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Tropical Conservation Science
September 2015 | Vol. 8 | Issue 3 | pages 598 - 862

Editorial Research Articles
    The positive interaction between two nonindigenous species, Casuarina (Casuarina equisetifolia) and Acacia (Acacia mangium), in the tropical coastal zone of south China: stand dynamics and soil nutrients
    Xianzhao Liu, Yuanchang Lu, Yangsheng Xie and Yang Xue
    Stand productivity, species diversity, and soil fertility are the main factors in forest dynamics. Plant facilitation plays an important role in these factors and may promote early vegetation conservation in abandoned fields. In our study, we use 10-year mixed afforestation experiment to show how the vegetation dynamics and soil nutrients in monoculture stands of Casuarina equisetifolia were influenced by Acacia (Acacia mangium) in tropical coastal zone. A. mangium showed better effects on the development of both stands dynamics (aboveground biomass and species diversity) and soil conditions (organic matter and total N) when combined with C. equisetifolia. Our results indicate that mixed afforestation could solve several problems caused by C. equisetifolia monoculture stands, and may improve the structure and function of coastal forest ecosystems.

    Limited seed dispersal may explain differences in forest colonization by the Japanese raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis Thunb.), an invasive alien tree in Southern Brazil
    Michele de Sá Dechoum, Marcel Rejmánek, Tânia Tarabini Castellani and Sergio Martin. Zalba
    Invasive alien species can cause substantial economic and environmental impacts, and are currently considered one of the greatest threats to biodiversity at the global scale. The uninterrupted forest that covered the banks of the Uruguay River and its tributaries in southern Brazil are now restricted to small fragments totaling 16% of its original cover. The forest degradation due to logging and fragmentation facilitated the expansion of the invasive Japanese raisin tree (JRT) in the forest remnants. This tree, native to East Asia, has been intensively planted for different purposes in farms surrounding our study area, the Fritz Plaumann State Park, in the Midwest of Santa Catarina (Brazil). Our main goal in this study was to identify management strategies for the species in order to contain its spread. Based on the results, we recommend a minimum distance from forest fragment borders should be considered a priority for elimination of the JRT plants in order to reduce the intensity of seed arrival in protected areas and in other sites of high conservation value. Fostering the use of indigenous species to replace the JRT through public policies and incentive programs is essential for the conservation of the remaining forest fragments in Southern Brazil.

    A re-assessment of priority amphibian species of Peru
    Laurence E. Jarvis, Ariadne Angulo, Alessandro Catenazzi, Rudolf von May, Jason L. Brown, Edgar Lehr and James Lewis
    There are approximately 588 amphibian species in Peru, of which 111 are classified as Threatened on the IUCN Red List. In addition, 140 amphibian species in Peru remain Data Deficient; very little is known of their distribution, population status and threats affecting these species. In this study we re-assessed the conservation status of 38 amphibian species originally identified as potentially Threatened by von May and colleagues in 2008. As a result of our re-assessment, 14 species changed their Red List category, of which eight changed from Data Deficient to a Threatened category. All the changes were due to an increase in knowledge of the species. The reasons for a change in assessment status were due to changes in taxonomy, distribution, population status, threat status, or previously incorrect information. The main threat affecting the re-assessed amphibian species was habitat loss, with other threats including pollution, disease outbreaks, and collection for the pet trade. Only 53% of the re-assessed species were found to occur in a protected area. The findings of this study indicate the continuing fragility of many Peruvian amphibians and highlight the need for improving their protection and for further research into their population status and threats.

    Deforestation thresholds for phyllostomid bat populations in tropical landscapes in the Huasteca region, Mexico
    Eva S. Ávila-Gómez, Claudia E. Moreno, Rodrigo García-Morales, Iriana Zuria, Gerardo Sánchez-Rojas and Miguel Briones-Salas
    The loss of tropical forests, mainly as a consequence of agriculture and cattle raising, generates landscapes with different levels of deforestation. At which point the level deforestation affects biodiversity? In this paper we detect thresholds or critical points of habitat loss that affect the frequency and abundance of phyllostomid bats, at different spatial scales. Some studies had shown that bat diversity decreases with the loss of forests, but others had not detected changes. Thus, it has been suggested that not all bat species react in the same way to deforestation. We studied the populations of eight species in a gradient of deforestation in La Huasteca region, Mexico, and found three types of response: 1) two species require tree cover at local and landscape scales, 2) four species are more frequent and abundant in areas with tree cover at the local scale, although the landscape may be deforested, and 3) two species are frequent and abundant in habitats with low tree cover at the local scale, but require landscapes with low deforestation. This suggests that bat sensitivity to habitat loss varies among species and is related to the spatial scale of observation.

