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Tropical Conservation Science
December 2015 | Vol. 8 | Issue 4 | pages 863 - 1139

Editorial Short communications
    Feasibility of using scent-baited hair traps to monitor carnivore populations in Peninsular Malaysia
    Laurie Hedges, Damian S. Morrant, Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz and Gopalasamy Reuben Clements
    Collecting samples of animal material that contain DNA can allow scientists to gain valuable insights into populations of endangered carnivore species. This can include finding out how many individuals remain in a population and whether it is increasing or decreasing in size over time. However, finding samples of genetic material of mammalian carnivores in tropical rainforests is notoriously difficult. One potential way of combating this problem is to entice individuals to stations, baited with scent that could encourage them to rub on specially placed mats. These mats could collect hairs containing usable DNA that could then be used by researchers to monitor carnivore populations. We tested this method in the forests of Peninsular Malaysia, using either fatty acid scent or male fragrance as bait and camera traps to monitor carnivores reactions. Successful rubs were recorded for single individuals of two species - the Malayan tiger and clouded leopard. This study suggests that scent-baited hair traps could hold promise for investigating certain ecological questions requiring DNA analysis in Peninsular Malaysia. Additional research is needed to fully elucidate the potential of this technique for conservation monitoring of large carnivores.

    High-temperature tolerance by the endangered Mexican Mayflower orchid Laelia speciosa
    Whaleeha Gudiño, Irene Ávila-Díaz, Ken Oyama and Erick de la Barrera
    Climate change in the neotropics: will this orchid stand the heat? The Mayflower orchid (Laelia speciosa) is a very appreciated plant from Mexican oak forests. In addition to producing beautiful flowers, a juice is obtained from this plant that, mixed into a paste with corn stalk pith, is used to craft religious art found in churches throughout Mexico. To counter (mostly) illegal harvesting, numerous individuals can be generated in the laboratory. However, scenarios of climate change indicate that, precisely, oak forests are among its most endangered ecosystems in Mexico. Biologists from UNAM and the University of Michoacán determined whether the Mayflower orchid will be able to fare these higher temperatures, especially during hot spells, bound to become more common. Plants produced in the laboratory and wild plants had similar heat tolerances, being able to survive exposure to air temperatures of up to 124 ºF, as long as the average temperature does not exceed 77 ºF. However, if the average temperature reaches 86 ºF, the laboratory plants die when exposed to a mere 104 ºF and the wild plants to 113 ºF. The Mayflower orchid should be able to cope with the novel environmental conditions expected to occur during the present century, as long as the most extreme scenarios do not materialize.

    Returning home: movement strategies of Sub-Andean birds in a modified landscape
    Marcela Suarez-Rubio, Carolina Montealegre, Luis Miguel Renjifo and Swen C. Renner
    Birds move to find food, shelter and nesting sites. If for example forest is not continuous, bird’s movement can be hindered or even interrupted completely when the forest ends – a problem for many bird species due to increasing habitat loss and fragmentation. In the tropics, forest habitat vanishes at very high levels and results in a patchwork of structurally very different habitats. These habitats can be forest in different degradation stages, or grassland. This habitat patchwork is additionally intermingling with streets and settlements. All these structures can modify the movement of birds. Particularly in the highland tropical areas, there is poor understanding on how birds respond to such changes. Therefore, we followed Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus) and two understory resident species (Chestnut-capped Brush-finch Buarremon brunneinuchus and Streak-capped Treehunter Thripadectes virgaticeps) in a patchwork of forest and pasture in a Sub-Andean region of central Colombia. Swainson’s Thrush had no detectable difficulties traversing a pasture area. Chestnut-capped Brush-finch and Streak-capped Treehunter (understory resident species) avoided making lengthy flights and used isolated trees and nearby corridors to ease their movement. Providing live fences and isolated trees and maintaining corridors can enhance connectivity aid the conservation of bird species in regions with fragmented forests.

    Enhancing ecosystem function through conservation: threatened plants increase local carbon storage in tropical dry forests
    Juan C. Álvarez-Yépiz and Martin Dovčiak
    Threatened species are usually the main target for conservation science with a species-centered approach that does not consider their functional role in the ecosystem. The authors of this study investigated how emblematic and highly threatened plant species such as cycads and palms contribute to ecosystem function in a seasonally dry tropical forest. The study, located in a Mexican Biosphere Reserve of the United Nations Man and Biosphere Program (MAB), contributes to the efforts of another UN initiative (REDD+: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), which embraces the role of conservation and management to enhance forest carbon stocks in developing countries. The authors found that endangered but locally abundant plant species contributed up to 20% to the total carbon stored in the above-ground forest biomass. A decline in the abundance of threatened plant species could dramatically influence ecosystem function and provision of ecosystem services beyond carbon storage. Synergies between international conservation initiatives with overlapping objectives such as the MAB and REDD+ programs should maximize resources while meeting multiple goals in biodiversity conservation, ecosystem functioning and human wellbeing.

