No substitute for primary forest

15 09 2011

© Romulo Fotos http://goo.gl/CrAsE

A little over five years ago, a controversial and spectacularly erroneous paper appeared in the tropical ecology journal Biotropica, the flagship journal of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation. Now, I’m normally a fan of Biotropica (I have both published there several times and acted as a Subject Editor for several years), but we couldn’t let that paper’s conclusions go unchallenged.

That paper was ‘The future of tropical forest species‘ by Joseph Wright and Helene Muller-Landau, which essentially concluded that the severe deforestation and degradation of tropical forests was not as big a deal as nearly all the rest of the conservation biology community had concluded (remind you of climate change at all?), and that regenerating, degraded and secondary forests would suffice to preserve the enormity and majority of dependent tropical biodiversity.

What rubbish.

Our response, and those of many others (including from Toby Gardner and colleagues and William Laurance), were fast and furious, essentially destroying the argument so utterly that I think most people merely moved on. We know for a fact that tropical biodiversity is waning rapidly, and in many parts of the world, it is absolutely [insert expletive here]. However, the argument has reared its ugly head again and again over the intervening years, so it’s high time we bury this particular nonsense once and for all.

In fact, a few anecdotes are worthy of mention here. Navjot once told me one story about the time when both he and Wright were invited to the same symposium around the time of the initial dust-up in Biotropica. Being Navjot, he tore off strips from Wright in public for his outrageous and unsubstantiated claims – something to which Wright didn’t take too kindly.  On the way home, the two shared the same flight, and apparently Wright refused to acknowledge Navjot’s existence and only glared looks that could kill (hang on – maybe that had something to do with Navjot’s recent and untimely death? Who knows?). Similar public stoushes have been chronicled between Wright and Bill Laurance.

Back to the story. I recall a particular coffee discussion at the National University of Singapore between Navjot Sodhi (may his legacy endure), Barry Brook and me some time later where we planned the idea of a large meta-analysis to compare degraded and ‘primary’ (not overly disturbed) forests. The ideas were fairly fuzzy back then, but Navjot didn’t drop the ball for a moment. He immediately went out and got Tien Ming Lee and his new PhD student, Luke Gibson, to start compiling the necessary studies. It was a thankless job that took several years.

However, the fruits of that labour have now just been published in Nature: ‘Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity‘, led by Luke and Tien Ming, along with Lian Pin Koh, Barry Brook, Toby Gardner, Jos Barlow, Carlos Peres, me, Bill Laurance, Tom Lovejoy and of course, Navjot Sodhi [side note: Navjot died during the review and didn’t survive to hear the good news that the paper was finally accepted].

Using data from 138 studies from Asia, South America and Africa comprising 2220 pair-wise comparisons of biodiversity ‘values’ between forests that had undergone some sort of disturbance (everything from selective logging through to regenerating pasture) and adjacent primary forests, we can now hammer the final nails into the coffin containing the putrid remains of Wright and Muller-Landau’s assertion – there is no substitute for primary forest. Read the rest of this entry »





2010 ISI Impact Factors out now (with some surprises)

29 06 2011

It’s been another year of citations and now the latest list of ISI Impact Factors (2010) has come out. Regardless of how much stock you put in these (see here for a damning review), you cannot ignore their influence on publishing trends and author journal choices.

As I’ve done for 2008 and 2009, I’ve taken the liberty of providing the new IFs for some prominent conservation and ecology journals, and a few other journals occasionally publishing conservation-related material.

One particular journal deserves special attention here. Many of you might know that I was Senior Editor with Conservation Letters from 2008-2010, and I (with other editorial staff) made some predictions about where the journal’s first impact factor might be on the scale (see also here). Well, I have to say the result exceeded my expectations (although Hugh Possingham was closer to the truth in the end – bugger!). So the journal’s first 2010 impact factor (for which I take a modicum of credit ;-) is a whopping… 4.694 (3rd among all ‘conservation’ journals). Well done to all and sundry who have edited and published in the journal. My best wishes to the team that has to deal with the inevitable rush of submissions this will likely bring!

