Biodiversity loss from deforestation may be partly offset by the expansion of secondary forests and plantation forestry in the tropics. However, our current knowledge of the value of these habitats for biodiversity conservation is limited to very few taxa, and many studies are severely confounded by methodological shortcomings. We examined the conservation value of tropical primary, secondary, and plantation forests for 15 taxonomic groups using a robust and replicated sample design that minimized edge effects. Different taxa varied markedly in their response to patterns of land use in terms of species richness and the percentage of species restricted to primary forest (varying from 5% to 57%), yet almost all between-forest comparisons showed marked differences in community structure and composition. Cross-taxon congruence in response patterns was very weak when evaluated using abundance or species richness data, but much stronger when using metrics based upon community similarity. Our results show that, whereas the biodiversity indicator group concept may hold some validity for several taxa that are frequently sampled (such as birds and fruit-feeding butterflies), it fails for those exhibiting highly idiosyncratic responses to tropical land-use change (including highly vagile species groups such as bats and orchid bees), highlighting the problems associated with quantifying the biodiversity value of anthropogenic habitats. Finally, although we show that areas of native regeneration and exotic tree plantations can provide complementary conservation services, we also provide clear empirical evidence demonstrating the irreplaceable value of primary forests. biodiversity indicators ͉ congruence ͉ conservation ͉ tropical forests ͉ Amazon
Plant traits-the morphological, anatomical, physiological, biochemical and phenological characteristics of plants-determine how plants respond to environmental factors, affect other trophic levels, and influence ecosystem properties and their benefits and detriments to people. Plant trait data thus represent the basis for a vast area of research spanning from evolutionary biology, community and functional ecology, to biodiversity conservation, ecosystem and landscape management, restoration, biogeography and earth system modelling. Since its foundation in 2007, the TRY database of plant traits has grown continuously. It now provides unprecedented data coverage under an open access data policy and is the main plant trait database used by the research community worldwide. Increasingly, the TRY database also supports new frontiers of trait-based plant research, including the identification of data gaps and the subsequent mobilization or measurement of new data. To support this development, in this article we evaluate the extent of the trait data compiled in TRY and analyse emerging patterns of data coverage and representativeness. Best species coverage is achieved for categorical traits-almost complete coverage for 'plant growth form'. However, most traits relevant for ecology and vegetation modelling are characterized by continuous intraspecific variation and trait-environmental relationships. These traits have to be measured on individual plants in their respective environment. Despite unprecedented data coverage, we observe a humbling lack of completeness and representativeness of these continuous traits in many aspects.We, therefore, conclude that reducing data gaps and biases in the TRY database remains a key challenge and requires a coordinated approach to data mobilization and trait measurements. This can only be achieved in collaboration with other initiatives. Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP) and DIVERSITAS, the TRY database (TRY-not an acronym, rather a statement of sentiment; https ://www.try-db.org; Kattge et al., 2011) was proposed with the explicit assignment to improve the availability and accessibility of plant trait data for ecology and earth system sciences. The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry (MPI-BGC) offered to host the database and the different groups joined forces for this community-driven program. Two factors were key to the success of TRY: the support and trust of leaders in the field of functional plant ecology submitting large databases and the long-term funding by the Max Planck Society, the MPI-BGC and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, which has enabled the continuous development of the TRY database.
The identification of high-performance indicator taxa that combine practical feasibility and ecological value requires an understanding of the costs and benefits of surveying different taxa. We present a generic and novel framework for identifying such taxa, and illustrate our approach using a large-scale assessment of 14 different higher taxa across three forest types in the Brazilian Amazon, estimating both the standardized survey cost and the ecological and biodiversity indicator value for each taxon. Survey costs varied by three orders of magnitude, and dung beetles and birds were identified as especially suitable for evaluating and monitoring the ecological consequences of habitat change in our study region. However, an exclusive focus on such taxa occurs at the expense of understanding patterns of diversity in other groups. To improve the cost-effectiveness of biodiversity research we encourage a combination of clearer research goals and the use of an objective evidence-based approach to selecting study taxa.