    An assessment of Red List data for the Cycadales
    Paris N. Marler and Thomas E. Marler
    The illegal trade of wildlife has been identified as a major threat to many animals in Brazil, and the birds are one of the most affected groups. Using information from seizures carried out by environmental agencies over a period of 20 years, this study investigated the illegal trade in wild birds in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. The results showed that at least 40 species of wild birds are commercialized in the state, which are used as pets or for food. During the collection period, a total of 1.872 specimens of birds were seized, corresponding for just 1.2% of the animals seized, showing that the illegal trade of animals in Amazon displays a different pattern from what has been found in other Brazilian states of which the birds are the most seized group. Of the recorded species, ten are present in lists of threatened species, evidencing the conservation implications of the illegal trade. Therefore, it is imperative the need to adopt educational programs in schools and in the media, as well as an intensified surveillance to prevent the illegal trade in birds in order to control this practice.

Research Articles
    Impact of shifting cultivation on dense tropical woodlands in southeast Angola
    Johannes Wallenfang, Manfred Finckh, Jens Oldeland and Rasmus Revermann
    Dry tropical woodlands are the characteristic natural vegetation type of southeast Angola. Woodlands have a relatively low density of trees with many shrubs and grasses forming the understorey. The precipitation is seasonal and nutrient content of soils is very low which is disadvantageous for agriculture. Small-scale farmers overcome these poor conditions by slashing and burning the vegetation and after a few years of cropping farmers shift to surrounding areas because the fertility of the soil decreases rapidly. We describe the vegetation of a previously unstudied dense woodland tract, which is preferred for agriculture and compare it to the surrounding open woodland. Furthermore, we examined fallows in the dense woodland to see how the vegetation is regenerating after agriculture ceased. We found that species composition and vegetation structure of the dense woodland differed greatly from the open woodland. The dense woodland is preferred for agriculture because of its better soil conditions and higher amount of plant material that produces more fertilizing ash after burning. Longer duration of land use negatively affects species composition and plant diversity as well as nutrient content in the soil. In the near future, the increasing demand for agricultural land is likely to change the structure and composition of the dense woodland fundamentally.

    Knowledge, uses and practices of the licuri palm (Syagrus coronata (Mart.) Becc.), around protected areas in northeastern Brazil holding the endangered species Lear´s macaw (Anodorhynchus leari)
    Wbaneide Martins de Andrade, Marcelo Alves Ramos, Wedson Medeiros Silva Souto, José Severino Bento-Silva, Ulysses Paulino de Albuquerque and Elcida de Lima Araújo
    We evaluated the known and practiced uses of the licuri palm (Syagrus coronata) made by artisans in communities near protected areas, inserted in the Lear's Macaw field range (Anodorhynchus leari), an endangered bird, which feeds mainly on the nuts of this palm tree. Our study allowed to identify 537 citations of uses which resulted in 31 types of use, divided into four categories: feeding, handcrafts, construction and agriculture. We found a strong correlation between the known and practiced uses and that the relation of artisans with the licuri is complex, being primarily influenced by the income and age of them. Depending on the group of artisans, the age may have a greater importance than the income to understand the uses practiced in the community. These artisans obey to the IBAMA’s ordinance regarding the restriction rules to collect only three leaves per plant, yearly. However, the procedure for dyeing of fibers involves other native forest species. This study shows that people may have adaptive answers to the restriction of collecting that can boost local conservation problems, and also indicates that other studies need to be carried out for the adjustment of the government measures for the conservation of the licuri palm in the region.