So here are the rest of the 2010 Impact Factors with the 2009 values for comparison: Read the rest of this entry »





Time to cough up for Navjot

27 06 2011

© N. Kantonicolas

You’d have to have been living under a rock for the last two weeks not to know that our esteemed colleague, great mate and all-round poker-in-the-eyes-of-convention, Professor Navjot Sodhi, died tragically on 12 June 2011 of lymphoma. but just in case you were under a rock, you can read about it here.

In the weeks that have elapsed, several amazing things have happened – despite Navjot being a complete bastard (note: I use this term in the Australian parlance meaning ‘one who could hold his own, who could detect bullshit at 100 m, who was a wonderful mate, and an even more terrible enemy’ – in essence, the highest compliment and expression of platonic love a man can give to another), his army of students, colleagues, admirers and distant relatives have flown into action to make damn sure he is not forgotten.

First, the outpouring of grief and accolades in the blogosphere hit a pick the week following his death (see here, here and here for examples). There was even a Facebook tribute page established within days. It just so happened too that he died during the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation‘s annual meeting in Arusha, Tanzania (and with whom Navjot was a council member). I have heard from the likes of Bill Laurance, Luke Gibson, Nigel Stork and others that the meeting ended up essentially being in honour of Navjot once everyone heard the dreadful news. Read the rest of this entry »





The rarity paradox

22 06 2011

© C. Madden

My friend and colleague at the Centre National de Recherche Scientfique (CNRS), Laboratoire d’Ecologie Systématique & Evolution based at the Université Paris-Sud in France, Dr. Franck ‘Allee EffectCourchamp, has asked me to help him out finding a suitable candidate for what sounds like a very cool job. If you’re in the market for a very interesting and highly relevant conservation post-doctoral fellowship, please read on.

And even if you’re not looking for a position, but are interested in the anthropogenic Allee effect, then by all means, please read on as well.

This two-year fellowship is part of a grant focused on demonstrating the novel rarity paradox, either in new wildlife trade markets (i.e., exotic pets, traditional medicine, et cetera) or in newly exploited species (e.g., tibetan antilope, seahorses, et cetera). Read the rest of this entry »





The evil sextet

18 05 2011

This post doubles as a Conservation Classic and a new take on an old concept. It’s new in the sense that it updates what we believe is an advance on a major milestone in conservation biology, even though some of the add-on concepts themselves have been around for a while.

First, the classic.

The ‘evil quartet’, or ‘four horsemen of the ecological apocalypse’, was probably the first treatment of extinction dynamics as a biological discipline in its own right. Jarod Diamond (1984) took a sweeping historical and contemporary view of extinction, then simplified the problem to four principal mechanisms:

  1. overhunting (or overexploitation),
  2. introduced species,
  3. habitat destruction and
  4. chains of linked extinctions (trophic cascades, or co-extinctions).

Far from a mere review or list of unrelated mechanisms, Diamond’s evil quartet crystallized conservation biologists’ thinking about key mechanisms and, more importantly, directed attention towards those factors likely to drive extinctions in the future. The unique combination of prehistorical through to modern examples gave conservation biologists a holistic view of extinction dynamics and helped spawn many of the papers described hereafter. Read the rest of this entry »





Build a bridge out of ‘er

12 03 2011

Apologies to Monty Python and my poor attempt to make the over-used expression ‘bridging the gap’ humorous.

Today’s guest post comes from across the Pacific Ocean. Dr. Sara Maxwell is a postdoctoral fellow with Marine Conservation Biology Institute and University of California Santa Cruz, Long Marine Laboratory. She was kind enough to contribute to ConservationBytes.com about an issue I’ve covered before in various forms – making conservation research relevant for conservation action.

© R. Arlettaz

In a catalyzing article titled “From publications to public actions: when conservation biologists bridge the gap between research and implementation” in the November 2010 issue of BioScience, Raphaël Arlettaz1 and his colleagues Michael Schaub2, Jérôme Fournier3, Thomas Reichlin2, Antoine Sierro4, James Watson5 and Veronika Braunisch2 explore reasons for our hard work as conservation biologists not reaching the implementation phase. This article strongly resonated with my colleague, Kiki Jenkins6 and I, Sara Maxwell. This resulted in a series of letters published in BioScience and now we join together, along with Jeffrey Camm7, Guillaume Chapron8, Liana Joseph9, and Rudi Suchant10 to synthesize our ideas and present them to the larger conservation community via ConservationBytes.