    An analysis of ecosystem vulnerability and management interventions in the Morogoro region landscapes, Tanzania
    Ojoyi, M. M., Antwi-Agyei, P., Mutanga O., Odindi J. and Abdel-Rahman E. M.
    Natural ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa are highly vulnerable to human and natural threats. A detailed understanding of the right mechanisms that can influence their long term management is a pre-requisite. The use of space based platforms (remote sensing data) was utilized to gain an in-depth understanding of socio-economic factors that threatened the functioning and conservation of vulnerable landscapes in Morogoro region, Tanzania. Statistical analyses used indicated forest fragmentation and burning among leading threats. Results from this study showed low income levels, lack of knowledge on the significance of conservation of natural ecosystems as factors leading towards increased vulnerability of ecosystems. Further, diversification of livelihoods, good institutional frameworks, and development of afforestation programmes were ideal intervention measures in Morogoro region. It is envisaged that methods used and findings from this study can be transferred in other parts of the world facing similar challenges.

    Bird assemblages in a Malagasy forest-agricultural frontier: effects of habitat structure and forest cover
    Ricardo Rocha, Tarmo Virtanen and Mar Cabeza
    Madagascar is a major biodiversity hotspot and is in the midst of severe land-use change, mostly driven by slash-and-burn, smallholder agriculture. Understanding the consequences of these agricultural practices for Malagasy native species is therefore of the foremost importance for the conservation of the nation’s biodiversity. We compared bird assemblages in forest and agricultural areas inside and surrounding Ranomafana National Park, southeastern Madagascar. We found that species richness was higher in forest than in agricultural areas, and that whereas frugivores were especially depleted outside forest areas, granivores had higher species richness in the agricultural matrix. The number of recorded species with forest affinities was highly associated with landscape-scale forest cover, while open area and generalist species responded mainly to site-scale habitat structure. Our results demonstrate that while several species can persist in agricultural areas, many others are restricted to forest, highlighting that the conservation of Madagascar’s rich avifauna can only be achieved by the preservation of large tracks of native vegetation. Nevertheless, site-scale vegetation complexity was also found to be beneficial to Malagasy birds and therefore a double-stranded conservation approach, in which landscape-scale forest cover is preserved while simultaneously retaining vegetation complexity within farmland, should be encouraged.

Conservation Letters
    Robots as vectors for marine invasions: best practices for minimizing transmission of invasive species via observation-class ROVs
    Andrew David Thaler, Amy Freitag, Erika Bergman, Dominik Fretz and William Saleu
    Small, low-cost remotely operated vehicles can be powerful research tools for scientists, educators, and conservation workers. However, these ROVs also present a potential risk for the transmission of invasive species. This is particularly the case for micro-scale ROVs that can be easily transported among ecosystems. If not properly cleaned and treated, these robots can introduce novel species into new areas. To minimize this risk, we conducted a series of workshops among microROV users and developed a set of 5 best-practice guidelines to reduce the risk of marine invasive species introduction for microROV operators. These guidelines include: educating ROV users about the causes and potential harm of species invasion; visually inspecting ROVs prior to and at the conclusion of each dive; rinsing ROVs in sterile freshwater following each dive; washing ROVs in a mild bleach solution (or other sanitizing agent) before moving between discrete geographic regions or ecosystems; and minimizing transport between ecosystems.By adhering to these guidelines, ROV operators can take proactive steps towards protecting marine and freshwater ecosystems from invasive species.

Review Article
    Dynamics of logging in Solomon Islands: The need for restoration and conservation alternatives
    Eric Katovai, Will Edwards and William F. Laurance
    Excessively heavy logging has been common in the Solomon Islands for several decades, resulting in severe depletion of the nation’s timber supplies and often-severe forest damage. In this review, we identify major loopholes in the definition of ‘selective logging’ that have allowed excessive timber harvesting to thrive legally. Further, we highlight seven local factors that have facilitated damaging and unsustainable logging practices. We emphasize the need for research into the regeneration capacity of severely logged forests to improve forest restoration. We also propose three broad restoration techniques used in Southeast Asia that could potentially be employed to accelerate forest recovery. Finally, we recommend a ‘conservation-concession model’, in which logging concessions are purchased using carbon-trading or other funds, as a viable mechanism to finance forest restoration in the Solomons. However, we also emphasize that such restoration efforts cannot be achieved in the Solomons without appropriate political, economic, and social reforms. We conclude that the impacts of excessive logging on forests in the Solomon Islands have been environmentally and socioeconomically disastrous and require urgent interventions.

Short communications
    The discovery of two spotted leopards (Panthera pardus) in Peninsular Malaysia
    Cedric Tan Kai Wei, Jonathan Moore, Salman bin Saaban, Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz and David W. Macdonald
    The majority of leopards in Peninsular Malaysia have been reported to be melanistic. We discovered the presence of two individual spotted leopards in Ulu Muda Forest Reserve, a previously under-researched selectively logged rainforest of Peninsular Malaysia. Our findings deepens the mystery of melanism among leopards in the region.

