Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conservation. Show all posts

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Gut Microbiomes Help Bears with Very Different Diets Reach the Same Size

Photo credit: National Park Service.

A recent study of the gut microbiome of Alaskan brown bears (Ursus arctos) shows that the microbial life in bears’ guts allows them to achieve comparable size and fat stores while eating widely different diets. The work sheds light on the role of the gut microbiome in supporting health in wild omnivores.

“We think of bears as having simple digestive tracts, so it’s easy to slip into thinking that they therefore have simple gut microbiomes,” says Erin McKenney, co-author of the study and an assistant professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University. “But this study shows there can be tremendous diversity in the gut microbiomes between individual bears, and that this variation can be very important to the physical condition of these animals.”

“For example, the amount of fat that bears are able to store is absolutely critical to the health of wild populations,” says Grant Hilderbrand, co-author of the study and associate regional director for resources for the National Park Service in Alaska. “If female bears are able to reach levels where 19-20% of their body mass in the autumn is fat, they’ll reproduce. And knowing that they can take different dietary paths to reach those fat levels is a valuable insight.”

For this study, researchers collected fecal samples from 51 adult brown bears in three national parks: Katmai National Park and Preserve, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

No evidence that dehorning black rhinos negatively impacts the species’ reproduction or survival

A sedated black rhino in the process of being dehorned, with a cap over its eye to protect it from the dust
Credit: Piet Beytell, Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism

There are no statistically significant differences in key factors of population growth - breeding, birth, survival, life span and death - between dehorned or horned black rhinos new research, conducted by the University of Bristol Vet School, Namibian Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism, and Save the Rhino Trust has found.

The black rhino is critically endangered, with poaching one of several threats to the species’ survival. Many reserves across a number of African countries, including Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, now dehorn their rhinos in an attempt to reduce poaching but few studies have looked at the impacts of dehorning, particularly in black rhinos.

The study aimed to build on existing knowledge of population productivity between dehorned and horned individuals in four sub-populations of black rhino (of the sub-species Diceros bicornis bicornis) in Namibia.

Three of the populations had undergone some level of dehorning at least once while one of the populations had never been dehorned. The measures investigated included: age of females at the birth of their first calf (age at first reproduction or AFR); average time between the birth of calves for each female (inter-calving interval); birth sex ratios, calf survival, life span and cause of death

Monday, September 19, 2022

Endangered Mouse Study Shares No-Contact Sampling Method

A salt marsh harvest mouse walks across the bulrush at Grizzly Island Wildlife Area in San Francisco.
 Credit: Cody Aylward/UC Davis

From species of marmots to moles, shrews and mice, many of the world’s endangered mammals are small. Genetic sampling is important for understanding how to conserve and protect their populations. But finding efficient, noninvasive ways to collect genetic samples from small animals can be challenging.

A study from the University of California, Davis, describes a new, noninvasive genetic survey technique for the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, which lives solely within the tidal marshes of the San Francisco Bay Estuary.

In larger mammals, scientists often collect samples from scat, but the poop of small animals can be so small that it is difficult to detect in the wild.

The new technique, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, uses a combination of bait stations and genetics to sample and identify salt marsh harvest mice, or “salties” as researchers affectionately call them. The species has lost more than 90% of its habitat to development and is also threatened by rising sea levels. That’s why it is imperative that the remaining populations are identified accurately and efficiently, the authors note.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

More than 1.1 million sea turtles poached over last three decades

A new ASU study shows during a 30-year period, 95% of poached sea turtles came from two species — green and hawksbill turtles — both of which are listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Also, Southeast Asia and Madagascar emerged as major hot spots for illegal sea turtle take and trade, particularly for critically endangered hawksbills, which are prized in the illicit wildlife trade for their beautiful shells. The East Pacific hawksbill turtle is among the most endangered sea turtle populations.
 Photo Credit: Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock

One of the most serious threats to wildlife biodiversity, in addition to the climate crisis, is the illegal killing and trafficking of animals and plants. Despite many laws against the black-market wildlife trade, it is considered to be one of the most lucrative illicit industries in the world.