Biodiversity continues to decline in the face of increasing anthropogenic pressures such as habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution and introduction of alien species. Existing global databases of species’ threat status or population time series are dominated by charismatic species. The collation of datasets with broad taxonomic and biogeographic extents, and that support computation of a range of biodiversity indicators, is necessary to enable better understanding of historical declines and to project – and avert – future declines. We describe and assess a new database of more than 1.6 million samples from 78 countries representing over 28,000 species, collated from existing spatial comparisons of local-scale biodiversity exposed to different intensities and types of anthropogenic pressures, from terrestrial sites around the world. The database contains measurements taken in 208 (of 814) ecoregions, 13 (of 14) biomes, 25 (of 35) biodiversity hotspots and 16 (of 17) megadiverse countries. The database contains more than 1% of the total number of all species described, and more than 1% of the described species within many taxonomic groups – including flowering plants, gymnosperms, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, beetles, lepidopterans and hymenopterans. The dataset, which is still being added to, is therefore already considerably larger and more representative than those used by previous quantitative models of biodiversity trends and responses. The database is being assembled as part of the PREDICTS project (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems – http://www.predicts.org.uk). We make site-level summary data available alongside this article. The full database will be publicly available in 2015.
The PREDICTS project—Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems (www.predicts.org.uk)—has collated from published studies a large, reasonably representative database of comparable samples of biodiversity from multiple sites that differ in the nature or intensity of human impacts relating to land use. We have used this evidence base to develop global and regional statistical models of how local biodiversity responds to these measures. We describe and make freely available this 2016 release of the database, containing more than 3.2 million records sampled at over 26,000 locations and representing over 47,000 species. We outline how the database can help in answering a range of questions in ecology and conservation biology. To our knowledge, this is the largest and most geographically and taxonomically representative database of spatial comparisons of biodiversity that has been collated to date; it will be useful to researchers and international efforts wishing to model and understand the global status of biodiversity.
Habitat loss is the primary driver of biodiversity decline worldwide, but the effects of fragmentation (the spatial arrangement of remaining habitat) are debated. We tested the hypothesis that forest fragmentation sensitivity—affected by avoidance of habitat edges—should be driven by historical exposure to, and therefore species’ evolutionary responses to disturbance. Using a database containing 73 datasets collected worldwide (encompassing 4489 animal species), we found that the proportion of fragmentation-sensitive species was nearly three times as high in regions with low rates of historical disturbance compared with regions with high rates of disturbance (i.e., fires, glaciation, hurricanes, and deforestation). These disturbances coincide with a latitudinal gradient in which sensitivity increases sixfold at low versus high latitudes. We conclude that conservation efforts to limit edges created by fragmentation will be most important in the world’s tropical forests.
Urgent challenges posed by widespread degradation in tropical ecosystems with poor governance require new development pathways to reconcile biodiversity conservation and human welfare. Community-based conservation management (CBCM) has shown potential for integrating socioeconomic needs with conservation goals in tropical environments but assessing the effectiveness of this approach is often held back by the lack of comprehensive ecological assessments. We conduct a robust ecological evaluation of the largest CBCM initiative in the Brazilian Amazon over 40 years. We show that this program has induced large-scale population recovery of the target Giant South American Turtle (Podocnemis expansa) and other freshwater turtles along a 1,500-km of a major tributary of the Amazon River. Poaching activity on protected beaches was around 2% compared to 99% on unprotected beaches. We also find positive demographic co-benefits across a wide range of non-target vertebrate and invertebrate taxa. As a result, beaches protected by local communities represent islands of high biodiversity, while unprotected beaches remain "empty and silent", showing the effectiveness of empowering local conservation action, particularly in countries experiencing shortages in financial and human resources.
Primates are among the most observable and best studied vertebrate order in tropical forest regions, with widespread attention dedicated to the feeding ecology of wild populations. In particular, primates play a key role as frugivores and seed-dispersal agents for a myriad of tropical plants. Sampling effort by primatologists, however, has been unequally distributed, hampering quantitative comparisons of primate diets. We provide the first systematic review of primate diets, with an emphasis on frugivory, using a comprehensive compilation of 290 unique primate dietary studies from 164 localities in 17 countries across the entire Neotropical realm. We account for sampling effort (standardised as hours) in comparing the richness of fruiting plants recorded in primate diets, and the relative contribution of frugivory to the overall diet in relation to key life-history traits, such as body mass. We find strong support for the long-held hypothesis, based on Kay's Threshold, that body size imposes an upper limit on insectivory and a lower limit on folivory, and therefore that frugivory is most important at intermediate body sizes. However, the upper body mass limit of extant neotropical primates, truncated by the post-Pleistocene megafaunal overkill, has implications for the extent of the frugivory-folivory continuum in extinct lineages. Contemporary threats faced by the largest primates serve as a further warning that the feeding ecology and diet of all neotropical primates remain severely undersampled with regard to the composition and richness of fruits consumed. Indeed, frugivorous primates expected to have the most species-rich plant diets are amongst those most poorly sampled, exposing implications for our current understanding of primate-plant interaction networks. © 2013 The Authors
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