- Scaling laws predict global microbial diversity — … predict that there are up to 1 trillion microbial species on Earth. These estimates are much greater than previously predicted and emphasise the wealth of microbial biodiversity that remains to be explored on our planet …
- Environmental filtering explains variation in plant diversity along resource gradients — … new evidence to challenge the prevailing theory that resource competition regulates plant diversity along resource gradients …
- The natural history of the South Hills crossbill in relation to its impending extinction — … describes an amazing odyssey, starting with a recent discovery of a new vertebrate species … followed by evidence to show that the species has experienced an 80% decline in its population size in less than ten years due to warming climatic conditions …
- Improvements in ecosystem services from investments in natural capital — … introduces the first national ecosystem assessment in China, with many important discoveries …
- How variation between individuals affects species coexistence — … [the authors] show mathematically that within-population variation in some general situations may have negative effects on the coexistence of two competing species …
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Tags: Anthropocene, bees, biodiversity, carbon, carbon storage, China, climate change, climatic debt, community ecology, competition, coral reefs, decline, defauntation, deforestation, ecosystem services, ecosystems, extinction, Fertiliser, forests, microbes, microbial diversity, mutualism, neonicotinoids, nutrient loading, nutrients, plant diversity, pollination, Soil, species loss, Species richness, sustainability, time series
Categories : conservation
I’ve just returned from a short trip to the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, Karnataka, one of India’s elite biological research institutes.
I was invited to give a series of seminars (you can see the titles here), and hopefully establish some new collaborations. My wonderful hosts, Deepa Agashe & Jayashree Ratnam, made sure I was busy meeting nearly everyone I could in ecology and evolution, and I’m happy to say that collaborations have begun. I also think NCBS will be a wonderful conduit for future students coming to Australia.
It was my first time visiting India1, and I admit that I had many preconceptions about the country that were probably unfounded. Don’t get me wrong — many of them were spot on, such as the glorious food (I particularly liked the southern India cuisine of dhosa, iddly & the various fruit-flavoured semolina concoctions), the insanity of urban traffic, the juxtaposition of extreme wealth and extreme poverty, and the politeness of Indian society (Indians have to be some of the politest people on the planet).
But where I probably was most at fault of making incorrect assumptions was regarding the state of India’s natural ecosystems, and in particular its native forests and grasslands. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: afforestation, biodiversity, conservation, deforestation, forests, grasslands, hotspots, human population, India, restoration
Categories : agriculture, Asia, biodiversity, conservation, corruption, decline, deforestation, development, economics, ecosystem, environmental policy, fragmentation, governance, habitat loss, harvest, logging, rain forests
From the towering kapoks of South America to the sprawling banyans of South Asia, from misty cloud forests to ice-covered pines, forests are some of the most diverse and important ecosystems on Earth. However, as conservationists and foresters try to manage, conserve and restore forests across the world, they often rely on scanty and scattered information to inform their decisions, or indeed, no information at all. This could all change.
This week sees the launch of the Forest Synopsis from Conservation Evidence, a free resource collating global scientific evidence on a wide range of conservation-related actions. These aim to include all interventions that conservationists and foresters are likely to use, such as changing fire regimes, legally protecting forests or encouraging seed-dispersing birds into degraded forests.
Making conservation work
“We hear a lot about how important it is to do evidence-based conservation”, says Professor Bill Sutherland at the University of Cambridge, UK, “but in reality getting a handle on what works is not easy. That’s why we set up Conservation Evidence, to break down the barriers between conservationists and the scientific evidence that they need to do their jobs.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: conservation, fire, forestry, forests, Protected Areas, protection
Categories : biodiversity, conservation, conservation biology, conservation ecology, deforestation, ecology, environmental policy, environmental science, habitat loss, logging, management, reforestation, research
I’ve just read a well-planned and lateral-thinking paper in Nature Communications that I think readers of CB.com ought to appreciate. The study is a simulation of a complex ecosystem service that would be nigh impossible to examine experimentally. Being a self-diagnosed fanatic of simulation studies for just such purposes, I took particular delight in the results.