Animals, especially endangered and threatened species, are often exploited and sold for their pelts or used as medicine, aphrodisiacs, curios, food and spiritual artifacts.

In a new study published in “Global Change Biology,” Arizona State University researchers estimate that more than 1.1 million sea turtles have been illegally killed and, in some cases, trafficked between 1990 and 2020. Even with existing laws prohibiting their capture and use, as many as 44,000 sea turtles were exploited each year over the past decade in 65 countries or territories and in 44 of the world’s 58 major sea turtle populations.

Despite the seemingly large number of poached turtles, the study shows that the reported illegal exploitation of sea turtles declined by approximately 28% over the last decade — something that surprised the researchers. They initially expected to see an overall increase in reported poaching.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Endangered Amargosa Voles Begin to Repopulate Desert Habitat

This landscape shows the Amargosa Valley at sunset. Amargosa voles are endemic to unique Mojave Desert marshes fed by natural springs and the Amargosa River.
Credit: University of California, Davis

Seven years of carefully planned habitat restoration on private land in the Mojave Desert have yielded hope for the persistence of the endangered Amargosa vole. In early August, a photograph from a wildlife camera placed by researchers from the University of California, Davis, and dated July 3 revealed the presence of one, possibly two, vole pups born from parents that were reintroduced to restored marsh habitat on private land in Shoshone Village, Inyo County.

The Amargosa vole was first discovered in the marshes of Shoshone in the late 1800s but had disappeared by the early 1900s because of habitat conversion to agriculture and other uses that destroyed the marshes. The only other place in the world where the voles persist in the wild is near the town of Tecopa, about 8 miles south of Shoshone.

Restoration of the Shoshone Spring marsh started in 2015 as a joint effort of Shoshone Village, the Amargosa Conservancy, UC Davis and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The restoration was funded by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Section 6 and Partners in Fish and Wildlife grants.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Marine Protected Areas in Antarctica should include young emperor penguins, scientists say

A group of Juvenile emperor penguins at Atka Bay on the sea ice edge ready for their first swim. In four years, they will return to breed, spending much of their time in unprotected areas of the Southern Ocean.
Image credit: Daniel P. Zitterbart/ ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and European research institutions are calling for better protections for juvenile emperor penguins, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers listing the species under the Endangered Species Act and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) considers expanding the network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Southern Ocean.

In one of the few long-term studies of juvenile emperor penguins–and the only study focused on a colony on the Weddell Sea–research published today in Royal Society Open Science found that the young birds spend about 90 percent of their time outside of current and proposed MPAs. The study, which tracked eight penguins with satellite tags over a year, also found that they commonly traveled over 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) beyond the species range defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is based on studies of adult emperor penguins from a few other colonies.

Considered immature until about 4 years of age, juvenile emperor penguins are more vulnerable than adults because they have not fully developed foraging and predator avoidance skills. As climate change reduces sea-ice habitat and opens up new areas of the Southern Ocean to commercial fishing, the researchers conclude that greatly expanded MPAs are crucial to protect this iconic, yet threatened, penguin species at every life stage.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Which animals can best withstand climate change?

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Credit: David Heiling on Unsplash

Extreme weather such as prolonged drought and heavy rainfall is becoming more and more common as the global average temperature rises – and it will only get worse in the coming decades. How will the planet’s ecosystems respond?

That is the big question and the background for our study, said biologist John Jackson.

Together with his biologist colleagues Christie Le Coeur from the University of Oslo and Owen Jones from SDU, he authored a new study, published in eLife.

A clear pattern

In the study, the authors analyzed data on population fluctuations from 157 mammal species from around the world and compared them with weather and climate data from the time the animal data were collected. For each species there are 10 or more years of data.

