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Tag Archive: biodiversity

  1. Mapping biodiversity of forests with remote sensing; the more diverse, the more resilient

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    Posted: 13 Nov 2017 06:55 AM PST  read full ScienceDaily article here

    Productivity and stability of forest ecosystems strongly depend on the functional diversity of plant communities. Researchers have developed a new method to measure and map functional diversity of forests at different scales — from individual trees to whole communities — using remote sensing by aircraft [paving] the way for future airborne and satellite missions to monitor global plant functional diversity.

    Ecological studies have demonstrated positive relationships between plant diversity and ecosystem functioning. Forests with higher functional diversity are generally more productive and stable over long timescales than less diverse forests. Diverse plant communities ….can better cope with changing environmental conditions — an insurance effect of biodiversity. They are also less vulnerable to diseases, insect attacks, fire and storms.

    Researchers from the UZH and the California Institute of Technology / NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory have now developed a new remote-sensing method to map functional diversity of forests from small to large scales, independent of any predefined vegetation units or species information and without the need for ground-based calibration….

    With airborne laser scanning, the scientists measured morphological characteristics of the forest canopy such as canopy height, foliage and branch densities. These measurements indicate how the sunlight is taken up by the canopy to assimilate carbon dioxide from the air and use the carbon to grow. In a canopy with a more diverse structure, light can better spread between different vertical canopy layers and among individual tree crowns, allowing for a more efficient capture of light. The researchers also characterized the forest with regards to its biochemical properties using airborne imaging spectroscopy. By measuring how leaves reflect the light in many spectral bands, they were able to derive physiological traits such as the content of leaf pigments (chlorophylls, carotenoids) and leaf water content

    We can see, for example, if a tree is suffering water stress, and what resource allocation strategy a tree is following or how it adapts to the environment,”

    Fabian D. Schneider et al. Mapping functional diversity from remotely sensed morphological and physiological forest traits. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01530-3

  2. Climate change and biodiversity – recent reports and books

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    • Information on 11 reports released by NGOs, international agencies, and research centers.

    Yale Climate Connections Oct. 19 2017 read full article here

    This post highlights reports on climate change and biodiversity released by environmental organizations, international agencies, and research centers. We present these reports in chronological order; as always, the descriptions are drawn from copy provided by the publishers.

    The October 12 companion post highlighted 12 books that provide overviews of likely impacts of climate change on biodiversity, historical and species-specific case studies, surveys of habitats and ecosystems, and reflections on places, policies, and practices.

    • Species and Climate Change: More Than Just the Polar Bear, edited by Sarah Horsely (IUCN 2009, 46 pages, free download)is likely to have on land and in our oceans and rivers.
    • Arctic Biodiversity Assessment: Scientific Synthesis (Arctic Council 2013, 132 pages, free download)
    • Vital But Vulnerable: Climate Change Vulnerability and Human Use of Wildlife in Africa’s Albertine Rift, by Jamie Carr, Wendy B. Foden, Gemma Goodman, Thomasina Oldfield, Thomasina, and Willow Outhwaite (IUCN 2013, 240 pages, free download).
    • Integrating Biodiversity and Climate Change Adaptation in Activity Design, edited by Jonathan Cook and Diane Adams (US AID 2015, 60 pages, free download)
    • IUCN SSC Guidelines for Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change, edited by Wendy B. Foden and Bruce E. Young (IUCN 2016, 127 pages, free download)
    • Changing Tides: How Sea-Level Rise Harms Wildlife and Recreation Economies Along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, by Lauren Anderson, Patty Glick, Shannon Heyck-Williams, and Jim Murphy (National Wildlife Federation 2016, 40 pages, free download)
    • Adapting to Climate Change: Guidance for Protected Area Planners and Managers, edited by John E. Gross, Steven Woodley, Leigh Welling, and James E.M. Watson (IUCN 2016, 129 pages, free download)
    • Options for Ecosystem-Based Adaptation in Coastal Environments: A Guide for Environmental Managers and Planners, edited by Rebecca Mant, Will Simonson, Matea Osti, Xavier de Lamo and Nanna Vansteelant. (UNEP 2016, 110 pages, free download)
    • Protected Planet Report 2016: How Protected Areas Contribute to the Goals of Biodiversity, edited by Nina Bhola, Diego Juffe-Bignolia, Neil Burgess, Trevor Sandwith, and Naomi Kingston (Protected Planet 2016, 84 pages, free download
    • State of the Arctic Marine Biodiversity Report, by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna group (Arctic Council 2017, 200 pages, free download)
    • SOS II: Fish in Hot Water: Status, Threats, and Solutions for California Salmon, Steelhead, and Trout, based on a report by Dr. Peter B. Moyle, Dr. Rob Lusardi and Patrick Samuel (California Trout 2017, 40 pages, free download).
  3. Diversity of large animals plays an important role in carbon cycle

