Abstract: Although constituting more than 100,000 described species, protists are virtually ignored within the arena of biodiversity conservation. One reason is the widespread belief that the majority of protists have cosmopolitan distributions, in contrast to the highly hetereogenous biogeography of the “mega-Metazoa”. However, modern research reveals that about one third of the known protists have restricted distributions, which endorses their conservation, at least in special cases. Here, we report what probably ranks as the first successful conservation intervention focused directly on known protist diversity. It is justified by unique species, type localities, and landscape maintenance as evidence for legislation. The protected habitat comprises an ephemeral pond, which is now a “Natural Monument” for ciliated protozoa. This wetland occupies a natural depression on the Krauthügel (“cabbage hill”) south of the fortress of Salzburg City. When filled, the claviform pond has a size of ~30 × 15 m and a depth rarely surpassing 30 cm. Water is present only for some days or weeks, depending on heavy and/or prolonged rain. The pond occupied an agricultural field where root and leafy vegetables were cultivated for possibly more than 200 years. In the 1960s, this area became a grassland utilized as an autumn pasture, but was abandoned in the 1990s. Repeated sampling between 1982 and 2012 recovered a total of at least 150 ciliate taxa, of which 121 were identified to species level. Eight species were new to science, and an additional 10 poorly known species were reinvestigated and neotypified with populations from the Krauthügel pond. Both endemism and type localities justify the argument that the “integrative approach” in biodiversity and conservation issues should include protists and micro-metazoans. We argue that Krauthügel holds a unique reference node for biodiversity inventories to obtain the baseline knowledge—which is the prerequisite to monitor ecosystem integrity—and detect and evaluate impacts of natural and anthropogenic disturbances.
Abstract: While multifaceted, a chief aim when designating parks and protected areas is to support the preservation of biological diversity, in part, through representing and conserving the full range of landscape conditions observed throughout a representative area. Parks and protected areas are, however, typically developed using a static interpretation of current biodiversity and landscape conditions. The observed and potential climate change impacts to biodiversity have created a need to also contemplate how parks and protected areas will respond to climate change and how these areas will represent the future range of landscape conditions. To assess change in biodiversity, broad-scale ecosystem information can be sourced from indirect remotely sensed indicators. Quantifying biodiversity through indirect indicators allows characterization of inter-relationships between climate and biodiversity. Such characterizations support the assessment of possible implications of climatic change, as the indicators can be generated using modeled forecasts of future climatic conditions. In this paper we model and map impacts of climate change on British Columbia’s parks and protected areas by quantifying change in a number of remotely sensed indicators of biodiversity. These indicators are based on the measured amount of incoming solar energy used by vegetation and map the overall annual energy utilization, variability (seasonality), and latent or baseline energy. We compare current conditions represented by parks and protected areas, to those forecasted in the year 2065. Our results indicate that parks and protected areas are forecasted to become more productive and less seasonal, due to increased vegetation productivity in higher elevation environments. While increased vegetation productivity may be beneficial for biodiversity overall, these changes will be particularly problematic for sensitive and specialist species. Future gaps in vegetation conditions protected by parks and protected areas are observed in the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains and the central interior region of British Columbia. Protected areas along the Coast Mountains, Vancouver Island highlands, and the Rocky Mountains show the greatest levels of change in the biodiversity indicators, including decreasing seasonality, with the Mountain Hemlock ecozone most at risk. Examples of large parks that are predicted to experience rapid change in vegetation characteristics include Strathcona, Garabaldi, and Kitlope. Our maps of future spatial distributions of indirect biodiversity indicators fill a gap in information products available for adaptive parks management and provide an opportunity for dialogue and further research on the use of future scenarios of landscape conditions in conservation planning.