Their analysis has given them an insight into how populations of animal species have coped at times of extreme weather: Did they become more, or less, numerous? Did they have more or fewer offspring?

We can see a clear pattern: Animals that live a long time and have few offspring are less vulnerable when extreme weather hits than animals that live for a short time and have many offspring. Examples are llamas, long-lived bats and elephants versus mice, possums and rare marsupials such as the woylie, said Owen Jones.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

How elephants adapt to human development in cities versus farm life

Resized Image using AI by SFLORG
Source: Radboud University Nijmegen

The movement of elephants through wildlife corridors is directly impacted by differing forms of human pressures and development, new research by Elephants Without Borders (EWB) and Radboud University shows. Their study, published today in Frontiers in Conservation, is the first that takes an in-depth look at how varying land-use affects elephants and their use of wildlife corridors.

From 2012 to 2019, the researchers monitored elephants' movements through six wildlife corridors using of motion-detected camera traps in two different human-dominated landscapes: the townships of Kasane and Kazungula, and the farming villages of the Chobe Enclave, both located in the Chobe District.

The study shows that various land-use seemingly affects when elephants use wildlife corridors on an hourly basis. Elephants in agricultural areas largely moved through the corridors predominantly nocturnally, when humans are less active, compared to the urban corridors, where humans and elephants actively mostly overlap.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Parasites may take a heavier toll on mammal populations than previously thought

Tapeworm infection is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae.
 Credit: University of Alberta

A new study looking at research on parasitic worms suggests the pesky but pervasive creatures have a far greater impact on the health of mammal populations than previously known.

“Parasites don't have to kill the animal to control a population,” says Kyle Shanebeck, a PhD student in the Faculty of Science’s Department of Biological Sciences who led the research review.

Shanebeck’s analysis shows that helminths — large parasites such as tapeworms, flatworms and flukes — have negative effects on the energetic condition, or total body health, of their mammal hosts that can impair systemic functioning, repair, growth, environmental adaptability and reproduction.

“They can affect the animal’s ability to absorb nutrients, which can affect digestive health and behavior, making them more aggressive and even changing where they forage,” notes Shanebeck, whose research is supervised by assistant professor Stephanie Green. “Helminth parasites also suppress immune action or weaken it, as the body spends energy to mount an immune response to fight them which can make a secondary infection worse.”

As Shanebeck explains, assessing population health in wildlife typically focuses on pathogenic diseases — the often-fatal illnesses that can spread between species, and potentially from animals to humans. Parasites, on the other hand, don’t kill their hosts so they tend to be ignored in conservation and management models.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Student helps find world’s largest frog in Equatorial Guinea for first time in almost two decades

Left: Student Sam Hurley (left) with local guide Edu. Right: A goliath frog found in Monte Alén National Park, Equatorial Guinea
Source: University of Bristol

Field researchers from the University of Bristol and Bristol Zoological Society have found the world’s largest frog in Equatorial Guinea for the first time in almost two decades.

The most recent amphibian survey in the country’s Monte Alén National Park, which is one of the goliath frog's few known habitats, recorded no sign of it.

Goliath frogs can be as big as some housecats, measuring up to 34cm in length and weighing more than 3kg.

Concerned by the lack of recent evidence of the species in the national park, conservationists travelled to Equatorial Guinea to find evidence that the giant amphibian was not lost to the region.

Working in partnership with INDEFOR-AP, the national park service of Equatorial Guinea, the researchers conducted a survey along the Benito River.

Over 10 days in the forest, the researchers spotted the amphibian in a small waterfall. They had hoped to collect vocal recordings of the frog, however, the animal was not heard calling, perhaps confirming previous accounts that it is indeed a quiet, if not silent, amphibian. More study is needed.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Southern resident killer whales not getting enough to eat since 2018

A southern resident killer whale.
Credit: NOAA, Ocean Wise

The endangered southern resident killer whale population isn’t getting enough to eat, and hasn’t been since 2018, a new UBC study has determined.