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    • We have to maintain the diversity and abundance of animals, especially mammals, in order to ensure a well-functioning carbon cycle and the retention of carbon in soils
    • To increase carbon sequestration, we have to preserve not only high numbers of animals but also many different species

    October 10, 2017 Stanford University read full ScienceDaily article here

    With abundant data on plants, large animals and their activity, and carbon soil levels in the Amazon, research suggests that large animal diversity influences carbon stocks and contributes to climate change mitigation….

    …”It’s not enough to worry about the trees in the world holding carbon. That’s really important but it’s not the whole story,” said Fragoso. “We also have to worry about maintaining the diversity and abundance of animals, especially mammals at this point, in order to ensure a well-functioning carbon cycle and the retention of carbon in soils.”

    Although scientists have long understood that animals — through ingestion, digestion, breathing and decomposition — are part of the carbon cycle, the work, published Oct. 9 in Nature Ecology and Evolution is the first to suggest the importance of animal biodiversity rather than just animal numbers in the carbon cycle.

    If we want to increase carbon sequestration, we have to preserve not only high numbers of animals but also many different species, the authors said.

    …The researchers found that soil had the highest carbon concentrations where they saw the most vertebrate species. When they looked for a mechanism that could explain this relationship, it turned out that the areas with highest animal diversity had the highest frequency of feeding interactions, such as animals preying on other animals or eating fruit, which results in organic material on and in the ground. The researchers suggest that these meal remnants bump up diversity and abundance of soil microbes, which convert the remains into stored carbon

    Mar Sobral, Kirsten M. Silvius, Han Overman, Luiz F. B. Oliveira, Ted K. Rabb, José M. V. Fragoso. Mammal diversity influences the carbon cycle through trophic interactions in the Amazon. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0334-0

  4. Herbivores help protect ecosystems from climate change

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    • In the summer, when temperatures were at their warmest in the intertidal zone, biological communities could fare well even if they were heated, but only if limpets were present

    October 11, 2017 University of British Columbia read full ScienceDaily article here

    Plant-eating critters are the key ingredient to helping ecosystems survive global warming, finds new research that offers some hope for a defense strategy against climate change.

    The herbivores created space for other plants and animals to move in and we saw much more diversity and variety in these ecosystems,” said Rebecca Kordas, the lead author of the study who completed this research as a PhD student in zoology at UBC. “We want variety because we found it helps protect the ecosystem when you add a stressor like heat.”

    …The researchers found that in the summer, when temperatures were at their warmest, communities could fare well even if they were heated, but only if limpets were present. “When limpets were part of the community, the effects of warming were less harsh,” she said….

    …The researchers were studying life in the intertidal zone, the area of the shore between the low tide and high tide. This area is home to a community of starfish, anemones, mussels, barnacles and seaweed. As the tide moves in and out, the plants and animals must cope with huge variation in temperature every day, sometimes as much as 20 to 25 degrees Celsius.