The article that sparked the discussion

In their article, Arlettaz and colleagues highlight some of the main roadblocks to implementing conservation research. The main reasons are that:

  1. The research made by conservation biologists’ does not lend itself well to implementation, i.e., as a community we often focus on the wrong questions or address them in ways that do not lead to practical applications for practitioners;
  2. The outcomes of conservation biologists’ research tends not to reach practitioners and so fails to be put into action;
  3. When we successfully align and collaborate with practitioners, there is a lack of economic or political support to make the changes that need to happen; or
  4. Conservation biologists do not commit to engaging themselves in the implementation of their recommendations due to a lack of reward structure for this behaviour and the conflicting roles of academia and conservation.

Arlettaz and colleagues illustrate how to overcome these roadblocks using a case study of their own work on the endangered hoopoe (Upupa epops) in Switzerland, showing how they followed through the recommendations of their work to implementation and had a direct impact on species recovery. They highlight means by which other conservation biologists can do the same.

Read the rest of this entry »





Conservation is all about prioritisation

4 12 2010

Another great guest post from a previous contributor, Piero Visconti.

Biodiversity conservation is about prioritisation – making difficult choices.

With limited money and so many habitats and species in need of protection, deciding where not to expend resources is as important as deciding where to act. Saying ‘no’ will be crucial for ensuring the persistence of biodiversity and ecosystem services, simply because as individuals who value conservation, we will always be tempted to try and save everything.

In the words of Frederick the Great: “He who defends everything, defends nothing.”

As a result, much recent conservation planning research has focused on offering managers general and flexible tools for deciding which conservation features should be the highest priority. Intuitively, we should direct our resources towards areas that have high biodiversity values, and that are likely to be lost if the forces of conservation do not intervene (the most ‘vulnerable’ land parcels). This approach is known as the ‘minimize loss’ approach. Imagine we are worried about the loss of rare native vegetation in the face of ongoing urban expansion (e.g., Melbourne’s western grasslands). To minimize loss, managers would pre-emptively protect sites that are most likely to be developed. But is this decision to race the bulldozers always the best idea? How much does this choice depend on our assumptions about how land is protected, how land developers behave, and the accuracy of our future predictions? Read the rest of this entry »





They always whinge about the maths

18 11 2010

If you don’t know what a differential equation is, you are not a scientist” – Hugh Possingham 2009

At the end of 2009 I highlighted a new book edited by good mates Navjot Sodhi and Paul Ehrlich, Conservation Biology for All, in which Barry Brook and I had written a chapter. Now, despite my vested interest, I thought (and still think) that it was one of the best books on conservation biology yet published, and the subsequent reviews appear to be validating my subjective opinion.

I’ve given snippets of the book’s contents, from Paul Ehrlich‘s editorial on the human population’s rising negative influences on biodiversity, to a more detailed synopsis of our chapter, The Conservation Biologist’s Toolbox, and I’ve reproduced a review printed in Trends in Ecology and Evolution.

The latest review by Nicole Gross-Camp of the University of East Anglia published in Ecology is no less flattering – in fact, it is the most flattering to date. So this is by no means a whinge about a whinge; rather, consider it an academic lament followed by a query. First, the review:

Reaching higher in conservation

If a book could receive a standing ovation—this one is a candidate. Sodhi and Ehrlich have created a comprehensive introduction to conservation biology that is accessible intellectually, and financially, to a broad audience—indeed it is Conservation biology for all. The book is divided into 16 chapters that can stand alone and are complementary when read in sequence. The authors make excellent use of cross citations of chapters, a useful and often overlooked feature in texts of this nature. In the introductory chapter, Sodhi and Ehrlich eloquently summarize the gravity of the conservation crisis and still retain an optimistic outlook that encourages the reader to continue. I particularly found their recognition of population growth, consumption, and ethics in the conservation arena refreshing and a step toward what will likely become the next major issues of discussion and research in the conservation field. Read the rest of this entry »