The animals have been in an energy deficit, averaging across spring, summer and fall, for six of the last 40 years—meaning the energy they get from food is less than what they expend. Three of those six years came in the most recent years of the study, 2018 to 2020. The average difference in energy is 28,716 calories, or about 17 per cent of the daily required energy for an average adult killer whale, the authors say.

“With the southern resident population at such a low level, there’s a sense of urgency to this kind of research,” says lead author Fanny Couture, a doctoral student at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF) and Ocean Wise. “Both killer whales and Chinook salmon, the southern resident’s main prey, are important, iconic species for the west coast of Canada. Studying what is happening to the population may help offer solutions, both for the southern residents and potentially other killer whale populations in the future.”

The southern resident population, which feeds mainly on Chinook salmon, numbered 73 individuals as of October 2021, compared with the increasing northern resident population of about 300. Studies have posited that the growth of the southern resident population may be impeded by a lack of food.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Scientists fail to locate once-common CA bumble bees

The Western bumble bee, a once-common bee in California, was not found in the recent UCR-led survey.
resized using AI by SFLORG
Credit: Rich Hatfield/Xerces Society

Several species of California bumble bees have gone missing in the first statewide census of the fuzzy pollinators in 40 years. If they can be found, a recent court ruling could help save them.

Smaller-scale studies have documented significant declines in bumble bee populations around the world due to climate change, development of wild habitat, and the use of bee-killing pesticides.

Led by UC Riverside, this study was an effort to document changes in bumble bee populations across large geographic areas in California since the last such study was done in the 1980s.

It is important to have data that substantiates the bees’ health. Bumble bees can fly in cooler temperatures and lower light levels than many other bees, and help pollinate crops worth $3 billion annually in the U.S. They perform a type of pollination required for plants including tomatoes, peppers and cranberries.

For the updated data, UCR entomologist Hollis Woodard’s research group collected bees from 17 total sites representing six different ecosystems previously known to host a large variety of bumble bees.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Right Whales’ Survival Rates Plummet After Severe Injury from Fishing Gear

Source: Duke University

Most North Atlantic right whales that are severely injured in fishing gear entanglements die within three years, a new study led by scientists at the New England Aquarium and Duke University finds.

North Atlantic right whales are a critically endangered species whose population has shrunk in recent decades. Scientists estimate fewer than 350 of the iconic whales are still alive in the wild today.

To examine the role fishing gear entanglements have played in the species’ decline, the researchers tracked the outcomes of 1,196 entanglements involving 573 right whales between 1980 and 2011 and categorized each run-in based on the severity of the injury incurred

The data revealed that male and female right whales with severe injuries were eight times more likely to die than males with minor injuries, and only 44% of males and 33% of females with severe injuries survived longer than 36 months.

Females that did survive had much lower birth rates and longer intervals between calving, a worrisome trend for the long-term survival of the species.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

San Diego Zoo and Its Partners Spearhead Conservation of Critically Endangered Chinese Giant Salamander

Chinese giant salamander
Credit: San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Chinese giant salamanders are well camouflaged in the rushing waters of China’s mountain river system. Spotting this critically endangered species in its native habitat is exceedingly rare, but guests at the San Diego Zoo now have a unique opportunity to take a close look at this sleek and mysterious creature—at the newly opened Denny Sanford Wildlife Explorers Basecamp. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and conservation partners, including Ocean Park Hong Kong, are working toward the goal of creating a breeding group of Chinese giant salamanders. The goal is to eventually re-establish depleted populations in the Chinese giant salamander’s native range, while at the same time educating the public about conservation of its habitat in China.

