Tag Archives: wildlife

roads and railways as wildlife movement corridors?

At least, I think that is what this paper in Conservation Biology is about. The key conclusion is that biodiversity impacts (of the roads and rails themselves? it’s unclear) can be reduced by up to 75%. I am presuming this is by locating a linear park of sufficient width along the road or railway. Presumably you might need to do something to keep the animals off the road too. Could a few larger reserves located along the corridor reduce the impact to zero? I would find it very encouraging both to know that it is possible and to know that we have the quantitative tools to accurately predict the outcomes of policy and design choices.

Quantifying the conservation gains from shared access to linear infrastructure

The proliferation of linear infrastructure such as roads and rail is a major global driver of cumulative biodiversity loss. Creative interventions to minimise the impacts of this infrastructure whilst still allowing development to meet human population growth and resource consumption demands are urgently required. One strategy for reducing habitat loss associated with development is to encourage linear infrastructure providers and users to share infrastructure networks. Here we quantify the reductions in biodiversity impact and capital cost under linear infrastructure sharing and demonstrate this approach with a case study in South Australia. By evaluating proposed mine-port links we show that shared development of linear infrastructure could reduce overall biodiversity impacts by up to 75%. We found that such reductions are likely to be limited if the dominant mining companies restrict access to infrastructure, a situation likely to occur without policy to promote sharing of infrastructure. Our research helps illuminate the circumstances under which infrastructure sharing can minimise the biodiversity impacts of development.

U.S. Endangered Species Act

The Los Angeles Times says a Trump administration attack on the Endangered Species Act could be coming. The last paragraph of the article has a links to number of (sincere) criticisms of the act and ideas for how it could be improved.

The act does have its shortcomings. The focus is on habitat preservation, which is important, but scientists now believe there need to be more adaptive solutions, such as public-private partnerships to integrate wildlife habitats with development, and more efficient use of the act as the nation adapts to changing habitats. That should be the road map for revising the act, and conservationists from the left and right need to pressure Congress to ensure pro-development forces don’t destroy the act under the guise of fixing it.

cheetahs: going…going…gone?

In today’s depressing conservation news, cheetahs are in serious trouble.

Led by Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Panthera and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the study reveals that just 7,100 cheetahs remain globally, representing the best available estimate for the species to date. Furthermore, the cheetah has been driven out of 91% of its historic range. Asiatic cheetah populations have been hit hardest, with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in one isolated pocket of Iran…

To make matters worse, as one of the world’s most wide-ranging carnivores, 77% of the cheetah’s habitat falls outside of protected areas. Unrestricted by boundaries, the species’ wide-ranging movements weaken law enforcement protection and greatly amplify its vulnerability to human pressures. Indeed, largely due to pressures on wildlife and their habitat outside of protected areas, Zimbabwe’s cheetah population has plummeted from 1,200 to a maximum of 170 animals in just 16 years – representing an astonishing loss of 85% of the country’s cheetahs.

Scientists are now calling for an urgent paradigm shift in cheetah conservation, towards landscape-level efforts that transcend national borders and are coordinated by existing regional conservation strategies for the species. A holistic conservation approach, which incentivises protection of cheetahs by local communities and trans-national governments, alongside sustainable human-wildlife coexistence is paramount to the survival of the species.

So it’s habitat loss and the relentless expansion of the human footprint, again. Are Africans just particularly callous toward the loss of the natural world? No, Africa is just one of the last places a lot of the large, charismatic animals are left. We had them elsewhere, but we have long forgotten them. Solutions exist. But I am in a pessimistic mood right now so I don’t think this time will be different, the declines and collapses will just continue to come faster and be more obvious until maybe some things will be done, but most likely they will be too little, too late. Too little, too late, but better than nothing. How is that for a silver lining?


