk of extinction of many species that are usually overlooked in plant inventories, such as epiphytes. In the tropical Andes, for instance, the higher AGB stocks reported for lowlands should give them a larger probability than highlands to be included within programs that aimed to minimize the amount of carbon to be released by deforestation. As shown here, this type of initiatives could potentially promote undesired land-use displacements to areas with higher endemism but lower AGB, which will increase species loss and extinction. Overall, our study concludes that there is still a need to develop mechanisms to safeguard carbon-centric conservation strategies against possible negative effects on biodiversity.

    Conservation interests of spatial distribution modelling applied to large vagile Neotropical mammals
    pp 192-213
    Luc Clément, François Catzeflis, Cécile Richard-Hansen, Sébastien Barrioz and Benoit de Thoisy
    The identification of geographic areas of importance for the conservation of species is a complex challenge , particularly for widely distributed species, it is difficult to identify priority areas , including human survival depends . Mathematical models have been developed to define the ranges of species , from incomplete data. By studying the relationship with the natural environment and points of presence proved species , they allow extrapolation to identify the areas most likely presence . Our work was to test the ability of these models to identifer , not only distribution areas , but also areas of higher densities . The study included 15 species, including monkeys, carnivores, ungulates and rodents in French Guiana . We searched the existing statistical relationships between species observation points and vegetation characteristics , altitude and landscape each of these points . For most of these species, the quality of the models and areas identified as richest actually harbored higher densities , as has been validated by field surveys . This work suggests that environmental factors that determine the densities of the species can be identified through mathematical modeling, and that areas with higher densities can be predicted . When these models are applied to indicator species ( species that have such important ecological roles such as predation , dispersal plants) , characterized by the favorable factors zones may thus be useful to build new protected areas, or to identify the best corridors between protected areas . The advantage of this model is so important for the management and conservation of species and their habitats.

    Defining Neotropical otter Lontra longicaudis distribution, conservation priorities and ecological frontiers
    pp 214-229
    Marcelo Lopes Rheingantz, Jorge Fernando Saraiva de Menezes and Benoit de Thoisy
    In our work entitled "Defining Neotropical otter Lontra longicaudis distribution, conservation priorities, and ecological frontiers" we estimate where the Neotropical otter could be found using a computational model. With this analysis we found that the species distribution in the Americas is greater than previously thought, with the addition of various areas outside the limits of the previously known distribution. The method also provided an estimate of the quality in all areas of the species distribution. According to these estimates, the best areas for Neotropical otters were regions with high average temperatures and low densities of human population. We also noted that Conservation Units, have a positive impact in otter preservation despite not being specifically designed for the species. Nevertheless, the Conservation Units still have to improve their quality. Based in our research, we found that Lontra longicaudis is a very adaptable species, being well distributed from Mexico to Argentina. We suggest to IUCN, the institution responsible for classifying species in relation to their extinction risk, to assign the species as "least concern" or "near threatened" categories, which is used for species that are not at immediate extinction risk. Our work is an example that even data as simple as sightings, footprints and feces can contribute to conservation and persistence of species with gaps in the knowledge in its biology as Neotropical otter.

    Significance of remnant cloud forest fragments as reservoirs of tree and epiphytic bromeliad diversity
    pp 230-243
    Tarin Toledo-Aceves, José G. García-Franco, Guadalupe Williams-Linera, Keith MacMillan and Claudia Gallardo-Hernández
    Cloud forests are valuable as reservoirs of biodiversity. Despite their importance, they are among the most rare and threatened ecosystems globally. In Mexico, 60% of cloud forest tree species are endangered and the epiphytic plants that live in their canopies are particularly vulnerable to disturbance and climate change. In this study, we evaluated the diversity of trees and epiphytic bromeliads in four remnant cloud forest fragments of different sizes (1.2, 4.1, 6.6 and 9.8 ha) in Mexico. In total, 45 tree and 18 bromeliad species were recorded among all the sites. Our results reveal that these forest fragments are an important reservoir of both endemic tree species (seven species) and those with conservation status (nine tree species and one bromeliad species). While many species were common at all sites, different species of trees and bromeliads were found in the different fragments. The assessment shows that even very small forest fragments can host high tree and epiphytic bromeliad diversity. Thus, the conservation of even small fragments can play a strategic role in the conservation of biodiversity in the severely transformed landscape of the region. Maintenance of such fragments should be considered in the design of forest management policies and cloud forest restoration initiatives.

