Investor creates first tropical biodiversity credits

23 08 2008

Post reproduced from TakeCover08:

An Australian investment company has launched what it describes as the first tropical biodiversity credit scheme, Mongabay.com reports (more detail here).

New Forests, a Sydney-based firm, has established the Malua Wildlife Habitat Conservation Bank in Malaysia as an attempt to raise funds for rainforest conservation.

The “Malua BioBank” will use an investment from a private equity fund to restore and protect 34,000 hectares of formerly logged forest.

The area will serve as a buffer between biological-rich forest reserve and oil palm plantations.

The credit scheme will generate “Biodiversity Conservation Certificates”, which will be sold to bankroll a perpetual conservation trust and produce a return on investment for the Sabah Government and the private equity fund.

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Classics: Declining and small population paradigms

23 08 2008

‘Classics’ is a category of posts highlighting research that has made a real difference to biodiversity conservation. All posts in this category will be permanently displayed on the Classics page of ConservationBytes.com

image0032Caughley, G. (1994). Directions in conservation biology. Journal of Animal Ecology, 63, 215-244.

Cited around 800 times according to Google Scholar, this classic paper demonstrated the essential difference between the two major paradigms dominating the discipline of conservation biology: (1) the ‘declining’ population paradigm, and the (2) ‘small’ population paradigm. The declining population paradigm is the identification and management of the processes that depress the demographic rate of a species and cause its populations to decline deterministically, whereas the small population paradigm is the study of the dynamics of small populations that have declined owing to some (deterministic) perturbation and which are more susceptible to extinction via chance (stochastic) events. Put simply, the forces that drive populations into decline aren’t necessarily those that drive the final nail into a species’ coffin – we must manage for both types of processes  simultaneously , and the synergies between them, if we want to reduce the likelihood of species going extinct.

CJA Bradshaw

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Classics: Red List of Threatened Species

22 08 2008

‘Classics’ is a category of posts highlighting research that has made a real difference to biodiversity conservation. All posts in this category will be permanently displayed on the Classics page of ConservationBytes.com

3_en_redlist_rgb_sitoMace, G.M. & Lande, R. (1991). Assessing extinction threats: toward a re-evaluation of IUCN threatened species categories. Conservation Biology, 51, 148-157.

I was recently fortunate enough to have the chance to speak with Georgina Mace, current president of the Society for Conservation Biology, to ask her which was the defining paper behind the hugely influential IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There is little doubt that the Red List has been one of the most influential conservation policy tools constructed. Used as the global standard for the assessment of threat (i.e., extinction risk) for now > 40000 species, the Red List is the main tool by which most people judge the status, extinction risk, and recovery potential of threatened species worldwide. Far from complete (e.g., it covers about 2 % of described species), the Red List is an evolving and improving assessment by the world’s best experts. It has become very much more than just a ‘list’.

Indeed, it is used often in the conservation ecology literature as a proxy for extinction risk (although see post on Minimum Viable Population size for some counter-arguments to that idea). We’ve used it that way ourselves in several recent papers (see below), and there are plenty of other examples. From extinction theory to policy implementation, Mace & Lande’s contribution to biodiversity conservation via the Red List was a major step forward.

See also:

CJA Bradshaw

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Classics: Minimum Viable Population size

21 08 2008

‘Classics’ is a category of posts highlighting research that has made a real difference to biodiversity conservation. All posts in this category will be permanently displayed on the Classics page of ConservationBytes.com

Too-Few-CaloriesShaffer, M.L. (1981). Minimum population sizes for species conservation. BioScience 31, 131–134

Small and isolated populations are particularly vulnerable to extinction through random variation in birth and death rates, variation in resource or habitat availability, predation, competitive interactions and single-event catastrophes, and inbreeding. Enter the concept of the Minimum Viable Population (MVP) size, which was originally defined as the smallest number of individuals required for an isolated population to persist (at some predefined ‘high’ probability) for some ‘long’ time into the future. In other words, the MVP size is the number of individuals in the population that is needed to withstand normal (expected) variation in all the things that affect individual persistence through time. Drop below your MVP size, and suddenly your population’s risk of extinction sky-rockets. In some ways, MVP size can be considered the threshold dividing the ‘small’ and ‘declining’ population paradigms (see Caughley 1994), so that different management strategies can be applied to populations depending on their relative distance to (population-specific) MVP size.