In many ways, the results of the paper by Osuri and colleagues are intuitive, but that should never be a reason to avoid empirical demonstration of a suspected phenomenon because intuition rarely equals fact. The idea itself is straightforward, but takes more than a few logical steps to describe: Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: carbon, climate change, defaunation, deforestation, ecosystem services, forests, fragmentation, wildlife
Categories : Asia, Australia, biodiversity, biowealth, bushmeat, carbon, climate change, climate shift, conservation, decline, deforestation, ecosystem function, ecosystem services, extinction, fragmentation, habitat loss, harvest, logging, modelling
Yes, it’s a difficult question because it’s not just about the biology – such as resilience and area relationships – in fact, it’s probably more about the socio-economic setting that will ultimately dictate how the biodiversity in any particular area fares in response to disturbance.
In the case of protected areas (that I’ll just refer to as ‘reserves’ for the remainder of this post), there’s been a lot of work done about the things that make them ‘work’ (or not) in terms of biodiversity preservation. Yes, we can measure investment, how much the community supports and is involved with the reserve, how much emphasis is put on enforcement, the types of management done within (and outside) of the reserves, et cetera, et cetera. All of these things can (and have to some extent) been correlated with indices of the fate of the biodiversity within reserves, such as rates and patterns of deforestation, the amount of illegal hunting, and the survival probability of particular taxa.
But the problem with these indices is that there are just indices – they probably do not encapsulate the overall ‘health’ of the biodiversity within a reserve (be that trends in the overall abundance of organisms, the resilience of the community as a whole to future disturbances, or the combined phylogenetic diversity of the ecosystem). This is because there are few long-term monitoring programmes of sufficient taxonomic and temporal breadth to summarise these components of complex ecosystems (i.e., ecology is complex). It’s no real surprise, and even though we should put a lot more emphasis on targeted, efficient, long-term biodiversity monitoring inside and outside of all major biodiversity reserves, the cold, hard truth of it is that we’ll never manage to get the required systems in place. Humanity just doesn’t value it enough. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: Bill Laurance, biodiversity, deforestation, forests, Ian Craigie, logging, management, national parks, Protected Areas, reserves, wealth
Categories : conservation, conservation biology, environmental Kuznets curve, fire, poaching, roads
An exchange on Alert-Conservation.org over the intactness of boreal forests has just erupted. Bill Laurance asked me to weigh in as an independent appraiser of the debate, so I copy my thoughts below. You can read the original exchange between Jeff Wells and Nick Haddad (& colleagues) here.
Despite its immense size, there is little doubt that the ugly second cousin of forest conservation is the boreal region covering much of Alaska, Canada, Fennoscandia and Russia. Indeed, extending some 1.4 billion hectares, of which well over 60% is found in Russia alone (1, 2), the entirety of the boreal forest is more than double the area of the Amazon forest. Yet despite this massive expanse, the impressive biota it shelters (2), and its important contribution to the global carbon (1), nitrogen (3) and oxygen (4) cycles, the boreal is an oft-overlooked region in terms of global conservation priorities and possibilities (5).
The exchange between Haddad & Sexton and Wells regarding the former researchers’ recent paper (6) highlights this problem, of which even many expert ecologists are often only vaguely aware. Wells takes particular issue with Haddad and colleagues’ assertion that the boreal forest is highly fragmented, claiming to the contrary that the (North America) boreal forest is “… truly intact … ”. While Haddad et al. respond that they did not differentiate between ‘natural’ and human-caused fragmentation, my view is that the exchange misses some important concerns about the state of the boreal forest.
Wells correctly points out that the boreal zone in North America is “massive”, but can his other claim – that it is “truly intact” – stand up to scrutiny? Citing one of my own papers from 2009 (2) to demonstrate (correctly) that the boreal forest of North America holds a stunning array of species, Wells neglects to highlight that in that same paper we also identified the extensive, artificial fragmentation that has occurred there and in other parts of the boreal zone over the last few decades. For example, we showed clearly that only 44% of the entire biome is considered to be ‘intact’, defining the term precisely as “areas ≥ 500 km2, internally undivided by infrastructure (e.g., roads) and with linear dimensions ≥ 10 km”. Satellite imagery has also confirmed that between 2000 and 2005, the boreal biome experienced the largest area of gross forest cover loss compared to any other (7). Despite recent evidence that so-called edge effects (characteristics of a disturbed matrix that penetrate some distance into habitat fragments) are probably of a smaller spatial magnitude in boreal compared to other biomes (8), it is disingenuous to claim that North America’s boreal forests are “truly intact”. Read the rest of this entry »
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Tags: boreal forest, forests
Categories : biodiversity, climate change, deforestation, fragmentation