Publications by authors named "Brent J Sewall"

15 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Cooling of bat hibernacula to mitigate white-nose syndrome.

Conserv Biol 2021 Jul 5. Epub 2021 Jul 5.

Department of Biological Sciences, Ohio University, Athens, OH, 45701.

Fungal diseases increasingly threaten wildlife with extinction. White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease that has caused precipitous declines in several North American bat species, creating an urgent need for conservation. We sought to determine how microclimates and other characteristics of hibernacula have affected bat populations following WNS-associated declines. We also evaluated whether cooling of warm, little-used hibernacula could benefit bats. We found that winter counts of Myotis lucifugus were higher and increased over time in colder hibernacula (with mid-winter temperatures of 3-6°C). Counts of Eptesicus fuscus, M. leibii, and M. septentrionalis were likewise higher in colder hibernacula. Populations of M. lucifugus and M. septentrionalis increased most over time where there were more nearby sites, while E. fuscus counts remained high where they had been high before WNS onset. Winter counts were also higher in M. leibii in hibernacula with higher vapor pressure deficit (VPD) (particularly where > ∼0.1 kPa), and we found some evidence that M. lucifugus increased and E. fuscus counts were higher with higher VPD. In contrast, Perimyotis subflavus counts increased over time in warmer hibernacula and were unaffected by VPD. Separately, at manipulated sites, we achieved cooling of an average of 2.1°C. Within manipulated hibernacula, counts of M. lucifugus and P. subflavus increased with time since manipulation. Further, there were more E. fuscus where cooling was greatest, with some evidence for more P. subflavus in hibernacula sections that remained warm after manipulation. These data show bats are responding effectively to WNS through habitat selection. In M. lucifugus, M. septentrionalis, and possibly P. subflavus, this response is ongoing, with bats increasingly aggregating at suitable hibernacula, while E. fuscus bats remain in previously favored sites. Finally, our results suggest that cooling warm sites receiving little use by bats is a viable strategy for combating WNS. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13803DOI Listing
July 2021

Stronger predation intensity and impact on prey communities in the tropics.

Ecology 2021 08 13;102(8):e03428. Epub 2021 Jul 13.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, Maryland, 21037-0028, USA.

The hypothesis that biotic interactions strengthen toward lower latitudes provides a framework for linking community-scale processes with the macroecological scales that define our biosphere. Despite the importance of this hypothesis for understanding community assembly and ecosystem functioning, the extent to which interaction strength varies across latitude and the effects of this variation on natural communities remain unresolved. Predation in particular is central to ecological and evolutionary dynamics across the globe, yet very few studies explore both community-scale causes and outcomes of predation across latitude. Here we expand beyond prior studies to examine two important components of predation strength: intensity of predation (including multiple dimensions of the predator guild) and impact on prey community biomass and structure, providing one of the most comprehensive examinations of predator-prey interactions across latitude. Using standardized experiments, we tested the hypothesis that predation intensity and impact on prey communities were stronger at lower latitudes. We further assessed prey recruitment to evaluate the potential for this process to mediate predation effects. We used sessile marine invertebrate communities and their fish predators in nearshore environments as a model system, with experiments conducted at 12 sites in four regions spanning the tropics to the subarctic. Our results show clear support for an increase in both predation intensity and impact at lower relative to higher latitudes. The predator guild was more diverse at low latitudes, with higher predation rates, longer interaction durations, and larger predator body sizes, suggesting stronger predation intensity in the tropics. Predation also reduced prey biomass and altered prey composition at low latitudes, with no effects at high latitudes. Although recruitment rates were up to three orders of magnitude higher in the tropics than the subarctic, prey replacement through this process was insufficient to dampen completely the strong impacts of predators in the tropics. Our study provides a novel perspective on the biotic interaction hypothesis, suggesting that multiple components of the predator community likely contribute to predation intensity at low latitudes, with important consequences for the structure of prey communities.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ecy.3428DOI Listing
August 2021

Species traits affect phenological responses to climate change in a butterfly community.