What a Fish Knows

What a Fish Knows is what it sounds like – a book about what fish are thinking. From the publisher:

Do fishes think? Do they really have three-second memories? And can they recognize the humans who peer back at them from above the surface of the water? In What a Fish Knows, the myth-busting ethologist Jonathan Balcombe addresses these questions and more, taking us under the sea, through streams and estuaries, and to the other side of the aquarium glass to reveal the surprising capabilities of fishes. Although there are more than thirty thousand species of fish—more than all mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined—we rarely consider how individual fishes think, feel, and behave. Balcombe upends our assumptions about fishes, portraying them not as unfeeling, dead-eyed feeding machines but as sentient, aware, social, and even Machiavellian—in other words, much like us.

What a Fish Knows draws on the latest science to present a fresh look at these remarkable creatures in all their breathtaking diversity and beauty. Fishes conduct elaborate courtship rituals and develop lifelong bonds with shoalmates. They also plan, hunt cooperatively, use tools, curry favor, deceive one another, and punish wrongdoers. We may imagine that fishes lead simple, fleeting lives—a mode of existence that boils down to a place on the food chain, rote spawning, and lots of aimless swimming. But, as Balcombe demonstrates, the truth is far richer and more complex, worthy of the grandest social novel.

Highlighting breakthrough discoveries from fish enthusiasts and scientists around the world and pondering his own encounters with fishes, Balcombe examines the fascinating means by which fishes gain knowledge of the places they inhabit, from shallow tide pools to the deepest reaches of the ocean.

Teeming with insights and exciting discoveries, What a Fish Knows offers a thoughtful appraisal of our relationships with fishes and inspires us to take a more enlightened view of the planet’s increasingly imperiled marine life. What a Fish Knows will forever change how we see our aquatic cousins—the pet goldfish included.

1 billion dogs

I never thought to even wonder how many dogs there are in the world. But according to this article, about a billion. I don’t know if that is morally right or wrong. I like dogs. They are generally benign, kind-hearted creatures, and you could certainly make an argument that the world would not be as good a place without them. But they certainly have an ecological footprint. The article contrasts dogs and wolves, which have been systematically eradicated in many cases. So while dogs are neat creatures in many ways there are probably many wild creatures that might exist out there if they did not. Now we could examine this same moral conundrum with respect to a certain species of intelligent hairless ape…

where are the tigers?

Wild tiger populations are critically low, but have actually ticked up a bit. Here are the numbers: There are 12 countries thought to have wild tigers, with a global estimate of 3,890. There were 13 until Cambodia recently announced that theirs were gone. India has by far the most, with an estimated 2,226. The next largest populations are only 433, in Russia, and 371, in Indonesia. The rest generally have around a hundred or less.

connectivity and corridors

From Conservation Biology, here’s an article on connectivity and movement corridor models for wildlife:

Habitat corridors are important tools for maintaining connectivity in increasingly fragmented landscapes, but generally they have been considered in single-species approaches. Corridors intended to facilitate the movement of multiple species could increase persistence of entire communities, but at the likely cost of being less efficient for any given species than a corridor intended specifically for that species. There have been few tests of the trade-offs between single- and multispecies corridor approaches. We assessed single-species and multispecies habitat corridors for 5 threatened mammal species in tropical forests of Borneo. We generated maps of the cost of movement across the landscape for each species based on the species’ local abundance as estimated through hierarchical modeling of camera-trap data with biophysical and anthropogenic covariates. Elevation influenced local abundance of banded civets (Hemigalus derbyanus) and sun bears (Helarctos malayanus). Increased road density was associated with lower local abundance of Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi) and higher local abundance of sambar deer (Rusa unicolor). Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina) local abundance was lower in recently logged areas. An all-species-combined connectivity scenario with least-cost paths and 1 km buffers generated total movement costs that were 27% and 23% higher for banded civets and clouded leopards, respectively, than the connectivity scenarios for those species individually. A carnivore multispecies connectivity scenario, however, increased movement cost by 2% for banded civets and clouded leopards. Likewise, an herbivore multispecies scenario provided more effective connectivity than the all-species-combined scenario for sambar and macaques. We suggest that multispecies habitat connectivity plans be tailored to groups of ecologically similar, disturbance-sensitive species to maximize their effectiveness.