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Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

News

Conservation priorities for restoring Bezoar goats in the Caucasus

Photo: Alexander Malkhasyan

Mountain ungulates around the world have been decimated to small, isolated populations. Our new paper in Conservation Science & Practice showcases an approach to spatially target threat‐specific restoration actions for bezoar goats in the Caucasus. We find widespread suitable habitat, but much of it is unoccupied. The reason for this is likely high poaching pressure that prevents natural recolonization. Our approach and map allow to pinpoint priority patches for specific restoration measures, such as reintroductions and anti‐poaching action.

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Europe’s primary forests: What to protect? Where to restore?

Photo: Francesco Sabatini

Primary forests are an irreplaceable part of our natural heritage and are critical for conserving forest biodiversity. We used a unique geodatabase to assess the conservation status of Europe’s primary forests, and highlight protection gaps and priorities for restoration.

Overall, primary forests are in a perilous state, and are not representative of Europe’s diversity of forest types. Yet, there are considerable opportunities for ensuring better protection and restoring primary forest structure, composition and functioning, at least partially.

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Fight Fire with Trade

Fig.: Laura Kehoe

Our three tenets of sustainable trade—inclusion, transparency, and enforcement—are widely applicable and provide policymakers, producers, consumers, and the wider international community with a clear and practical pathway toward supporting human rights, a habitable climate, and a healthy environment.

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Mapping the direct and indirect effects of agricultural expansion on species

Photo: Julieta Decarre (INTA)

We developed an approach to isolate and map the direct and indirect effects of agricultural expansion on species, using the giant anteater in the Gran Chaco as an example. Anteater occupancy decreased substantially since 1985, particularly after 2000 when agriculture expanded rapidly. Importantly, anteater occupancy declined over much wider areas than those directly affected by forest loss, suggesting that agricultural expansion has substantial indirect effects on species.

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Ecosystem services decline drastically as agriculture expands in the Argentine Chaco 

Photo: Matias Mastrangelo

Agricultural expansion often leads to drastic changes in ecosystem functions and services, but the spatial patterns of these changes often remain elusive. A new paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology, led by Paula Barral, shows how non-parametric spatial clustering can be used to identify typical bundles of ecosystem functions and services – and how land-use changes alters them in the Argentine Chaco, a global deforestation hotspot. This provides a spatial template for land use planning to address and mitigate trade-offs between ecosystem services.

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Conservation strategies must adapt when landscapes change

Photo: Martin Lepez

- Agriculture provides societies with food and biomass, but where agriculture expands into tropical and subtropical forests, biodiversity losses can be large.

- Understanding how exactly agriculture impacts biodiversity is therefore critically important for helping farmers and planners to find ways to avoid biodiversity losses.

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Topographic correction matters: Land-cover mapping in the Caucasus

Photo: Volker Radeloff

Our study found that topographic correction matters for land-cover mapping, especially for discriminating forest typesin steep terrain, and examinedthree decades of Landsat imagery revealingthat cropland loss was the most prevalentland-cover change in the Caucasus.

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Does conflict inhibit connectivity for big cats?

Photo: PWHF

Maintaining connectivity is among important conservation measures against habitat fragmentation. Yet, conflict risk may compromise the functionality of corridors. In this study, we show that by ignoring human-leopard conflict, safe corridors are substantially overestimated in NE Iran.

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Land grabs lead to increasing deforestation in the tropics

Photo: Achmad Rabin Taim / Wikimedia Commons

Land acquisitions in the tropics by multinational companies or countries have been a growing phenomenon recently, but it remains unclear whether that leads to more deforestation. A new study, led by Kyle Davis from the University of Delaware, analyzed over 82,000 individual land deals in 15 tropical countries to show that land deals do indeed target areas with disproportionally high forest cover and that once deals are made they lead to increased deforestation. This emphasizes the need for stronger policies curbing the negative environmental impacts of land deals.

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Post-Soviet rewilding in the Eurasia steppes results in increasing landscape connectivity

Photo: Johannes Kamp

In the steppes of Kazakhstan, large-scale passive rewilding maybe taking place, substantially increasing protected area connectivity! Using a unique combination of satellite imagery and historic topographic maps we developed a set of spatial indicators that allowed to spatially assess post-Soviet trends in human influence. 

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Spy satellites reveal species’ declines

Photo: Alyona Koshkina

Species’ responses to land use conversions can occur on timescales not previously observed for mammals. Marmot burrow densities declined for over 60 years following agricultural conversions. To demonstrate these remarkable long-term responses, we relied on a novel data source for conservation - Corona spy satellite imagery from the Cold War.