Sci Rep 2021 Feb 8;11(1):3283. Epub 2021 Feb 8.

Department of Biology, Temple University, 1900 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19122, USA.

Diverse taxa have undergone phenological shifts in response to anthropogenic climate change. While such shifts generally follow predicted patterns, they are not uniform, and interspecific variation may have important ecological consequences. We evaluated relationships among species' phenological shifts (mean flight date, duration of flight period), ecological traits (larval trophic specialization, larval diet composition, voltinism), and population trends in a butterfly community in Pennsylvania, USA, where the summer growing season has become warmer, wetter, and longer. Data were collected over 7-19 years from 18 species or species groups, including the extremely rare eastern regal fritillary Speyeria idalia idalia. Both the direction and magnitude of phenological change over time was linked to species traits. Polyphagous species advanced and prolonged the duration of their flight period while oligophagous species delayed and shortened theirs. Herb feeders advanced their flight periods while woody feeders delayed theirs. Multivoltine species consistently prolonged flight periods in response to warmer temperatures, while univoltine species were less consistent. Butterflies that shifted to longer flight durations, and those that had polyphagous diets and multivoltine reproductive strategies tended to decline in population. Our results suggest species' traits shape butterfly phenological responses to climate change, and are linked to important community impacts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-82723-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7870830PMC
February 2021

Genome-Wide Changes in Genetic Diversity in a Population of Affected by White-Nose Syndrome.

G3 (Bethesda) 2020 06 1;10(6):2007-2020. Epub 2020 Jun 1.

Institute of Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Novel pathogens can cause massive declines in populations, and even extirpation of hosts. But disease can also act as a selective pressure on survivors, driving the evolution of resistance or tolerance. Bat white-nose syndrome (WNS) is a rapidly spreading wildlife disease in North America. The fungus causing the disease invades skin tissues of hibernating bats, resulting in disruption of hibernation behavior, premature energy depletion, and subsequent death. We used whole-genome sequencing to investigate changes in allele frequencies within a population of in eastern North America to search for genetic resistance to WNS. Our results show low F values within the population across time, , prior to WNS (Pre-WNS) compared to the population that has survived WNS (Post-WNS). However, when dividing the population with a geographical cut-off between the states of Pennsylvania and New York, a sharp increase in values on scaffold GL429776 is evident in the Post-WNS samples. Genes present in the diverged area are associated with thermoregulation and promotion of brown fat production. Thus, although WNS may not have subjected the entire population to selective pressure, it may have selected for specific alleles in Pennsylvania through decreased gene flow within the population. However, the persistence of remnant sub-populations in the aftermath of WNS is likely due to multiple factors in bat life history.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1534/g3.119.400966DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7263666PMC
June 2020

Prescribed fire maintains host plants of a rare grassland butterfly.

Sci Rep 2019 11 14;9(1):16826. Epub 2019 Nov 14.

Department of Biology, 1900 North 12th St., Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, 19122, USA.

As grassland ecosystems transform globally due to anthropogenic pressures, improvements in our understanding of the effect of management on rare and threatened species in such landscapes has become urgent. Although prescribed fire is a very efficient tool for habitat restoration and endangered species management on fire-adapted ecosystems, the specific mechanisms underlying potential effects of burning on population dynamics of butterfly host plants are poorly understood. We analyzed a 12-year dataset (2004-2015), combining violet abundance, habitat physiognomy and fire history data from a fire-managed system, to determine factors influencing the spatiotemporal distribution and abundance of violets (Viola spp.), the host plants of the threatened eastern regal fritillary (Speyeria idalia idalia) butterfly. Our results demonstrate a critical role for fire in driving both presence and abundance of violets, suggesting management with prescribed fires can effectively promote butterfly host plants. In addition, we determined the character of habitats associated with violet presence and abundance, in particular a strong positive association with biocrusts. These results provide a roadmap for efficient site selection to increase the effectiveness of restoration efforts, including assessment of potential reintroduction sites for regal fritillary and other grassland butterflies and actions to promote the re-establishment of host plants in these sites.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-53400-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6856363PMC
November 2019

Predation shapes invertebrate diversity in tropical but not temperate seagrass communities.