    Impacts of forest management on community assemblage and carbon stock of lianas in a tropical lowland forest, Malaysia
    pp 244-259
    P. Addo-Fordjour, Z.B. Rahmad and A.M.S Shahrul
    Addo-Fordjour, P. et al., investigated the impact of liana cutting on community assemblage and carbon stock of lianas in two forests treated by the Malayan Uniform System (MUS) but with different time span of recovery (19 years old and 42 years old) in the Bukit Panchor Forest Reserve, Malaysia. An untreated primary forest was used as a control. The authors report that liana cutting caused considerable reductions in liana diversity and basal area in the 19 year-old treated forest in relation to the 42 year-old treated and untreated forests. Liana diversity and basal area in the 42 year-old treated forest was similar to those in the untreated forest. The authors point out that these attributes of liana assemblages were restored to pre-treatment level in the 42 year-old treated forest.

    Incorporating molecular genetics into remote expedition fieldwork
    pp 260-271
    Shelby Bunting, Emily Burnett, Richard B. Hunter, Richard Field, and Kimberly L. Hunter
    Conservation expedition groups that use volunteer researchers are widespread in the United Kingdom and are growing in popularity around the world. These expeditions operate in regions of high biodiversity to study and protect the endemic species of these areas. Historically, direct genetic analysis of organisms in the field was impossible. The only available method was to combine field trips with subsequent transport of tissues across international borders for later lab analyses. Recent product developments, however, have now made it possible to conduct genetic analyses on-site in remote locations. We tested this with a volunteer-based conservation expedition in a tropical montane rainforest and cloud forest in Cusuco National Park, Honduras. Specifically, we (1) tested the feasibility of conducting genetic analysis in remote field locations, (2) tested the ability of novice volunteers to successfully use these techniques with minimal training, and (3) used the novel techniques to conduct a more detailed population genetic study of American sweetgum trees while on expedition. We found the techniques to be effective on all plant and animal species tested. We also found that novice student volunteers were able to learn the required theory and protocols for the new technology, perform basic genetic analyses, and collect reliable data during a week-long DNA field sampling course. Finally, the sweetgum tree study demonstrated that detailed genetic analyses can be successfully completed in primitive field conditions. These findings have exciting implications for work that can be done in remote locations, often areas of the greatest conservation significance.

    A comparative study on bushmeat consumption patterns in ten tribes in Tanzania
    pp 272-287
    Silvia Laura Ceppi and Martin Reinhardt Nielsen
    We know that the trade and consumption of bushmeat in Africa is a vast business – in Tanzania in East Africa, tens of millions of dollars worth of meat coming from tens of thousands of wild animals is consumed and traded each year. This represents a large threat to biodiversity. To deal with this threat, it is important to understand the driving forces behind it and what can limit it. This study examined a number of factors: ethnicity, hunting habits, the presence of wildlife and ownership of livestock (alternate sources of animal protein), and the wealth of the population. Bushmeat consumption is widespread: 46% of the 300 respondents from ten ecological regions and ten tribes consumed bushmeat regularly. Tribes residing nearby well protected wildlife-rich areas (e.g. National Parks with enough rangers to prevent poaching) consume less bushmeat than people from tribes living close to poorly-protected wildlife-rich areas (e.g. Game Reserves lacking funds to pay for rangers), and even less bushmeat is consumed by communities distant from any protected area. Again, some pastoralist tribes show very little interest towards bushmeat whereas tribes farming pigs and poultry are greater consumers, suggesting that poverty of resources is not the elective driver of consumption, as assumed in past research. The study put forward two important recommendations: 1) Reinforcing protection of wildlife is more effective than provide alternative sources of animal protein and encourage livestock/poultry keeping; 2) Including ethnical and cultural factors in policy design may help to prioritise interventions and focus on specific communities hence optimising use of financial resources.