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PhD Position on biodiversity responses to land-use change in the former Soviet Union

Photo: Rotislav Stach/​Bundesamt für Naturschutz/​dpa

The Conservation Biology department at the University of Göttingen (Germany) seeks highly qualified and motivated candidates for a PhD Position on biodiversity responses to
land-use change in the former Soviet Union.
One PhD position (TV-L 13, 65%) for three years.
Starting date: from 1st October 2020

Application deadline: 30 June 2020

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Cropland distribution and local climate shape bird beta diversity 

Photo: Gregorio Gavier Pizarro

Using generalized dissimilarity models we find that cropland distribution and local climate characteristics are important factors in shaping beta diversity of birds in the South American Dry Chaco. 

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Increasing joint impacts of habitat destruction and hunting on mammals in the Gran Chaco

Photo: Alfredo Romero-Muñoz

Habitat destruction and overexploitation – the main threats to biodiversity worldwide – are increasingly affecting several mammal species in the same areas. In such areas, the total effect of both threats may be even larger than the sum of the parts, likely resulting in fast biodiversity loss. Our work identifies priority areas for protection, as well as hotspots were one or both threats should be managed in order to save the imperiled biodiversity of the Chaco.

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Trade in soybean and beef affect Jaguars more than trafficking

Romero Munoz_jaguar
Photo: Daniel Alarcón

The increasing trade in jaguar body parts to China have drawn global conservation attention. However, we argue that the trade in soybean and beef pose far greater threats to jaguars through increasing habitat destruction and direct killing that they promote. Conservation should focus on these threats and their interactions with trafficking.

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Cattle systems in the Dry Chaco

Fernandez cattle
Photo: Pedro D. Fernández

Cattle production has major impacts on the environment, but these impacts vary depending on the cattle production systems. Data on these systems are notoriously scarce, which is a real obstacle for context-specific impact assessments and spatial planning. Here, we developed a novel approach that combines vaccination data, which contains detailed information on the location and composition of cattle herds, with fine-scale land-cover information to map cattle production systems.

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A novel Landsat-derived index shows a 73% drop in grazing pressure on the Eurasian steppe

Producing food while maintaining biodiversity is a global challenge and fierce debates exist about the optimal strategy to do so. We show that the best strategy depends on both species response to agriculture as well as the productive capacity of land.

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Maintaining biodiversity may take multiple land use strategies

Producing food while maintaining biodiversity is a global challenge and fierce debates exist about the optimal strategy to do so. We show that the best strategy depends on both species response to agriculture as well as the productive capacity of land.

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Fires scorching Bolivia's Chiquitano forest

Alfredo_bolivia_fire
Photo: Daniel Coimbra

The Chiquitano dry Forest, the world’s largest and best preserved tropical dry forest, has lost a staggering 1.4 million ha (~12 of its total area) to forest fires over weeks in 2019. The Bolivian government should revise the legislation encouraging agricultural expansion to protect these unique forest.

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Mapping marmots from space

We used Google Earth and Bing images to map the distribution of Bobak marmot (Marmota bobak) across its range in Kazakhstan and southern Russia (~950,000 km2). Our ground-truth survey showed that the imagery we used are suitable for detection marmot burrows form space. Based on we occurrence data we built habitat models and derived a new population estimate for the species in Kazahkstan.

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Land-use change caused a tremendous increase in steppe fires in Kazakhstan

Dara_Kazakhstan
Photo: Andrey Dara

Dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in an unprecedented cropland and grazing abandonment. We detected a sevenfold increase in burned area in northern Kazahkstan using Landsat imagery. This change in fire regimes can be attributed to post-Soviet land-use change.

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Connectivity or isolation? Wisent reintroductions in Poland 

Benjamin Bleyhl_wisent_Poland
Photo: Heindriken Dahmann

In this study, we developed an approach to identify candidate reintroduction sites to increase connectivity as well as to serve as potential reservoirs. We used European bison (wisents) as an example and mapped 47 reintroduction candidate sites in Poland.

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Assessing the impacts of deforestation on collared peccaries at the population and individual level

Asun photo deforestation
Photo: Julieta Decarre / INTA

In this study, we developed an approach to identify candidate reintroduction sites to increase connectivity as well as to serve as potential reservoirs. We used European bison (wisents) as an example and mapped 47 reintroduction candidate sites in Poland.

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Mapping habitat suitability directly from the Landsat archive

Oeser_Lynx Nationalpark Bayerischer Wald
Photo: Julian Oeser

We show that Landsat-based spectral-temporal metrics can significantly improve habitat assessments for large mammals when compared to land-cover maps, better capturing fine scale variation and temporal dynamics in habitat conditions.

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