J Anim Ecol 2020 02 4;89(2):323-333. Epub 2019 Dec 4.

Department of Biology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.

The hypothesis that biotic interactions are stronger at lower relative to higher latitudes has a rich history, drawing from ecological and evolutionary theory. While this hypothesis suggests that stronger interactions at lower latitudes may contribute to the maintenance of contemporary patterns of diversity, there remain few standardized biogeographic comparisons of community effects of species interactions. Using marine seagrasses as a focal ecosystem of conservation importance and sessile marine invertebrates as model prey, we tested the hypothesis that predation is stronger at lower latitudes and can shape contemporary patterns of prey diversity. To further advance understanding beyond prior studies, we also explored mechanisms that likely underlie a change in interaction outcomes with latitude. Multiple observational and experimental approaches were employed to test for effects of predators, and the mechanisms that may underlie these effects, in seagrass ecosystems of the western Atlantic Ocean spanning 30° of latitude from the temperate zone to the tropics. In predator exclusion experiments conducted in a temperate and a tropical region, predation decreased sessile invertebrate abundance, richness and diversity on both natural and standardized artificial seagrass at tropical but not temperate sites. Further, predation reduced invertebrate richness at both local and regional scales in the tropics. Additional experiments demonstrated that predation reduced invertebrate recruitment in the tropics but not the temperate zone. Finally, direct observations of predators showed higher but variable consumption rates on invertebrates at tropical relative to temperate latitudes. Together, these results demonstrate that strong predation in the tropics can have consequential impacts on prey communities through discrete effects on early life stages as well as longer-term cumulative effects on community structure and diversity. Our detailed experiments also provide some of the first data linking large-scale biogeographic patterns, community-scale interaction outcomes and direct observation of predators in the temperate zone and tropics. Therefore, our results support the hypothesis that predation is stronger in the tropics, but also elucidate some of the causes and consequences of this variation in shaping contemporary patterns of diversity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13133DOI Listing
February 2020

Long-term bat abundance in sagebrush steppe.

Sci Rep 2018 08 16;8(1):12288. Epub 2018 Aug 16.

Department of Biology, Temple University, 1900 N. 12th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Bats of western North America face many threats, but little is known about current population changes in these mammals. We compiled 283 surveys from 49 hibernacula over 32 years to investigate population changes of Townsend's big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii townsendii) and western small-footed myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum) in Idaho, USA. This area comprises some of the best bat habitat in the western USA, but is threatened by land-use change. Bats in this area also face invasion by the pathogen causing white-nose syndrome. Little is known about long-term trends of abundance of these two species. In our study, estimated population changes for Townsend's big-eared bats varied by management area, with relative abundance increasing by 186% and 326% in two management areas, but decreasing 55% in another. For western small-footed myotis, analysis of estimated population trend was complicated by an increase in detection of 141% over winter. After accounting for differences in detection, this species declined region-wide by 63% to winter of 1998-1999. The population fully recovered by 2013-2014, likely because 12 of 23 of its hibernacula were closed to public access from 1994 to 1998. Our data clarify long-term population patterns of two bat species of conservation concern, and provide important baseline understanding of western small-footed myotis prior to the arrival of white-nose syndrome in this area.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-30402-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6095839PMC
August 2018

Effect of torpor on host transcriptomic responses to a fungal pathogen in hibernating bats.

Mol Ecol 2018 Aug 6. Epub 2018 Aug 6.

