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27 October 2017

Reductions in global biodiversity loss predicted from conservation spending [Nature]

Halting global biodiversity loss is central to the Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, but success to date has been very limited. A critical determinant of success in achieving these goals is the financing that is committed to maintaining biodiversity ; however, financing decisions are hindered by considerable uncertainty over the likely impact of any conservation investment. For greater effectiveness, we need an evidence-based model that shows how conservation spending quantitatively reduces!therape of biodiversity loss.(...)

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26 October 2017

Direct benefits explain interspecific variation in helping behaviour among cooperatively breeding birds [Nature Communications]

Keywords : animal behaviour, behavioural ecology, social evolution

Kin selection theory provides one important explanation for seemingly altruistic helping behaviour by non-breeding subordinates in cooperative breeding animals. However, it cannot explain why helpers in many species provide energetically costly care to unrelated offspring. Here, I use comparative analyses to show that direct fitness benefits of helping others, associated with future opportunities to breed in the resident territory, are responsible for the widespread variation in helping effort (offspring food provisioning) and kin discrimination across cooperatively breeding birds.(...)

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26 October 2017

Tropical forests are thermally buffered despite intensive selective logging [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : climate change, land-use change, microclimate, microhabitat, selective logging, thermal buffering, thermal camera, tropics

Tropical rainforests are subject to extensive degradation by commercial selective logging. Despite pervasive changes to forest structure, selectively logged forests represent vital refugia for global biodiversity. The ability of these forests to buffer temperature-sensitive species from climate warming will be an important determinant of their future conservation value, although this topic remains largely unexplored. Thermal buffering potential is broadly determined by: (i) the difference between the “macroclimate” (climate at a local scale, m to ha) and the “microclimate” (climate at a fine-scale, mm to m, that is distinct from the macroclimate); (ii) thermal stability of microclimates (e.g. variation in daily temperatures); and (iii) the availability of microclimates to organisms. We compared these metrics in undisturbed primary forest and intensively logged forest on Borneo, using thermal images to capture cool microclimates on the surface of the forest floor, and information from dataloggers placed inside deadwood, tree holes and leaf litter.(...)

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26 October 2017

Estimating the extinction date of the thylacine with mixed certainty data [Conservation Biology]

Keywords : thylacine, Tasmanian tiger, Tasmania, extinction, sighting record

The thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus), one of Australia’s most characteristic megafauna, was the largest marsupial carnivore until hunting, and potentially disease, drove it to extinction in 1936. Though thylacines were restricted to Tasmania for two millennia prior to their extinction, recent “plausible” sightings on the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland have emerged, leading some to speculate the species may persist, undetected. Here we show that the continued survival of the thylacine is entirely implausible based on most current mathematical theories of extinction.(...)

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26 October 2017

Continental-extent patterns in amphibian malformations linked to parasites, chemical contaminants, and their interactions [Global Change Biology]

Keywords : amphibian malformations, chemical contaminants, land use, Ribeiroia ondatrae, spatial nonstationarity

Widespread observations of malformed amphibians across North America have generated both concern and controversy. Debates over the causes of such malformations—which can affect >50% of animals in a population—have continued, likely due to involvement of multiple causal factors. Here, we used a 13-year dataset encompassing 53,880 frogs and toads from 422 wetlands and 42 states in the conterminous USA to test hypotheses relating abnormalities and four categories of potential drivers: (i) chemical contaminants, (ii) land use practices, (iii) parasite infection, and (iv) targeted interactions between parasites and pesticides. Using a hierarchically nested, competing-model approach, we further examined how these associations varied spatially among geographic regions.(...)

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