The Chinese giant salamander is the largest living amphibian on the planet, with some measuring nearly 6 feet in length. However, their elusive nature has made it difficult for biologists to study their reproductive habits. Veterinary and wildlife care specialist teams at the San Diego Zoo conducted ultrasounds on three Chinese giant salamanders, in an effort to determine their sex and better understand their overall health. Determining the sex of these individuals is critical to the creation of a conservation breeding plan to help bring this species of “living fossils” back from the brink of extinction. The technique of using ultrasound to determine sex was discovered and recommended by specialists in China and colleagues in the zoo community.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

‘Fantastic giant tortoise,’ believed extinct, confirmed alive in the Galápagos

Fernanda, the only known living Fernandina giant tortoise, now lives at the Galápagos National Park’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Santa Cruz Island. Princeton geneticist Stephen Gaughran recently confirmed that she comes from the same species as a tortoise collected from the island more than a century ago, and those two are genetically distinct from all other Galápagos tortoises. 
Photo Credit: Galápagos Conservancy

A tortoise from a Galápagos species long believed extinct has been found alive and now confirmed to be a living member of the species. The tortoise, named Fernanda after her Fernandina Island home, is the first of her species identified in more than a century.

The Fernandina Island Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis phantasticus, or “fantastic giant tortoise”) was known only from a single specimen, collected in 1906. The discovery in 2019 of a female tortoise living on Fernandina Island provided the opportunity to determine if the species lives on. By sequencing the genomes of both the living individual and the museum specimen, and comparing them to the other 13 species of Galápagos giant tortoises, Princeton’s Stephen Gaughran showed that the two known Fernandina tortoises are members of the same species, genetically distinct from all others. He is co-first author on a paper in the current issue of Communications Biology confirming her species’ continued existence.

“For many years it was thought that the original specimen collected in 1906 had been transplanted to the island, as it was the only one of its kind,” said Peter Grant, Princeton’s Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology, Emeritus and an emeritus professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who has spent more than 40 years studying evolution in the Galápagos islands. “It now seems to be one of a very few that were alive a century ago.”

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Red pandas face a fractured future

Red Panda
Credit: Damber Bista

The much-loved red panda is renowned for its tree-climbing ability and adorable nature, but new research shows the endangered mammal is being driven closer to extinction.

University of Queensland PhD candidate Damber Bista, who tracked red pandas in Nepal over a 12-month period from Queensland using GPS telemetry, has found that human impact is causing the mammal to restrict its movements which is further fragmenting their habitat.

Mr Bista said it was a worrying sign.

“Our research findings show that current patterns of habitat fragmentation and forest exploitation, from infrastructure projects such as new roads, are placing the red panda under increased threat,” Mr Bista said.

“Because of this, red pandas are changing their activity to minimize their interactions with disturbances, such as humans, dogs, or livestock, and this is drastically interfering with natural interactions between the animals, resulting in population isolation.”

Friday, June 3, 2022

Heat-lovers are the lucky ones

The Alpine mountain range (Miramella alpina) has so far been unaffected by changes in climate and land use. The type of grasshoppers, which is widespread throughout Europe at higher altitudes, has a stable occurrence in the Bavarian Alps, which has hardly changed in recent decades. // The green mountain grasshopper (Miramella alpina) has so far been unaffected by changes in climate and land use. This species is widespread throughout Europe at higher altitudes. Its population in the Bavarian Alps is stable and has hardly changed in recent decades. 
Credit: E. K. Engelhardt / TUM

Sparse data often make it difficult to track how climate change is affecting populations of insect species. A new study by the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) has now evaluated an extensive species mapping database (Artenschutzkartierung, ASK) organized by the Bavarian State Office for the Environment (LfU) and assessed the population trends of butterflies, dragonflies and grasshoppers in Bavaria since 1980. The main finding: heat-loving species have been increasing.