Department of Biology, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Hibernation, the use of prolonged torpor to depress metabolism, is employed by mammals to conserve resources during extended periods of extreme temperatures and/or resource limitation. Mammalian hibernators arouse to euthermy periodically during torpor for reasons that are not well understood, and these arousals may facilitate immune processes. To determine whether arousals enable host responses to pathogens, we used dual RNA-Seq and a paired sampling approach to examine gene expression in a hibernating bat, the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus). During torpor, transcript levels differed in only a few genes between uninfected wing tissue and adjacent tissue infected with Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungal pathogen that causes white-nose syndrome. Within 70-80 min after emergence from torpor, large changes in gene expression were observed due to local infection, particularly in genes involved in pro-inflammatory host responses to fungal pathogens, but also in many genes involved in immune responses and metabolism. These results support the hypothesis that torpor is a period of relative immune dormancy and arousals allow for local immune responses in infected tissues during hibernation. Host-pathogen interactions were also found to regulate gene expression in the pathogen differently depending on the torpor state of the host. Hibernating species must balance the benefits of energy and water conservation achieved during torpor with the costs of decreased immune competence. Interbout arousals allow hibernators to optimize these, and other, trade-offs during prolonged hibernation by enabling host responses to pathogens within brief, periodic episodes of euthermy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/mec.14827DOI Listing
August 2018

Avian and human influenza virus compatible sialic acid receptors in little brown bats.

Sci Rep 2017 04 6;7(1):660. Epub 2017 Apr 6.

Animal Diagnostic Laboratory, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.

Influenza A viruses (IAVs) continue to threaten animal and human health globally. Bats are asymptomatic reservoirs for many zoonotic viruses. Recent reports of two novel IAVs in fruit bats and serological evidence of avian influenza virus (AIV) H9 infection in frugivorous bats raise questions about the role of bats in IAV epidemiology. IAVs bind to sialic acid (SA) receptors on host cells, and it is widely believed that hosts expressing both SA α2,3-Gal and SA α2,6-Gal receptors could facilitate genetic reassortment of avian and human IAVs. We found abundant co-expression of both avian (SA α2,3-Gal) and human (SA α2,6-Gal) type SA receptors in little brown bats (LBBs) that were compatible with avian and human IAV binding. This first ever study of IAV receptors in a bat species suggest that LBBs, a widely-distributed bat species in North America, could potentially be co-infected with avian and human IAVs, facilitating the emergence of zoonotic strains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-00793-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429623PMC
April 2017

Using Stable Isotopes to Infer the Impacts of Habitat Change on the Diets and Vertical Stratification of Frugivorous Bats in Madagascar.

PLoS One 2016 20;11(4):e0153192. Epub 2016 Apr 20.

Temple University, Department of Biology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America.

Human-modified habitats are expanding rapidly; many tropical countries have highly fragmented and degraded forests. Preserving biodiversity in these areas involves protecting species-like frugivorous bats-that are important to forest regeneration. Fruit bats provide critical ecosystem services including seed dispersal, but studies of how their diets are affected by habitat change have often been rather localized. This study used stable isotope analyses (δ15N and δ13C measurement) to examine how two fruit bat species in Madagascar, Pteropus rufus (n = 138) and Eidolon dupreanum (n = 52) are impacted by habitat change across a large spatial scale. Limited data for Rousettus madagascariensis are also presented. Our results indicated that the three species had broadly overlapping diets. Differences in diet were nonetheless detectable between P. rufus and E. dupreanum, and these diets shifted when they co-occurred, suggesting resource partitioning across habitats and vertical strata within the canopy to avoid competition. Changes in diet were correlated with a decrease in forest cover, though at a larger spatial scale in P. rufus than in E. dupreanum. These results suggest fruit bat species exhibit differing responses to habitat change, highlight the threats fruit bats face from habitat change, and clarify the spatial scales at which conservation efforts could be implemented.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0153192PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4838311PMC
August 2016

Capture, Movement, Trade, and Consumption of Mammals in Madagascar.

PLoS One 2016 29;11(2):e0150305. Epub 2016 Feb 29.

Temple University, Department of Biology, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America.