    These creatures are already living at their physiological limits, so a two-degree change –– a conservative prediction of the warming expected over the next 80 years or so — can make a big difference,” said Kordas. “When heat waves come through B.C. and the Pacific Northwest, we see mass mortality of numerous intertidal species.”…

    Rebecca L. Kordas, Ian Donohue, Christopher D. G. Harley. Herbivory enables marine communities to resist warming. Science Advances, 2017; 3 (10): e1701349 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701349

  5. Diverse landscapes are more productive and adapt better to climate change

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    • The analyses showed that landscapes with a greater biodiversity were more productive and that their productivity showed a lower year-to-year variation.
    • Landscapes with high biodiversity can adapt better and faster to changing environmental conditions

    Posted: 04 Sep 2017 01:56 PM PDT read full ScienceDaily article here

    Ecosystems with high biodiversity are more productive and stable towards annual fluctuations in environmental conditions than those with a low diversity of species. They also adapt better to climate-driven environmental changes. These are the key findings environmental scientists made in a study of about 450 landscapes harboring 2,200 plants and animal species….

    Jacqueline Oehri, Bernhard Schmid, Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, and Pascal A. Niklaus. Biodiversity promotes primary productivity and growing season lengthening at the landscape scale. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 4, 2017 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1703928114

  6. Measuring global biodiversity change: Essential Biodiversity Variables

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    • Essential Biodiversity Variables constructed from various sources of data and are the underlying variables to assess changes in biodiversity through time can be produced to measure biodiversity change at a global scale.
    • EBVs can be used to measure progress toward key global policies to protect the world from further loss of biodiversity, support sustainable use of natural resources and enhance benefits from these.
    • harmonization of data collection and technical data management as well as legal complications and constraints are key bottlenecks

    August 17, 2017 read full ScienceDaily article here

    EBVs are constructed from various sources of data and are the underlying variables to assess changes in biodiversity through time. They can be used to measure the achievement of targets like the Aichi targets set by the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD) or the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to protect the world from further loss of biodiversity, support sustainable use of natural resources and enhance benefits from these…

    The publication is an outcome of the first two workshops organized by the EU-funded Horizon 2020 project GLOBIS-B: GLOBal Infrastructures for Supporting Biodiversity research

    Measurements of changes in species distribution and abundance underpin policy indicators to quantify population trends and extinction risk for threat categorization, assessments of geographic range dynamics, spread of invasive species, and biodiversity responses to climate change and habitat conversion. The discussions during the two workshops showed that the harmonization of data collection and technical data management as well as legal complications and constraints are key bottlenecks for building global EBV data products on species distribution and abundance….

    W. Daniel Kissling et al. Building essential biodiversity variables (EBVs) of species distribution and abundance at a global scale. Biological Reviews, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/brv.12359

  7. We need biodiversity to save biodiversity in a warmer world

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    July 14, 2017 German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig  see full sciencedaily article here

    Climate change leads to loss of biodiversity worldwide. However, ecosystems with a higher biodiversity in the first place might be less affected a new study. Scientists found that when they experimentally warmed meadows, the diversity of nematode worms living in the soil went down in monocultures, whereas the opposite was true for meadows with many different herbaceous plant species.

    …The last month was recorded as the warmest June ever in many parts of the world. Last year, 2016, was the warmest year in the modern temperature record. … poses direct threats to humans, like extreme weather events and global sea-level rise, but scientists are concerned that it may also affect our well-being indirectly via changes in biodiversity.…Today, ecologists are challenged by the question: what does a warmer world mean for biodiversity? More species, less species, or no change?…”The story is simple; you need biodiversity to conserve biodiversity in a warmer world.”

    The monoculture meadow created for the experiment resembled meadows found in intensively managed agricultural land. These new research findings therefore support conservationists who are advocating for maintaining species-rich ecosystems and farmland to sustain biodiversity, and thus human well-being, in a warmer world. This may help to prevent negative effects of climate warming, although likely with some limitations.

    P. Thakur, D. Tilman, O. Purschke, M. Ciobanu, J. Cowles, F. Isbell, P. D. Wragg, N. Eisenhauer. Climate warming promotes not only species diversity but also taxonomic redundancy in complex environmentsSci. Adv., 2017 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700866

  8. How to Feed the World Without Killing the Planet?

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    • How can we balance demand for agricultural products with biodiversity protection?