Climate change has long since been happening in central Europe, and it is no secret that it affects the populations and distribution of animals and plants. Insect trends are a growing cause for concern, as multiple studies have shown their declines. How populations of our insect species have changed over past decades is a question explored by the BioChange Lab at TUM. “It is not only the climate that is changing, but also the type and intensity of land use. This includes agriculture, forestry, urban areas, and transport infrastructure” says Dr. Christian Hof, head of the BioChange research group at TUM.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Scientists Show that at Least 44 Percent of Earth’s Land Requires Conservation to Safeguard Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Credit Max Melesi on behalf of Koobi Carbon

New research published in the June 3, 2022 journal Science reveals that 44 percent of Earth’s land area – some 64 million square kilometers (24.7 million square miles) requires conservation to safeguard biodiversity.

The team, led by Dr James R. Allan from the University of Amsterdam, used advanced geospatial algorithms to map the optimal areas for conserving terrestrial species and ecosystems across the world. They further used spatially explicit land-use scenarios to quantify how much of this land is at risk from human activities by 2030.

“Our study is the current best estimate of how much land we must conserve to stop the biodiversity crisis - it is essentially a conservation plan for the planet,” said lead author James Allan. “We must act fast, our models show that over 1.3 million square kilometers of this important land – an area larger than South Africa – is likely to have its habitat cleared for human uses by 2030, which would be devastating for wildlife.”

The work has important policy implications since governments are currently negotiating a post-2020 global biodiversity framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity, with new goals and targets for biodiversity which will hopefully come into effect later this year. This will set the conservation agenda for at least the next decade, and governments will have to report progress against these targets on a regular basis.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Revelations of genetic diversity of bass species can enhance conservation


Black Bass

A new study by Yale ichthyologists provides a clearer picture of species diversity among black basses — one of the most cherished and economically important lineages of freshwater gamefish. Their findings can help guide the conservation and management of bass species that are both prized by anglers across the globe and ranked among the world’s most invasive organisms.

For the study, published May 30 in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers used genomic analysis to more accurately delineate the places of 19 black bass species in the tree of life. Importantly, the analysis revealed that two popular species — the largemouth bass and Florida bass — have been misclassified over the past 75 years. The scientific names Micropterus salmoides and Micropterus floridanus have been incorrectly applied to the largemouth bass and Florida bass, respectively.

The researchers concluded that Micropterus salmoides is the accurate scientific name for the Florida bass while the largemouth bass should be reclassified as Micropterus nigricans, the oldest available scientific name for largemouth bass. This is important because both the largemouth bass and Florida bass have been introduced in 57 countries on every continent except Antarctica under the misapplied scientific name Micropterus salmoides, meaning introductions were made to support fisheries without knowing the precise species, explained lead author Daemin Kim, a graduate student in Yale’s Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Sea turtle conservation gets boost from new DNA detection method

DNA “fingerprints” left behind by sea turtles offer scientists a simple, powerful way of tracking the health and whereabouts of these endangered animals, a key step forward in their conservation.

A study led by University of Florida researchers is the first to sequence environmental DNA, or eDNA, from sea turtles — genetic material shed as they travel over beaches and in water. The research project is also the first to successfully collect animal eDNA from beach sand. The techniques could be used to trace and study other kinds of wildlife, advancing research and informing conservation strategies.

“We wanted to test the boundaries of this technology, which hadn't really been applied to sea turtles before and certainly not on sand,” said David Duffy, UF assistant professor of wildlife disease genomics and Rising Star Condron Family Endowed Assistant Professor. “This is a way to survey areas for elusive animals or species that can be hard to study otherwise. It’s essentially wildlife forensics.”

Nearly all of the planet’s sea turtle species are endangered and face a multitude of threats, including warming temperatures, habitat destruction and degradation, disease, hunting and pollutants such as plastics. Conserving sea turtles is further complicated by the fact that current survey methods rely on spotting them in one of their multiple habitats — in the open sea, coastal ecosystems or on beaches where they nest. This makes it difficult to monitor their numbers, genetic diversity and overall health and tailor conservation efforts accordingly, Duffy said.

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