Wild meat trade constitutes a threat to many animal species. Understanding the commodity chain of wild animals (hunting, transportation, trade, consumption) can help target conservation initiatives. Wild meat commodity chain research has focused on the formal trade and less on informal enterprises, although informal enterprises contribute to a large portion of the wild meat trade in sub-Saharan Africa. We aimed to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the formal and informal components of these commodity chains by focusing on the mammalian wild meat trade in Madagascar. Our objectives were to: (1) identify hunting strategies used to capture different wild mammals; (2) analyze patterns of movement of wild meat from the capture location to the final consumer; (3) examine wild meat prices, volumes, and venues of sale; and (4) estimate the volume of wild meat consumption. Data were collected in May-August 2013 using semi-structured interviews with consumers (n = 1343 households, 21 towns), meat-sellers (n = 520 restaurants, open-air markets stalls, and supermarkets, 9 towns), and drivers of inter-city transit vehicles (n = 61, 5 towns). We found that: (1) a wide range of hunting methods were used, though prevalence of use differed by animal group; (2) wild meat was transported distances of up to 166 km to consumers, though some animal groups were hunted locally (<10 km) in rural areas; (3) most wild meat was procured from free sources (hunting, gifts), though urban respondents who consumed bats and wild pigs were more likely to purchase those meats; and (4) wild meat was consumed at lower rates than domestic meat, though urban respondents consumed wild meat twice as much per year compared to rural respondents. Apart from the hunting stage, the consumption and trade of wild meat in Madagascar is also likely more formalized than previously thought.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0150305PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4771166PMC
July 2016

Effects of white-nose syndrome on regional population patterns of 3 hibernating bat species.

Conserv Biol 2016 10 18;30(5):1048-59. Epub 2016 Jul 18.

Northern Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, 65211, U.S.A.

Hibernating bats have undergone severe recent declines across the eastern United States, but the cause of these regional-scale declines has not been systematically evaluated. We assessed the influence of white-nose syndrome (an emerging bat disease caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, formerly Geomyces destructans) on large-scale, long-term population patterns in the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), the northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis), and the tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus). We modeled population trajectories for each species on the basis of an extensive data set of winter hibernacula counts of more than 1 million individual bats from a 4-state region over 13 years and with data on locations of hibernacula and first detections of white-nose syndrome at each hibernaculum. We used generalized additive mixed models to determine population change relative to expectations, that is, how population trajectories differed with a colony's infection status, how trajectories differed with distance from the point of introduction of white-nose syndrome, and whether declines were concordant with first local observation of the disease. Population trajectories in all species met at least one of the 3 expectations, but none met all 3. Our results suggest, therefore, that white-nose syndrome has affected regional populations differently than was previously understood and has not been the sole cause of declines. Specifically, our results suggest that in some areas and species, threats other than white-nose syndrome are also contributing to population declines, declines linked to white-nose syndrome have spread across large geographic areas with unexpected speed, and the disease or other threats led to declines in bat populations for years prior to disease detection. Effective conservation will require further research to mitigate impacts of white-nose syndrome, renewed attention to other threats to bats, and improved surveillance efforts to ensure early detection of white-nose syndrome.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12690DOI Listing
October 2016

Size-energy relationships in ecological communities.

PLoS One 2013 7;8(8):e68657. Epub 2013 Aug 7.

Department of Biology, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States of America.

Hypotheses that relate body size to energy use are of particular interest in community ecology and macroecology because of their potential to facilitate quantitative predictions about species interactions and to clarify complex ecological patterns. One prominent size-energy hypothesis, the energetic equivalence hypothesis, proposes that energy use from shared, limiting resources by populations or size classes of foragers will be independent of body size. Alternative hypotheses propose that energy use will increase with body size, decrease with body size, or peak at an intermediate body size. Despite extensive study, however, size-energy hypotheses remain controversial, due to a lack of directly-measured data on energy use, a tendency to confound distinct scaling relationships, and insufficient attention to the ecological contexts in which predicted relationships are likely to occur. Our goal, therefore, was to directly evaluate size-energy hypotheses while clarifying how results would differ with alternate methods and assumptions. We comprehensively tested size-energy hypotheses in a vertebrate frugivore guild in a tropical forest in Madagascar. Our test of size-energy hypotheses, which is the first to examine energy intake directly, was consistent with the energetic equivalence hypothesis. This finding corresponds with predictions of metabolic theory and models of energy distribution in ecological communities, which imply that body size does not confer an advantage in competition for energy among populations or size classes of foragers. This result was robust to different assumptions about energy regulation. Our results from direct energy measurement, however, contrasted with those obtained with conventional methods of indirect inference from size-density relationships, suggesting that size-density relationships do not provide an appropriate proxy for size-energy relationships as has commonly been assumed. Our research also provides insights into mechanisms underlying local size-energy relationships and has important implications for predicting species interactions and for understanding the structure and dynamics of ecological communities.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0068657PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737256PMC
August 2014