The Amazing Paul (Mc)Ehrlich

15 11 2010

© CJA Bradshaw

A few years ago when I first wrote about Paul Ehrlich in our book, Tropical Conservation Biology, I quickly became impressed. His track record is, without any exaggeration, truly awe-inspiring. With over 1000 articles published and almost 50 books, the man has been a scientific writing machine for his entire career. He’s also highly influential in the socio-political sphere, and counts among his close friends some of the most politically and scientifically powerful people on the planet. In a word, he’s easily among the world’s greatest living scientists.

Remember, this was my opinion all before I actually met the man. Travelling through central California last year, I was lucky enough to be invited by Paul’s close colleague, Gretchen Daily, to give a talk at their Stanford University lab. It was fortunate that Paul was about at the time and not off promoting his new book or traipsing through the mountains of Colorado chasing butterflies.

We hit it off immediately and it seemed became mates within the space of a few hours. I learnt then that he and his equally famous wife, Anne, were regular visitors to Australia and that he had a particular love affair going with many Australian wines. I invited him to come to Adelaide the following year, he agreed (and importantly, so did the director of the Environment Institute, Mike Young), and it came to pass. Read the rest of this entry »





September 2010 Issue of Conservation Letters out

13 10 2010

Conservation Lettersfifth issue (September) of Volume 3 is now out. Some good ones here.

CJA Bradshaw





Conservation Biology Students’ Wonder Wiki

8 10 2010

 


© H Grebe

 

After the last full day of Supercharge Your Science in Townsville a few weeks ago, the other presenters and I, plus a few keen punters, headed to the pub for a few well-earned beers. There I had the distinct pleasure of meeting up again with Piero Visconti, a PhD candidate at James Cook University and in the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (we had met previously in July at the International Congress for Conservation Biology in Edmonton).

Piero, in his typically Italian exuberance, was excited to tell me about a Society for Conservation Biology initiative especially geared toward conservation biology students. I said I had never heard of the idea, so suggested Piero write a little post for ConservationBytes.com telling the world about it. Piero has come through with the goods, and so I give you the conservation biology students’ wiki:

About a year ago in Prague at the European Congress of Conservation Biology, a group of students met informally to discuss what the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) could do to help students during their career. The group came up with a bunch of good ideas, but one especially turned out to be a great success: a wiki for conservation biology students.

This wiki would be accessible and open to everyone’s contribution. It would host anything from upcoming events, scholarship offers, grant notices, jobs adverts, advice on writing abstracts, presentations for conferences…etc., etc. The idea there was that a wiki would be a great way to provide students with a continuous and interactive experience with their peers.

Also, there are plenty of useful resources out there for conservation biology students; they just need to be organised into a single, easy-to-access and open website. Finally, with international SCB conferences occurring every two years from 2011, the SCB needed a fast and interactive media platform to stay in touch with its student members and listen to their requests. Read the rest of this entry »





The balancing act of conservation

1 10 2010

Image via Wikipedia

Navjot Sodhi & Paul Ehrlich‘s book, Conservation Biology for All, has just been reviewed in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. I’ve blogged about the book before and our contributing chapter (The conservation biologist’s toolbox), so I’ll just copy the very supportive review here by Rosie Trevelyan.

Conservation Biology for All is a textbook that aims to be a one-stop shop for conservation education. The book is packed with information, is wide ranging, and includes most emerging issues that come under the umbrella of conservation biology today. Sodhi and Ehrlich have brought together a total of 75 experts from many disciplines to provide a smorgasbord of up-to-date conservation concepts and case studies. Leading conservation biologists contribute to every chapter either as authors of the main text or of the boxes that give real life examples of the conservation issue being covered. The boxes add hugely to the information included in each chapter, and many are well worth returning to on their own. Read the rest of this entry »





The conservation biologist’s toolbox

31 08 2010

Quite some time ago I blogged about a ‘new’ book published by Oxford University Press and edited by Navjot Sodhi and Paul Ehrlich called Conservation Biology for All in which Barry Brook and I wrote a chapter entitled The conservation biologist’s toolbox – principles for the design and analysis of conservation studies.