    By July 7, 2017 The Nature Conservancy  read full blog article here

    ….Agriculture contributes one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, uses 70% of freshwater resources, and harms wildlife through conversion and fragmentation of biodiversity-rich habitats, water diversions, pesticide poisoning and creation of oceanic dead zones.1–3 And, as the human population grows and becomes more affluent, demand for food production is increasing, especially for luxury products that are more environmentally demanding.4 How can we balance demand for agricultural products with biodiversity protection?

    This question has prompted the land-sparing land-sharing debate.5–7 Land-sparing advocates argue that intensifying agriculture to produce higher yields is a necessary first condition to allow agriculture to contract to a smaller land footprint, providing opportunities for “sparing land for nature.”…The fallacy of the land-sparing land-sharing debate is its seductive simplicity.14….That logic is: ‘Biodiversity fares poorly in agriculture, therefore we must make agriculture as high-yielding as possible, to spare land for nature.’…

    The most immediate way to prevent further agricultural expansion into natural habitats is to have strong environmental policies and governance that prevents the expansion. Over the longer term, however, we can prevent further agricultural expansion by reducing consumption, and its companions, waste and inequity.32 Such solutions are not politically popular because they push back against the growth economy; yet there are three obvious places to start that could yield huge dividends for biodiversity and for current and future quality of life.

    • First, we could reduce meat consumption and the large land area that is devoted to producing it…Reducing meat consumption by those who eat too much, stabilizing it at current levels for those who are eating the right amount (about the size of a pack of cards per capita per day),33 and increasing access to meat for the 2 billion people who suffer from iron-deficient anemia,37 could help to solve several global disease crises at once. Finally, re-integrating livestock into smallholder farms could help to reduce nutrient overloads produced at contained animal feeding operations, reduce the overuse of antibiotics in livestock, and return critical nutrients to the soil and to the diets of small-holder or subsistence farmers.
    • Second, we could reduce the current wastage of 30 – 50% of the food that is produced annually….
    • Third, the growing human population also increases consumption — but we could stabilize human populations at lower levels than currently projected by meeting the unmet need for family planning.42,43 Many families wish to reduce the number of births, but do not have the means to do so. If these unmet needs for limiting reproduction could be met, human population could potentially stabilize at 6 – 7 billion people instead of the 9 – 13 billion people currently projected for 2100.44,45….


    ….Assuming that we could stabilize the existing agricultural land footprint primarily by reducing consumption (as described above) and creating strong environmental policies and governance that ensure nature protection, how should we farm in a manner most compatible with biodiversity conservation?

    …promote wildlife dispersal between protected areas to reduce long-term negative effects of isolation…by strategically restoring or protecting corridors of native vegetation surrounded by or interlocked with the most hospitable types of agricultural habitats, such as agroforestry,49 silvopastoral50 or other diversified agroecological systems,51 as has been proposed for the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.52

    …Use agroecological methods in the agricultural matrix that rely on the underlying biodiversity and ecosystem services,

    …Maintain productive, sustainable agriculture that supports livelihoods of local people living in the vicinities of protected areas. Agro-ecological methods, such as agroforestry, integrated pest management, and livestock integrationimpacts of agriculture on adjacent habitats and downstream regions….these agroecological methods increase resilience to drought, pests, diseases, floods, hurricanes and climate change,51,71–73 and help to preserve the sustainability of the system, by maintaining soil organic matter, water infiltration and holding-capacity, pest and disease control, pollination services, etc.41

    …Invest in agroecological and agronomic research and development to improve yields in diversified systems (with low reliance on external chemical inputs) in different cropping systems and regions.

    Conservationists should instead focus on other research questions and actions that will affect biodiversity conservation more directly….There is an urgent need to understand how different types of agriculture, as well as other matrix types,78 affect the dispersal capacities of wildlife. is critical to determine which agricultural methods create the fewest negative spillover effects into adjacent natural habitats.

    Finally, incorporating socio-economic studies and participatory research can aid in focusing research questions on outcomes that can help inform pragmatic strategies appropriate to the conservation and agriculture needs of a given region.14,52 These types of studies, and others,14 would help to guide specific conservation actions to reconcile biodiversity conservation with agriculture….