    Potential stressors leading to seedling mortality in the endemic Håyun lågu tree (Serianthes nelsonii Merr.) in the island of Guam
    Thomas Marler and Cameron Musser
    The underlying mechanisms of tropical forest diversity remain ambiguous, and the addition of case studies may help develop a greater understanding. One important community trait that increases plant diversity is high mortality of seedlings in close proximity with the maternal parent tree. When this community trait plays a role in lack of recruitment for critically endangered plant species, the need for case-specific empirical research is heightened. However, the limited number of seeds produced by many endangered species poses restrictions on research capabilities. Guam’s critically endangered Serianthes nelsonii is an example. We have shown that permit restrictions on how seeds can be used need not stop targeted research. By manipulating in situ emerging seedlings, researchers can obtain answers to important questions that can improve species recovery efforts.

Research Articles
    Non-invasive genotyping of Sumatran elephants: implications for conservation
    Alexander Markus Moßbrucker, Isabella Apriyana, Jörns Fickel, Muhammad Ali Imron, Satyawan Pudyatmoko, Sumardi and Helena Suryadi
    The Sumatran elephant is critically endangered due to extensive habitat loss. This has led to the local extinction of the sub species in at least 15 areas of Sumatra and continues to threaten remaining wild populations. A study was conducted combining non-invasive molecular genetics with capture-recapture techniques to estimate and monitor the distribution, size, sex ratio and age structure for the Sumatran elephant population. The purpose of the study was to provide reliable baseline information to better conserve the species within the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape covering 3200km2 in Sumatra, Indonesia. It was found that there are two separate sub populations in the area with estimated sizes of 99 and 44 elephants respectively. This represents a relatively low elephant density compared to other areas where Asian elephants exist. This low density is the likely result of fragmented habitat and the loss of life caused by humans. The Bukit Tigapuluh landscape currently holds the largest known elephant population in central Sumatra, representing a highly valued conservation area in Indonesia. The main threats that need to be addressed are the risk of inbreeding, the illegal killing of elephants and the lack of protected habitat. To overcome these challenges it is suggested that the Sumatran elephant be managed as one overall population in order to avoid inbreeding. The population requires a higher level of monitoring and safeguarding. In addition, a sufficient and secured habitat needs to be provided for the elephants so that they may exist into the future whilst avoiding conflict with people.

    Can footprints of small and medium sized felids be distinguished in the field? Evidences from Brazilian Atlantic Rain forest
    William Douglas de Carvalho, Luís Miguel Rosalino, Júlio Cesar Dalponte, Bárbara Santos, Cristina Harumi Adania and Carlos Eduardo Lustosa Esbérard
    Carnivores, particularly felids, face threats in many regions of the world. They are a crucial piece of biodiversity with important roles in food chains. Therefore, they have been the target of surveys, monitoring and ecological studies, most of which based on footprint identifications, an efficient and low-cost method. In these cases, species identifications may be less accurate due to the similar footprints’ size and shape among felids. We experimented with small to medium captive wild felids of five species: ocelot, margay, oncilla, domestic cat and jaguarondi. We tested for differences in footprint size, including main pad and toe pad. We used humid sand as substrate and took measurements from several front and hind footprints of several animals per species. Our results showed that ocelot is the only species for which it is possible to identify based only on footprints, especially footprint area. The remaining species presented a wide variation in measurements, making them almost impossible to distinguish based solely on footprint dimensions. Our results suggest that researchers should restrict identification to the genus level or adopt a multidisciplinary sampling strategy by combining footprint detection with camera-trapping, visual observation, scat collection, molecular ecology techniques, and/or face-to-face interviews with local residents.

    Range extension of the endangered Mexican cycad Ceratozamia fuscoviridis Moore (teosintle): implications for conservation
    María T. Pulido, Maricela Vargas-Zenteno, Aurelia Vite and Andrew P. Vovides
    Cycads are charismatic plants that lived with dinosaurs and survive today. Ceratozamia fuscoviridis, or teosinte in Nahuatl, is a cycad that although it was described in 1878, we did not know enough at scientific level; local people recognize it - perhaps since centuries – is a food resource with a symbolic role. This article is the most complete to date on this species, considering their geographical distribution and their population ecology. For a long time it was classified as "critically endangered", with only one population in the Molango area, composed by 250 individuals. Our work shows that although its distribution is restricted, it is commonly found in northern Hidalgo (Mexico) growing on limestone rocks of the Sierra Madre Oriental, where we find 29 populations, through working together with local people. Populations often have almost an individual per square meter (a high number for such plants). It is present in Cloud Forest, Montane Rainforest and Oak Forests. We propose to classify it as a "endangered" species, implement conservation strategies based on human communities and include it inside the official Mexican regulations (“Norma Oficial Mexicana”) of endangered species.