More recently, I attended the 2010 International Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Bali where I gave a 30-minute talk about the chapter, and I was overwhelmed with positive responses from the audience. The only problem was that 30 minutes wasn’t even remotely long enough to talk about all the topics we covered in the chapter, and I had to skip over a lot of material.

So…, I’ve blogged about the book, and now I thought I’d blog about the chapter.

The topics we cover are varied, but we really only deal with the ‘biological’ part of conservation biology, even though the field incorporates many other disciplines. Indeed, we write:

“Conservation biology” is an integrative branch of biological science in its own right; yet, it borrows from most disciplines in ecology and Earth systems science; it also embraces genetics, dabbles in physiology and links to veterinary science and human medicine. It is also a mathematical science because nearly all measures are quantified and must be analyzed mathematically to tease out pattern from chaos; probability theory is one of the dominant mathematical disciplines conservation biologists regularly use. As rapid human-induced global climate change becomes one of the principal concerns for all biologists charged with securing and restoring biodiversity, climatology is now playing a greater role. Conservation biology is also a social science, touching on everything from anthropology, psychology, sociology, environmental policy, geography, political science, and resource management. Because conservation biology deals primarily with conserving life in the face of anthropogenically induced changes to the biosphere, it also contains an element of economic decision making.”

And we didn’t really cover any issues in the discipline of conservation planning (that is a big topic indeed and a good starting point for this can be found by perusing The Ecology Centre‘s website). So what did we cover? The following main headings give the general flavour: Read the rest of this entry »





100 actions to slow biodiversity loss

19 08 2010

I received an email a few days ago from Guillaume Chapron of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet) asking me to promote his ‘Biodiversity 100‘ campaign on ConservationBytes.com. I think it’s an interesting initiative, and so I’ll gladly spread the word.

Teaming up with George Monbiot of The Guardian, the Biodiversity 100 campaign seeks to encourage scientists and others to compile a list of 100 tasks that G20 governments should undertake to prove their commitment to tackling the biodiversity crisis.

Dr. Chapron writes: Read the rest of this entry »





General call for ConservationBytes.com contributions

10 08 2010

After just over two years running this blog, I’ve now built up a pretty good audience of conservation-interested people. The blog now has a monthly view rate of over 12,000 and >80 e-mail subscribers, so the material is being viewed far and wide. I want to thank all of you for your interest and comments.

It seems appropriate then to put out a general call for ConservationBytes.com contributions. I’ve had several guest posts now from students (Fishing for conservationMake your conservation PhD relevant), postdocs (Coming to grips with the buffalo problem) and colleagues (Interview with a social [conservation] scientist, Put the bite back into biodiversity conservation), but these have come to me fairly haphazardly. I’d therefore like to invite short articles from the CB readership to expand the topics covered and provide a more interactive conservation discussion. Read the rest of this entry »





August issue of Conservation Letters and more citation statistics

3 08 2010

Trash fish © A. Lobo

The latest issue (Volume 3, Issue 4 – August 2010) of Conservation Letters is now available free-of-charge online. This issue’s papers include 1 Mini-Review, 2 Policy Perspectives, 6 Letters, 1 Correspondence and 1 Response:





Don’t miss Bill

25 03 2010

Yes, yes, I know I’ve posted only a little under two weeks ago that the venerable William (Bill) Laurance is coming to Adelaide, and anyone even remotely interested in biodiversity conservation would be a fool to miss his talks, and ra, ra, ra…

Well, you would be.

However, I don’t want anyone to miss this opportunity simply because of non-recognition. So I thought it prudent to remind people just how special this visit is, and what a researcher extraordinaire Bill really is. For those not necessarily following the trends in tropical conservation biology (probably not many in Adelaide, at least), you might not necessarily recognise his name.

So, I thought I’d give a little broadsheet of his achievements, Read the rest of this entry »








%d bloggers like this: