SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Landscape

187

Determining how widespread human-induced changes such as habitat loss, landscape fragmentation, and climate instability affect populations, communities, and ecosystems is one of the most pressing environmental challenges. Critical to this challenge is understanding how these changes are affecting the movement abilities and dispersal trajectories of organisms and what role conservation planning can play in promoting movement among remaining fragments of suitable habitat. Whereas evidence is mounting for how conservation strategies such as corridors impact animal movement, virtually nothing is known for species dispersed by wind, which are often mistakenly assumed to not be limited by dispersal. Here, we combine mechanistic dispersal models, wind measurements, and seed releases in a large-scale experimental landscape to show that habitat corridors affect wind dynamics and seed dispersal by redirecting and bellowing airflow and by increasing the likelihood of seed uplift. Wind direction interacts with landscape orientation to determine when corridors provide connectivity. Our results predict positive impacts of connectivity and patch shape on species richness of wind-dispersed plants, which we empirically illustrate using 12 y of data from our experimental landscapes. We conclude that habitat fragmentation and corridors strongly impact the movement of wind-dispersed species, which has community-level consequences.

Concepts: Habitat, Plant, Habitats, Extinction, Habitat conservation, Landscape, Habitat fragmentation, Habitat destruction

172

Schemes designed to make farming landscapes less hostile to wildlife have been questioned because target taxa do not always respond in the expected manner. Microbats are often overlooked in this process, yet persist in agricultural landscapes and exert top-down control of crop pests. We investigated the relationship between microbats and measures commonly incorporated into agri-environment schemes, to derive management recommendations for their ongoing conservation. We used acoustic detectors to quantify bat species richness, activity, and feeding in 32 linear remnants and adjacent fields across an agricultural region of New South Wales, Australia. Nocturnal arthropods were simultaneously trapped using black-light traps. We recorded 91,969 bat calls, 17,277 of which could be attributed to one of the 13 taxa recorded, and 491 calls contained feeding buzzes. The linear remnants supported higher bat activity than the fields, but species richness and feeding activity did not significantly differ. We trapped a mean 87.6 g (±17.6 g SE) of arthropods per night, but found no differences in biomass between land uses. Wider linear remnants with intact native vegetation supported more bat species, as did those adjacent to unsealed, as opposed to sealed roads. Fields of unimproved native pastures, with more retained scattered trees and associated hollows and logs, supported the greatest bat species richness and activity. We conclude that the juxtaposition of linear remnants of intact vegetation and scattered trees in fields, coupled with less-intensive land uses such as unimproved pastures will benefit bat communities in agricultural landscapes, and should be incorporated into agri-environment schemes. In contrast, sealed roads may act as a deterrent. The “wildlife friendly farming” vs “land sparing” debate has so far primarily focussed on birds, but here we have found evidence that the integration of both approaches could particularly benefit bats.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Insect, Bat, Microbat, Landscape, Bats

168

8000 years ago, prior to Neolithic agriculture, Europe was mostly a wooded continent. Since then, its forest cover has been progressively fragmented, so that today it covers less than half of Europe’s land area, in many cases having been cleared to make way for fields and pasture-land. Establishing the origin of Europe’s current, more open land-cover mosaic requires a long-term perspective, for which pollen analysis offers a key tool. In this study we utilise and compare three numerical approaches to transforming pollen data into past forest cover, drawing on >1000 14C-dated site records. All reconstructions highlight the different histories of the mixed temperate and the northern boreal forests, with the former declining progressively since ~6000 years ago, linked to forest clearance for agriculture in later prehistory (especially in northwest Europe) and early historic times (e.g. in north central Europe). In contrast, extensive human impact on the needle-leaf forests of northern Europe only becomes detectable in the last two millennia and has left a larger area of forest in place. Forest loss has been a dominant feature of Europe’s landscape ecology in the second half of the current interglacial, with consequences for carbon cycling, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity.

Concepts: Ecology, Ecosystem, Forest, Europe, Germany, Western Europe, Central Europe, Landscape

97

Landscapes and features of the everyday world were scarcely represented in Paleolithic art, especially those features associated with the human landscape (huts and campsites). On the contrary, other figurative motifs (especially animals) and signs, traditionally linked to the magic or religious conceptions of these hunter-gatherer societies, are the predominant themes of Upper Paleolithic art. This paper seeks to present an engraved schist slab recently found in the Molí del Salt site (North-eastern Iberia) and dated at the end of the Upper Paleolithic, ca. 13,800 years ago. This slab displays seven semicircular motifs that may be interpreted as the representation of dome-shaped huts. The analysis of individual motifs and the composition, as well as the ethnographic and archeological contextualization, suggests that this engraving is a naturalistic depiction of a hunter-gatherer campsite. Campsites can be considered the first human landscape, the first area of land whose visible features were entirely constructed by humans. Given the social meaning of campsites in hunter-gatherer life-styles, this engraving may be considered one of the first representations of the domestic and social space of a human group.

Concepts: Human, Meaning of life, Anthropology, Human evolution, Prehistory, Landscape, Upper Paleolithic, Behavioral modernity

84

Insect pollinators provide a crucial ecosystem service, but are under threat. Urban areas could be important for pollinators, though their value relative to other habitats is poorly known. We compared pollinator communities using quantified flower-visitation networks in 36 sites (each 1 km(2)) in three landscapes: urban, farmland and nature reserves. Overall, flower-visitor abundance and species richness did not differ significantly between the three landscape types. Bee abundance did not differ between landscapes, but bee species richness was higher in urban areas than farmland. Hoverfly abundance was higher in farmland and nature reserves than urban sites, but species richness did not differ significantly. While urban pollinator assemblages were more homogeneous across space than those in farmland or nature reserves, there was no significant difference in the numbers of rarer species between the three landscapes. Network-level specialization was higher in farmland than urban sites. Relative to other habitats, urban visitors foraged from a greater number of plant species (higher generality) but also visited a lower proportion of available plant species (higher specialization), both possibly driven by higher urban plant richness. Urban areas are growing, and improving their value for pollinators should be part of any national strategy to conserve and restore pollinators.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Life, Insect, Ecosystem, Pollinator decline, Bee, Pollinator, Landscape

54

Originally conceived to conserve iconic landscapes and wildlife, protected areas are now expected to achieve an increasingly diverse set of conservation, social and economic objectives. The amount of land and sea designated as formally protected has markedly increased over the past century, but there is still a major shortfall in political commitments to enhance the coverage and effectiveness of protected areas. Financial support for protected areas is dwarfed by the benefits that they provide, but these returns depend on effective management. A step change involving increased recognition, funding, planning and enforcement is urgently needed if protected areas are going to fulfil their potential.

Concepts: Effect, Effectiveness, Economics, Management, Finance, Conservation, Landscape, Expected shortfall

47

Protected areas are extremely important for the long term viability of biodiversity in a densely populated country like India where land is a scarce resource. However, protected areas cover only 5% of the land area in India and in the case of large carnivores that range widely, human use landscapes will function as important habitats required for gene flow to occur between protected areas. In this study, we used photographic capture recapture analysis to assess the density of large carnivores in a human-dominated agricultural landscape with density >300 people/km in western Maharashtra, India. We found evidence of a wide suite of wild carnivores inhabiting a cropland landscape devoid of wilderness and wild herbivore prey. Furthermore, the large carnivores; leopard and striped hyaena () occurred at relatively high density of 4.8±1.2 (sd) adults/100 km and 5.03±1.3 (sd) adults/100 km respectively. This situation has never been reported before where 10 large carnivores/100 km are sharing space with dense human populations in a completely modified landscape. Human attacks by leopards were rare despite a potentially volatile situation considering that the leopard has been involved in serious conflict, including human deaths in adjoining areas. The results of our work push the frontiers of our understanding of the adaptability of both, humans and wildlife to each other’s presence. The results also highlight the urgent need to shift from a PA centric to a landscape level conservation approach, where issues are more complex, and the potential for conflict is also very high. It also highlights the need for a serious rethink of conservation policy, law and practice where the current management focus is restricted to wildlife inside Protected Areas.

Concepts: Population, Population density, Lion, Felidae, World population, Wildlife, Landscape, Striped Hyena

43

Remote monitoring (RM) is defined as the surveillance of device-transmitted outpatient data. RM is expected to enable better management of chronic diseases. The objective of this research was to identify public policies concerning RM in four European countries.

Concepts: Medicine, Medical terms, Chronic, Europe, Public policy, Landscape

42

Connectivity of protected areas (PAs) is crucial for meeting their conservation goals. We provide the first global evaluation of countries' progress towards Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity that is to have at least 17% of the land covered by well-connected PA systems by 2020. We quantify how well the terrestrial PA systems of countries are designed to promote connectivity, using the Protected Connected (ProtConn) indicator. We refine ProtConn to focus on the part of PA connectivity that is in the power of a country to influence, i.e. not penalizing countries for PA isolation due to the sea and to foreign lands. We found that globally only 7.5% of the area of the countries is covered by protected connected lands, which is about half of the global PA coverage of 14.7%, and that only 30% of the countries currently meet the Aichi Target 11 connectivity element. These findings suggest the need for considerable efforts to improve PA connectivity globally. We further identify the main priorities for improving or sustaining PA connectivity in each country: general increase of PA coverage, targeted designation of PAs in strategic locations for connectivity, ensuring permeability of the unprotected landscapes between PAs, coordinated management of neighbouring PAs within the country, and/or transnational coordination with PAs in other countries. Our assessment provides a key contribution to evaluate progress towards global PA connectivity targets and to highlight important strengths and weaknesses of the design of PA systems for connectivity in the world’s countries and regions.

Concepts: Ecology, Motor coordination, Target Corporation, Globalization, Landscape, Country, Protected area, Protected areas

34

Conserved lands provide multiple ecosystem services, including opportunities for nature-based recreation. Managing this service requires understanding the landscape attributes underpinning its provision, and how changes in land management affect its contribution to human wellbeing over time. However, evidence from both spatially explicit and temporally dynamic analyses is scarce, often due to data limitations. In this study, we investigated nature-based recreation within conserved lands in Vermont, USA. We used geotagged photographs uploaded to the photo-sharing website Flickr to quantify visits by in-state and out-of-state visitors, and we multiplied visits by mean trip expenditures to show that conserved lands contributed US $1.8 billion (US $0.18-20.2 at 95% confidence) to Vermont’s tourism industry between 2007 and 2014. We found eight landscape attributes explained the pattern of visits to conserved lands; visits were higher in larger conserved lands, with less forest cover, greater trail density and more opportunities for snow sports. Some of these attributes differed from those found in other locations, but all aligned with our understanding of recreation in Vermont. We also found that using temporally static models to inform conservation decisions may have perverse outcomes for nature-based recreation. For example, static models suggest conserved land with less forest cover receive more visits, but temporally dynamic models suggest clearing forests decreases, rather than increases, visits to these sites. Our results illustrate the importance of understanding both the spatial and temporal dynamics of ecosystem services for conservation decision-making.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Ecosystem, Forest, Habitat conservation, Tourism, Landscape, Land