    Early bird assemblages under different subtropical forest restoration strategies in Brazil: passive, nucleation and high diversity plantation
    Huilquer Francisco Vogel, João Batista Campos and Fernando Campanhã Bechara
    Based on the existing environmental conditions on a conventional rural property in the tropics, we used three forest restoration technologies with the objective to recompose an area historically used for agriculture in an agricultural landscape in southwestern Paraná state (southern Brazil). The three methods were: 1) isolation of the area against disturbances; 2) row planting of 70 species of native trees; 3) a nucleation system that used the insertion of artificial perches and shelters to attract birds and other animals, plantation of 24 species of native trees in islets, transplant of native soil and seeds, among other catalytic techniques of small initial nuclei of vegetation. Our initial focus was the analysis of the capacity of the techniques to attract and serve as a habitat for wild birds. After monitoring the avian fauna for one year, carried out in the second year after the beginning of the restoration, 58 bird species were recorded, with the greatest biodiversity a result of the method that used nucleation techniques. Thus, if the objective of the ecological restoration were to maximize the presence of a diverse avian fauna at the start of the restoration, nucleation is the most recommended system, because it favors greater heterogeneity of ecological niches and promotes increased biodiversity.

    Investigating constraints on the survival of orangutans across Borneo and Sumatra
    Charlotte Carne, Stuart Semple and Julia Lehmann
    Orangutans are highly endangered and survive only in the fragmented rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. This paper used a modeling technique to try to identify what limits the orangutans’ ability to survive across these islands. The model suggested that the orangutan can not survive in areas where they would need to spend a lot of time resting. If fruit availability is low, orangutans may be forced to eat a lot of low quality foods such as leaves and bark, which then may require them to spend a lot of time resting in order to digest. The model also provided support for the suggestion that orangutans are forced to live primarily alone because it would not be possible to find sufficient high quality food to support larger groups in the relatively unproductive rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra. Finally, the model suggested that orangutans are highly vulnerable to changes in habitat quality across their whole range, and that even small changes could make their habitat unsuitable for survival. This emphasizes how close orangutans are to extinction.

    Bird community diversity in three habitat types in an ecological corridor in the Atlantic Forest of Misiones province, Argentina
    Flavia Romina Barzan, Julián Martín Emanuel Baigorria and Roberto Fabián Bó
    The Atlantic Forest is one of the most diverse and threatened ecosystems in the world due to the increasing deforestation. Thus, restoration and connectivity of forest fragments are crucial to maintain viable populations of forest-dependent species. To provide conservation management recommendations, we studied the bird diversity during two seasons (winter and summer) in three habitats types of an ecological corridor in Misiones (Argentina), which represent different levels of recovery forest: mature forest (MF), secondary forest (SF) and grassland (G). We found high bird diversity in MF, followed by SF and G. When we analyzed the identity of each bird species recorded, we found that BS birds are similar to SF, and most of them are specialist or forest-dependent species. However, G showed different bird species from forests, where pasture specialist and edge species were the most common species recorded. Also, the bird diversity in the studied corridor mainly resulted from the diversity in each habitat, particularly by MF (because of their high diversity). We therefore recommend preservation of both MF and recovering SF due to their high bird diversity and the presence of forest-dependent, threatened and endemic bird species, and the creation of ecological corridors between protected forest remnants of the Atlantic Forest.

    Roads through national parks: a successful case study
    Tim Caro
    Roads through reserves and wilderness areas are seen as a growing threat to protected areas especially in the tropics where infrastructure is developing rapidly and biodiversity is high. Normally economic considerations outweigh environmental concerns and roads are built and upgraded. But in this case study in Katavi National Park, western Tanzania, the far-sighted decision was made not to upgrade murram roads through the Park. Despite specific quantitative information on the potential loss of trees, increased traffic, animal road deaths, litter and adverse effects on tourism documented here, the decision was likely made on general environmental and sociopolitical grounds. This suggests conservation scientists need to work closely with politicians to achieve friendly environmental outcomes in regard to tropical highways.

    Taxonomic, species and functional group diversity of ants in a tropical anthropogenic landscape
    Miguel Á. García-Martínez, Dora L. Martínez-Tlapa, Gibrán R. Pérez-Toledo, Luis N. Quiroz-Robledo, Gabriela Castaño-Meneses, Javier Laborde and Jorge E. Valenzuela-González
    In highly disturbed regions, biodiversity conservation depends on the protection of natural areas and an appropriate management of outlying areas. In this paper we compare the number of ant species among fragments of tropical dry forest, secondary vegetation and cattle pasture, along with their taxonomic diversity (supra-specific variation) and their representation by functional groups (species with similar nesting and food habits). We captured 34,957 ants belonging to 89 species. The faunas associated with each studied environment were different, indicating that each of these environments is important for insect conservation at regional level. Tropical dry forest had the highest number of species and functional groups, followed by secondary forest and pasture. Species with specialized habits were more frequently found in the forest while generalist species dominated in pasture. Conservation of natural vegetation fragments in disturbed regions is important for biodiversity conservation because they serve as a refuge for species that are not adapted to other environments. The areas on the periphery of protected areas should also be included in regional conservation strategies in order to increase the number of species at the landscape level.