  9. Small ‘weedy’ fish species to take over future oceans; acidic waters will reduce fish diversity, mid-sized predators associated with kelp

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    July 6, 2017 University of Adelaide  see full ScienceDaily article here

    The ocean acidification expected in the future will reduce fish diversity significantly, with small ‘weedy’ species dominating marine environments, researchers have demonstrated for the first time…..researchers studied species interactions in natural marine environments at underwater volcanic vents, where concentrations of CO2 match those predicted for oceans at the end of the century. They were compared with adjacent marine environments with current CO2 levels….
    ….”Small weedy species would normally be kept under control by their predators — and by predators we mean the medium-sized predators that are associated with kelp. But ocean acidification is also transforming ecosystems from kelp to low grassy turf, so we are losing the habitat that protects these intermediate predators, and therefore losing these species
    One way this biodiversity loss could be delayed is by reducing overfishing of intermediate predators.We showed how diminishing predator numbers has a cascading effect on local species diversity,” Professor Nagelkerken says. “Strong controls on overfishing could be a key action to stall diversity loss and ecosystem change in a high CO2 world.”A video about the research can be seen at Nagelkerken, Silvan U. Goldenberg, Camilo M. Ferreira, Bayden D. Russell, Sean D. Connell. Species Interactions Drive Fish Biodiversity Loss in a High-CO 2 World. Current Biology, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.06.023
  10. To what extent can ecosystem services motivate protecting biodiversity?

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    • New model marries ecology, economics to determine how to protect biodiversity by managing ecosystem services

    June 28, 2017 University of California – Santa Barbara see full ScienceDaily article here

    ….What financial value should be ascribed to, say, plants that improve water quality or wetlands that reduce flooding and property damage from storms? Many ecology and conservation organizations advocate for making such determinations in the interest of land management. Conservation biologists, meanwhile, argue that putting a price tag on nature could weaken the protection of threatened species that have a lower dollar value.

    Therein lies the core issue in the debate: To what degree will biodiversity be protected by managing for ecosystem services?

    To address this question, a team of UC Santa Barbara researchers has developed a new modeling framework that blends a novel mix of ecology and economics. Their findings appear in the journal Ecology Letters.

    ….The team’s framework generates simple criteria for determining how much the value of the service must exceed the costs of management to financially justify protecting all species. This defines the settings whereby protecting all species is the economically optimal choice. The group examined this criterion for six different services and ecosystems, ranging from the pollination of watermelon to carbon storage along coastlines or in tropical dry forests.

    In some cases, protecting all species in an ecosystem is financially motivated. In others, management solely for financial benefits may leave many species at risk.

    Our results define when managing for ecosystem services alone could leave significant biodiversity unprotected,” Dee explained. “The analysis also helps identify when additional policies such as endangered species regulation will be needed to avoid biodiversity losses.”

    Laura E. Dee, Michel De Lara, Christopher Costello, Steven D. Gaines. To what extent can ecosystem services motivate protecting biodiversity? Ecology Letters, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/ele.12790

    Abstract: Society increasingly focuses on managing nature for the services it provides people rather than for the existence of particular species. How much biodiversity protection would result from this modified focus? Although biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services, the details of which species are critical, and whether they will go functionally extinct in the future, are fraught with uncertainty. Explicitly considering this uncertainty, we develop an analytical framework to determine how much biodiversity protection would arise solely from optimising net value from an ecosystem service. Using stochastic dynamic programming, we find that protecting a threshold number of species is optimal, and uncertainty surrounding how biodiversity produces services makes it optimal to protect more species than are presumed critical optimal. We define conditions under which the economically optimal protection strategy is to protect all species, no species, and cases in between. We show how the optimal number of species to protect depends upon different relationships between species and services, including considering multiple services. Our analysis provides simple criteria to evaluate when managing for particular ecosystem services could warrant protecting all species, given uncertainty. Evaluating this criterion with empirical estimates from different ecosystems suggests that optimising some services will be more likely to protect most species than others.