    Effects of hunting and fragmentation on terrestrial mammals in the Chiquitano forests of Bolivia
    pp 288-307
    Andrew J. Kosydar, Damián I. Rumiz , Loveday L. Conquest and Joshua J. Tewksbury
    In recently fragmented habitats, hunting pressure increases because hunters can reach previously remote sites and search more easily for prey. However, most studies of habitat fragmentation ignore hunting and this could cause us to confound both impacts. In the dry Chiquitano forests of Bolivia, we assessed the impacts of habitat fragmentation and hunting on terrestrial mammals. We counted photographs taken by remote cameras and animal footprints on track-plots in order to calculate species richness and abundance in protected forests, contiguous forests with hunting, and fragmented forests with hunting. We found that hunting negatively impacted the abundances of nine of 17 populations studied (e.g. peccaries, cats, armadillos, tapirs, deer) while fragmentation had a negative impact on two populations (margay cats and red brocket deer) but a positive impact on four (foxes, agoutis, coatis, small armadillos). Hunted sites had fewer species than protected sites, whereas the results with habitat fragmentation were inconsistent. We also found that mammals weighing less than 6 kg had larger abundances in fragmented habitats. These results contradict the hypothesis that the combination of habitat fragmentation and hunting would lead to the largest decreases in abundance and species richness. The negative impacts found on species richness and abundances that otherwise would have been ascribed to fragmentation were instead likely due to hunting. This research demonstrates the need to assess the potential effects of hunting when analyzing the impact of habitat fragmentation. Since protection of threatened species from hunting and fragmentation entails widely different management practices, failure to consider hunting might lead to false conclusions and ineffective management recommendations.

    PELLET: An Excel®-based procedure for estimating deer population density using the pellet-group counting method
    pp 308-325
    Mandujano, S.
    Knowing the number of individuals within a population is an essential step for their protection and management. However, in the wild is very difficult to count the total number of individuals due to the secretive habits, the dense vegetation and irregular topography. Therefore, alternative methods that provide an approximation of the number of animals are employed. For deer and other species, the count of feces is commonly used as an index of population size. However, to convert this index to population density requires knowledge of factors such as the number of times a deer excretes, and the persistence time of the droppings before they disappear by the activity of dung and weather. To facilitate this conversion, this paper presents PELLET which is a semi - automated procedure in Excel® to facilitate the calculation and estimation of the density, i.e. number of individuals per km2. The purpose of PELLET is to support deer managers and studies that determine and compare densities in different types of habitats. PELLET comprises four worksheets, the choice of which depends on type of plot and number of field samples. Spanish and English versions of PELLET are freely available online.

    The fate of five rare tree species after logging in a tropical limestone forest (Xuan Son National Park, northern Vietnam)
    pp 326-341
    The Long Ngo and Dirk Hölscher
    With the loss of tropical old-growth forests, many tree species, and particularly rare ones, have become endangered. Although some undisturbed old-growth and formerly logged forests are protected today, it is often unclear whether rare tree species persist and regenerate in such logged forests. In a forested area over limestone in northern Vietnam, we explored the fate of five rare tree species after decades of logging and subsequent nine years of full protection. Three of the species (Excentrodendron tonkinense, Chukrasia tabularis, and Garcinia fagraeoides) are considered specialists for limestone hills, while two of the species have a wider ecological distribution (Parashorea chinensis and Melientha suavis). The results of our field observation revealed that the studied rare tree species still existed as adults after logging and there was regeneration. The densities of these species were however much lower than on nearby un-logged sites. We assume that the potential for recovery remains in the logged forest, which further justifies the full protection of this and other restoration areas. In view of former and continuing over-exploitation and degradation of limestone habitats and species of importance in Vietnam, we consider the studied limestone sites to be important refuges of threatened and rare tree species. The specialist species can also play a significant role for restoration of sites where little fine earth is found.

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