Improved Analysis of Long-Term Monitoring Data Demonstrates Marked Regional Declines of Bat Populations in the Eastern United States.

PLoS One 2013 21;8(6):e65907. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee, United States of America.

Bats are diverse and ecologically important, but are also subject to a suite of severe threats. Evidence for localized bat mortality from these threats is well-documented in some cases, but long-term changes in regional populations of bats remain poorly understood. Bat hibernation surveys provide an opportunity to improve understanding, but analysis is complicated by bats' cryptic nature, non-conformity of count data to assumptions of traditional statistical methods, and observation heterogeneities such as variation in survey timing. We used generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs) to account for these complicating factors and to evaluate long-term, regional population trajectories of bats. We focused on four hibernating bat species - little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus), tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), Indiana myotis (M. sodalis), and northern myotis (M. septentrionalis) - in a four-state region of the eastern United States during 1999-2011. Our results, from counts of nearly 1.2 million bats, suggest that cumulative declines in regional relative abundance by 2011 from peak levels were 71% (with 95% confidence interval of ±11%) in M. lucifugus, 34% (±38%) in P. subflavus, 30% (±26%) in M. sodalis, and 31% (±18%) in M. septentrionalis. The M. lucifugus population fluctuated until 2004 before persistently declining, and the populations of the other three species declined persistently throughout the study period. Population trajectories suggest declines likely resulted from the combined effect of multiple threats, and indicate a need for enhanced conservation efforts. They provide strong support for a change in the IUCN Red List conservation status in M. lucifugus from Least Concern to Endangered within the study area, and are suggestive of a need to change the conservation status of the other species. Our modeling approach provided estimates of uncertainty, accommodated non-linearities, and controlled for observation heterogeneities, and thus has wide applicability for evaluating population trajectories in other wildlife species.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0065907PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3689752PMC
October 2017

Reorienting systematic conservation assessment for effective conservation planning.

Conserv Biol 2011 Aug;25(4):688-96

Department of Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

Systematic conservation assessment (an information-gathering and prioritization process used to select the spatial foci of conservation initiatives) is often considered vital to conservation-planning efforts, yet published assessments have rarely resulted in conservation action. Conservation assessments may lead more directly to effective conservation action if they are reoriented to inform conservation decisions. Toward this goal, we evaluated the relative priority for conservation of 7 sites proposed for the first forest reserves in the Union of the Comoros, an area with high levels of endemism and rapidly changing land uses in the western Indian Ocean. Through the analysis of 30 indicator variables measured at forest sites and nearby villages, we assessed 3 prioritization criteria at each site: conservation value, threat to loss of biological diversity from human activity, and feasibility of reserve establishment. Our results indicated 2 sites, Yiméré and Hassera-Ndrengé, were priorities for conservation action. Our approach also informed the development of an implementation strategy and enabled an evaluation of previously unexplored relations among prioritization criteria. Our experience suggests that steps taken to ensure the closer involvement of practitioners, include a broader range of social data, encourage stakeholder participation, and consider the feasibility of conservation action can improve the relevance of assessments for conservation planning, strengthen the scientific basis for conservation decisions, and result in a more realistic evaluation of conservation alternatives.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01697.xDOI Listing
August 2011
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