Effectiveness of protected areas in European Russia
How effective were Russia's protected areas after the breakdown of the Soviet Union, durign a time characterized by institutional reorganization, economic hardships, and weak law enforcment? A new paper by Anika Sieber suggests that despite these socioeconomic and institutional changes, protected areas in European Russia were surprisingly effective in limiting human-induced forest disturbance inside them. Moreover, her study found drastic land-cover changes, particularly farmland abandonment and forest regrowth, in the surroundings of these protected areas, highlighting potential conservation opportunities.
Biogeography class trip to the Museum für Naturkunde
After the final exam of the semester the Biogeography class had the opportunity to learn about research and conservation in action with a back-stage tour of the Museum für Naturkunde. Students had the chance to see the some of the 30 million objects in the Museum’s collection along with learning about behind the scenes cataloging and research techniques including amphibian studies in Western Africa and microscopic digitalization of specimens - photos here.
Regime shifts in alpine vegetation in the Himalayas
Understanding how climate and land use affect shrub encroachment is important for identifying strategies to preserve biodiverse grassland in mountain regions. Jodi Brandt's new paper uses extensive field data in combination with satellite image analyses to reconstruct vegetation, climate, and land use patterns for a region in northwestern Yunnan (China). Jodi could show that shrublands rapidly expanded into grasslands, and because fire may no longer be effective in controlling shrub encroachment, these vegetation changes may be irreversible and theaten endemic biodiversity and local livelihoods.
Hot moments for biodiversity conservation
That conservation efforst should focus on biodiversity hotspots (i.e., areas where biodiversity is high and particualrly at risk) is a well-established concept in conservation biology. A new paper in Conservation Letters lead by Volker Radeloff (UW Madison) argues that there are also hot moments for conservation - that is, periods of time when conservation efforts are more likely to be implemented. Analyzing the evolution of the global protected area networks provides ample evidence for such hot moments for example following gouvernment changes in the United States or after the Fall of the Berlin wall in Eastern German.
Future land use effects on habitat connectivity
Maintaining habitat connectivity is a major challenge for conservation planners. Using an example from Southern Spain, a new paper by Maria Piquer-Rodriguez highlights how conservation planning for connectivity can be improved by considering future scenarios and and by identifying those landscape connectors that are at highest risk of being lost.
Welcome to Laura Kehoe and Patrick Culbert!
The Biogeography and Conservation Biology Group warmly welcomes Laura Kehoe and Patrick Culbert! Laura joins us to carry out a PhD on the impacts of different land use pathways (e.g., area expansion vs intensification) on global biodiversity. Patrick will further strenghten our links with the SILVIS lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and he will work on assessing field size changes in post-Soviet Eastern Europe, and how these changes affected biodiversity.
Satellite images allow reconstructing plant invasions
Invasions of exotic species are a major threat to biodiversity and understand the rates and patterns of invasions is important for identifying effective management strategies. A study lead by Gregorio Pizzaro highlights the potential of the Landsat image archive to reconstruct invasion patterns, by mapping the invasion of the exotic tree glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum) around the city of Cordoba, Argentina. Glossy privet is native China and has been introduced to Argentina as an ornamental plant in gardens. When it escapes, glossy privet can form very dense, monospecific stands, resulting in a fundametnal restructurring of forest communities.
Mapping Eastern Europe's abandoned farmlands
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union experienced drastic land use changes in the wake of the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Most notably, millions of hectares of former farmland were abandoned, but the extent and spatial pattern of abandoned lands remains highly unclear. Camilo Alcantara used MODIS reflectance and NDVI time series and a Support Vector Machines classification algorithm to test which remote sensing dataset captures abandoned farmlands best, and to provide an abandonment map for a major portion of Eastern Europe. His paper was just published in Remote Sensing of Environment.
Trade-offs between conservation and land use
Whether to strictly protect large areas of natural ecosystems and intensify farming on the remainder (land sparing) or to protect less land and farm at lower intensity on a larger area (land sharing) is a hotly debated topic in Conservation Biology. A new paper by Van Butsic which has just been published with Conservation Biology provides new insights to this debate. Coupling an economic model with species-area models and considering a range of response functions, Van's results show that species richness responds in highly non-linear ways for both land use strategies, and that the optimal solution may be highly context specific.
Forests are increasing in Russia's temperate zone
Extensive logging occurred after the breakdown of the Soviet Union in European Russia, but overall forests are increasing due to forest expansion on former farmland. Matthias Baumann (Univ. Wisconsin-Madison) quantified these trends using a comprehensive sample of Landsat images across European Russia. His paper, which also highlights the value of winter images for land cover change mapping, has just been published in Remote Sensing of Environment.
Conservation in traditional farming landscapes
A new paper is out in Conservation Letters on conservation strategies in traditional farming landscapes, such as those still found widely across Eastern Europe. Many of these landscapes are rapidly disappearing, at least in part because of the EU eastward expansion. With a major Common Agricultural Policy reform upcoming, we argue that policy making should focus more on the links between the social and ecological subsystems rather than breaking these links as can happen when people are simply paid (via subsidies) to maintain traditional land use practices.
Field trip to the South-American Chaco
The grounding of this trip is the research being initiated in our lab in the framework of the doctoral research entitled "Future land use in the South American Chaco and its effects on biodiversity".
Land use change isolates the Greater Serengeti ecosystem
Anna Estes (UW-Madison) leads a study assessing land use change around the Greater Serengeti ecosystem, in which we collaborate. A paper out of this project was recently published in Biological Conservation, showing how the park increasingly becomes an island in a sea of human-dominated land use.