    Changes in the diversity of evergreen and deciduous species during natural recovery following clear cutting in a subtropical evergreen-deciduous broadleaved mixed forest of central China
    Yongtao Huang, Xunru Ai, Lan Yao, Runguo Zang, Yi Ding, Jihong Huang, Guang Feng and Juncheng Liu
    The subtropical evergreen-deciduous broadleaved mixed forest in China has been widely disturbed by commercial clear logging. Examining the recovery process after clear cutting is an important step for rational conservation and sustainable management of the forest. In the present study, we found that the overall diversity and relative dominance of evergreen species increased, while those for the deciduous decreased with forest recovery process, although the dominance of the deciduous species peaked in the intermediate stage of succession. Changes in species compositions during the recovery process were closely related with the abiotic environment . Our study suggests that clear cutting has greatly changed the diversity and composition of the subtropical forest ecosystem. The commercial clear logging should be stopped due to its disastrous impacts on biodiversity, especially on the endemic evergreen species. Our results revealed that deciduous species can quickly occupy and dominate disturbed habitats , however, the evergreen species (a great proportion of it is the local endemic species) need more time to recover after clear-cutting. The relative ratio of evergreen/deciduous species could be regarded as an important indicator of recovery degree and could be used in making conservation and restoration strategies for the subtropical evergreen-deciduous broadleaved mixed forest.

    Reducing deforestation and enhancing sustainability in commodity supply chains: interactions between governance interventions and cattle certification in Brazil
    Helena Nery Alves-Pinto, Peter Newton and Luis Fernando Guedes Pinto
    Brazil is a key supplier of the global beef market, and also harbours significant biodiversity. The expansion of pasture land is a leading cause of deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil, and so governments, NGOs, and others are trying to lessen the environmental impacts of cattle production, through the implementation of regulations, incentive programs, and initiatives to promote better management practices. One recent idea is to certify sustainable cattle production: farmers can voluntarily comply with a strict set of environmental and social standards and, in return, label their beef as Rainforest Alliance certified. The new program began at a small scale, and so this research aimed to understand whether existing regulations, programs, and initiatives will complement the certification program, helping it to grow and to affect cattle production at scale. Interviews with experts from environmental agencies and from across the cattle industry revealed that the combination of existing mechanisms are helping to increase environmental compliance, encourage best practices, and monitor deforestation. In aggregate, these actions may help more ranchers to reach a level of sustainability whereby certification is a viable option for them. Greater coordination between mechanisms would further reduce the environmental impact of cattle in Brazil.

    Trends in illegal trade of wild birds in Amazonas state, Brazil
    Carlos Augusto Rodrigues do Nascimento, Robson Esteves Czaban and Rômulo Romeu Nóbrega Alves
    The illegal trade of wildlife has been identified as a major threat to many animals in Brazil, and the birds are one of the most affected groups. Using information from seizures carried out by environmental agencies over a period of 20 years, this study investigated the illegal trade in wild birds in the state of Amazonas, Brazil. The results showed that at least 40 species of wild birds are commercialized in the state, which are used as pets or for food. During the collection period, a total of 1.872 specimens of birds were seized, corresponding for just 1.2% of the animals seized, showing that the illegal trade of animals in Amazon displays a different pattern from what has been found in other Brazilian states of which the birds are the most seized group. Of the recorded species, ten are present in lists of threatened species, evidencing the conservation implications of the illegal trade. Therefore, it is imperative the need to adopt educational programs in schools and in the media, as well as an intensified surveillance to prevent the illegal trade in birds in order to control this practice.

    Evaluating the relationship between white-tailed deer and environmental conditions using spatially autocorrelated data in tropical dry forests of central Mexico
    Carlos A. Yañez-Arenas and Salvador Mandujano
    In this paper we show that when there is any pattern of spatial dependence in local estimates of white tailed deer population density, it is necessary to apply spatially explicit regression methods to assess the relationship between density and environmental conditions. If we employ traditional regression methods under this circumstances we may obtain biased results and misidentify what are the real factors associated white deer density.

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Volume 8: Issue 4
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