    Genetic diversity of Boeseman´s Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani) reared in Indonesian farms and comparison with the endangered natural populations
    Media Fitri Isma Nugraha, Laurent Pouyaud, Odang Carman, Utut Widyastuti, Muhammad Zairin Junior, Kadarusman and Jean-Christophe Avarre
    The Boeseman’s Rainbowfish is a very popular ornamental fish endemic to the Ayamaru Region of West Papua (Indonesia). Because of its overexploitation and habitat degradation, this species is considered as endangered. Aquaculture production of Melanotaenia boesemani started thirty years ago to meet the international demand and to limit capture on wild populations. At the moment, the production is still limited and does not account for the total exported fish. Farmers explain the decrease of strain performances by a loss of genetic variability and possible inbreeding. The work presented here, based on the development of variable microsatellite DNA markers, demonstrated that the genetic variability of aquaculture strains is similar to that of wild populations and confirmed the absence of inbreeding. These results suggest that the decline of aquaculture performances is rather due to unsuitable rearing conditions (water quality, rearing systems) than to a loss of genetic performances. They also showed that all the reared strains are originating from the same location (i.e. Ayamaru Lake) and that the wild population from Uter Lake has not been domesticated so far.

    Students’ perception of urban and rural environmental protection areas in Pernambuco, Brazil
    José Severino Bento-Silva, Wbaneide Martins de Andrade, Marcelo Alves Ramos, Elba Maria Nogueira Ferraz, Wedson de Medeiros Souto, Ulysses Paulino de Albuquerque and Elcida de Lima Araújo
    Forests around the world are threatened by the expansion of cities and the areas of agriculture and livestock, despite its importance to humanity. Currently, some forests are protected by law to protect natural resources, and allowed populations of its surroundings continue to use their resources, whether in urban or rural environments. However, the creation of these protected forests has generated conflicts with the people of your surroundings, especially those that rely heavily on its resources. In this study, we compared the perception of urban and rural students on protected areas. Our results showed that most students fail to realize that protected areas are home to forests and rural students have a more positive perception of protected areas and forests. In the city the perception was more negative with the advancement of education because social problems such as lack of security and cleaning, have reduced the importance of these areas. We conclude that the problems are more complex in the cities and managers of protected areas need to interact more with schools and their student community with environmental education differentiated between urban and rural environments in order to improve the effectiveness of protected areas.

    The impacts of oil palm agriculture on Colombia’s biodiversity: what we know and still need to know
    Lain Efren Pardo Vargas, William F. Laurance, Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, and Will Edwards
    Oil palm plantations have been a major driver of biodiversity loss South East Asia, where the majority of the world’s oil palm is cultivated. They are also rapidly expanding in Latin America, especially in Colombia. However, Information on the biological implications of rapid land conversion to oil palm in Latin America remains scarce. To assess the state of knowledge about oil palm impacts on biodiversity in Colombia, we synthetized available information via a literature search and review. The large majority of research has focused on biotechnology, soils, biological pest control, carbon stocks, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and there is a paucity of research on biodiversity. We found just three papers relating to biodiversity and another three relating to landscape planning or land-use change. However, important research on this topic is currently being undertaken. The most threatened ecosystems are savannahs in the Orinoquia region of western Colombia, where most of the oil palm expansion is predicted to occur. Growing demands for eco-certified palm oil are slowly encouraging producers to mitigate their ‘biological footprint’. We highlight conservation strategies that have been implemented in Colombia, and propose research needed to develop best-management practices for oil palm cultivation.

    Native seed dispersers may promote the spread of the invasive Japanese raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis Thunb.) in seasonal deciduous forest in southern Brazil
    Raquel Elise Müller de Lima, Michele de Sá Dechoum and Tânia Tarabini Castellani
    The Japanese raisin tree is an invasive alien tree in the forests of southern Brazil. This species has an unusual type of fruit with dry fruits attached to a fleshy part, that attract animals. The interaction between animals and an invasive plant can help spread the plant into new areas. In addition, the invasive plant may become an essential food item for native animals, particularly in areas where most of the native vegetation has been destroyed or during food shortage periods. Thus, the main objective of this study was to evaluate the interactions between the raisin tree and fruit-eating animals in the forest of Fritz Plaumann State Park, in Santa Catarina (Brazil). We recorded four species of mammals consuming the raisin tree (crab-eating fox, nine-banded armadillo, southeastern squirrel and south American coati) and three bird species (dusky-legged guan, red-ruffed fruitcrow and southern surucua trogon). Intact seeds of raisin tree were found in the feces of crab-eating fox, which germinated. The results suggest the raisin tree has different dispersal mechanisms with which different native dispersal agents are associated. Animals can eat the fruits and defecate the seeds, or eat only the fleshy part and throw the seeds on the forest floor.

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