Abstract: Land cover change has been one of the major drivers of change leading to an alteration of critical habitats for many of the threatened species worldwide. Species with a narrow range and specialized habitats such as wetland ecosystems are at higher risk. The present paper describes spatial and temporal land use and cover change over the period of last 34 years (1976–2010) in the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve (KTWR), Nepal. High spatial resolution Indian Remote-Sensing Satellite (IRS) Linear Imaging and Self Scanning Sensor (LISS-4) from 2005 and medium spatial resolution Landsat Multispectral Scanner (MSS) from 1976; Thematic Mapper (TM) from 1989; Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) from 1999 and TM from 2010 were used to generate a land use/land cover map and change analysis. Acquired IRS LISS-4 and Landsat image was orthorectified into Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM), Zone 45 based on generated digital terrain model (DTM) from a topographic map and Ground Control Point (GCP) from the field. After rectifying all the images, eCognition developer software was used for object-based image analysis (OBIA). The change in the land cover and land use types were compared with the potential habitat of twenty globally significant species present in the reserve. The habitat information was collected from the literature and a map was prepared based on ‘presence’ data, habits and habitats used to identify their distribution pattern. The analysis revealed that the KTWR has gone through significant changes in land cover and ecosystems over the last 34 years due to the change in river course and anthropogenic pressure leading to direct change in habitats of the species. Forests have been reduced by 94% from their original state whereas the grassland has increased by 79% from its original state. On the basis of total land cover, forests, river and stream, swamp and marshes decreased by 16%, 14% and 3% respectively over the last 34 years whereas the grassland has increased by 45%. These ecosystems are also an important habitat for the majority of the species, which is resulting in habitat loss. Notably, the wetland ecosystems (marshes/swamps and river/streams), being one of the most important habitat for many globally threatened species, have changed by more than 30% from their original state in 1976. Based on the analysis, recommendations for management interventions were made.
Abstract: The northern Ethiopian landscape is dotted with small patches of church forests that are religious centers for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church (EOTC). These sacred groves are what remain of the once vast tropical Afromontane dry forest. Herein we review the landscape pattern of sacred groves in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, and their local scale nutrient status at two sites, Zahara and Debresena. A total of 1,488 sacred groves were inventoried within the study area, yielding an overall density of one sacred grove for every twenty square kilometers. Sacred groves averaged a little over five hectares and were separated from one another by more than two kilometers. At the local scale we found that soil carbon and nitrogen stocks have decreased significantly between the forest interior and the clearing indicating decreased soil fertility. Together our data indicate that these sacred groves are vulnerable to loss because of their small average size, isolation from seed sources, and decreasing soil status.
Abstract: Genetic diversity within species provides the raw material for adaptation and evolution. Just as regions of high species diversity are conservation targets, identifying regions containing high genetic diversity and divergence within and among populations may be important to protect future evolutionary potential. When multiple co-distributed species show spatial overlap in high genetic diversity and divergence, these regions can be considered evolutionary hotspots. We mapped spatial population genetic structure for 17 animal species across the Mojave Desert, USA. We analyzed these in concurrence and located 10 regions of high genetic diversity, divergence or both among species. These were mainly concentrated along the western and southern boundaries where ecotones between mountain, grassland and desert habitat are prevalent, and along the Colorado River. We evaluated the extent to which these hotspots overlapped protected lands and utility-scale renewable energy development projects of the Bureau of Land Management. While 30–40% of the total hotspot area was categorized as protected, between 3–7% overlapped with proposed renewable energy project footprints, and up to 17% overlapped with project footprints combined with transmission corridors. Overlap of evolutionary hotspots with renewable energy development mainly occurred in 6 of the 10 identified hotspots. Resulting GIS-based maps can be incorporated into ongoing landscape planning efforts and highlight specific regions where further investigation of impacts to population persistence and genetic connectivity may be warranted.
Abstract: Although changes in habitat area, driven by changes in sea level, have long been considered as a possible cause of marine diversity change in the Phanerozoic, the lack of Pleistocene extinction in the Californian Province has raised doubts, given the large and rapid sea-level changes during the Pleistocene. Neutral models of metacommunities presented here suggest that diversity responds rapidly to changes in habitat area, with relaxation times of a few hundred to a few thousand years. Relaxation time is controlled partly by metacommunity size, implying that different provinces or trophic levels might have measurably different responses to changes in habitable area. Geologically short relaxation times imply that metacommunities should be able to stay nearly in equilibrium with all but the most rapid changes in area. A simulation of the Californian Province during the Pleistocene confirms this, with the longest lags in diversity approaching 20 kyr. The apparent lack of Pleistocene extinction in the Californian Province likely results from the difficulty of sampling rare species, coupled with repopulation from adjacent deep-water or warm-water regions.