This wonderfully simply, yet fundamental concept of extinction dynamics provides the target for species recovery, minimum reserve size and sustainable harvest if calculated correctly. Indeed, it is a concept underlying threatened species lists worldwide, including the most well-known (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species). While there are a host of methods issues, genetic considerations and policy implementation problems, Shaffer’s original paper spawned an entire generation of research and mathematical techniques in conservation biology, and set the stage for tangible, mathematically based conservation targets.

Want more information? We have published some papers and articles on the subject that elaborate more on the methods, expected ranges, subtleties and implications of the MVP concept that you can access below.

CJA Bradshaw

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Native forests reduce the risk of catastrophic floods

20 08 2008

A-Pakistan-Army-helicopte-004Each year extreme floods kill or displace hundreds of thousands of people and cause billions of dollars in damage to property. The consequences of floods are particularly catastrophic in developing countries generally lacking the infrastructure to deal adequately with above-average water levels.

For centuries it has been believed that native forest cover reduced the risk and severity of catastrophic flooding, but there has been strong scientific debate over the role of forests in flood mitigation.

Forest loss is currently estimated at 13 million hectares each year, with 6 million hectares of that being primary forest previously untouched by human activities. These primary forests are considered the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet, but this realisation has not halted their immense rate of loss.

Last year my colleagues and I published a paper entitled Global evidence that deforestation amplifies flood risk and severity in the developing world in Global Change Biology (highlighted in Nature and Faculty of 1000) that has finally provided tangible evidence that there is a strong link between deforestation and flood risk. Read the rest of this entry »





Classics: Island Biogeography

19 08 2008

‘Classics’ is a category of posts highlighting research that has made a real difference to biodiversity conservation. All posts in this category will be permanently displayed on the Classics page of ConservationBytes.com

cimage_4c1402ed91-thumbbMacArthur, R.H. & Wilson, E.O. (1967). The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Although this classic book was written before the discipline of conservation biology really kicked off, it has to be one of the more influential in terms of reserve design and the estimation of extinction rates. The original theory was proposed as a determinant of total species richness on islands as a function of island size. Put (almost too) simply the bigger the island, the more species it contains. This ultimately lead to the branch of biogeography/conservation biology that applied ‘species-area’ relationships to habitat fragments to extrapolate total species number and more importantly (in the context of the extinction crisis), estimate rates of species loss. The species-area literature is a hot-bed of critique and polemic, yet no one can deny that this seminal book really kicked off the idea that reduced and fragmented areas are bad for biodiversity. We wouldn’t have nature reserves today if it wasn’t for this simple, yet brilliant piece of work.

CJA Bradshaw

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Tropical turmoil – a biodiversity tragedy in progress

18 08 2008

fragmentationWe recently published (online) a major review showing that the world is losing the battle over tropical habitat loss with potentially disastrous implications for biodiversity and human well-being.

Published online in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, our review Tropical turmoil – a biodiversity crisis in progress concludes that we are “on a trajectory towards disaster” and calls for an immediate global, multi-pronged conservation approach to avert the worst outcomes.

Tropical forests support more than 60 % of all known species, but represent only about 7 % of the Earth’s land surface. But up to 15 million hectares of tropical rainforest are being lost every year and species are being lost at a rate of up to 10000 times higher than would happen randomly without humans present.

This is not just a tragedy for tropical biodiversity, this is a crisis that will directly affect human livelihoods. This is not just about losing tiny species found in the canopies of big rain forest trees few people will ever see, this is about a complete change in ecosystem services that directly benefit human life. Read the rest of this entry »