Further conservation measures are required to protect Vietnamese reptiles, such as the psychedelic rock gecko (Cnemaspis psychedelica), from habitat loss and overharvesting, concludes a new report, published in the open-access scientific journalNature Conservation.
Having identified areas of high reptile diversity and large numbers of endangered species, the study provides a list of the 50 most threatened species as a guide for further research and conservation action in Vietnam.
The study, based on the bachelor thesis of Lilli Stenger (University of Cologne, Germany), recommends IUCN CPSG’s One Plan Approach to Conservation measures, which, next to improved habitat conservation, also involves increasing the number of threatened species in breeding stations and zoos to maintain populations suitable for restocking.
The scientists identified 484 reptile species known to Vietnam, aiming to provide a baseline to authorities, conservationists, rescue centers, and zoos, so they can follow up with appropriate conservation measures for endangered species. They note that the number is likely to go up, as the country is regarded as a top biodiversity hotspot, and the rate of new reptile species discoveries remains high.
According to the IUCN Red List, 74 of the identified species are considered threatened with extinction, including 34 endemic species. For more than half of Vietnam’s endemic reptiles (85 of 159), the IUCN Red List status is either missing or outdated, and further research is imperative for these species, the researchers say.
Vietnam has a high level of reptile diversity and an outstanding number of endemic species. The species richness maps in the study revealed the Central Annamites in central Vietnam to harbor the highest endemic species diversity (32 species), which highlights it as a site of particular importance for reptile conservation. Alarmingly, a protected area analysis showed that 53 of the 159 endemic species (33.2%) including 17 threatened species, have been recorded exclusively from unprotected areas, such as the Psychedelic Rock Gecko.
In General, Vietnam is considered a country with high conservation priority due to habitat loss and overharvesting for trade, traditional medicine and food.
Globally, reptiles are considered a group of special conservation concern, as they play an important role in almost all ecosystems and often have relatively small distribution ranges, making them especially vulnerable to human threats.
Stenger L, Große Hovest A, Nguyen TQ, Pham CT, Rauhaus A, Le MD, Rödder D, Ziegler T (2023) Assessment of the threat status of reptile species from Vietnam – Implementation of the One Plan Approach to Conservation. Nature Conservation 53: 183 221. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.53.106923
The new special issue of BioRisk compiles materials presented at the International Seminar of Ecology – 2021. The multidisciplinary nature of modern ecology was demonstrated by the main topics of the Seminar: biodiversity and conservation biology, biotic and abiotic impact on the living nature, ecological risk and bioremediation, ecosystem research and services, landscape ecology, and ecological agriculture.
Research teams from various universities, institutes, organizations, and departments, both from Bulgaria and abroad, took part in the Seminar. Foreign participants included: Environmental Toxicology Research Unit (Egypt), Pesticide Chemistry Department, National Research Centre (Giza, Egypt); National Institute for Agrarian and Veterinary Research (Oeiras, Portugal), Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (Lisbon, Portugal); Bach Institute of Biochemistry, Research Center of Biotechnology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, Russia).
Some of the reports presented joint research of Bulgarian scientists and scientists from Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, and the USA. After assessment by independent reviewers, the articles published in the journal cover the topics presented and discussed at the Seminar.
A set of reports were focused on the anthropogenic and environmental impacts on the biota. Soil properties were shown as a factor that can modulate the effect of heavy metals, present in chronically contaminated soils. Different approaches to overcome environmental pollution were presented and discussed: zeolites as detoxifying tools, microalgae for the treatment of contaminated water bodies, and a newly developed bio-fertilizer, based on activated sludge combined with a bacterial strain with detoxifying and plant growth-promoting properties. The clear need for the enlargement of existing monitoring program by including more bioindicators and markers was pointed out.
It was shown that, by using various markers for the evaluation of environmentally induced stress response at different levels (microbiological, molecular, biochemical), it is possible to gain insights of the organisms’ protection and the mechanisms involved in resistance formation. The contribution of increased DNA repair capacity and AOS to the development of environmental tolerance or adaptation was also shown.
Important results for understanding the processes of photoprotection in either cyanobacteria or algae, and higher plants were obtained by in vitro reconstitution of complexes of stress HliA protein with pigments. The crucial role of the cellular physiological state, as a critical factor in determining the resistance to environmental stress with Q cells was demonstrated.
Several papers were focused on the action of bioactive substances of plants origin. The bioactivity was shown to depend strongly on chemical composition. Origanum vulgarehirtum essential oil was promoted as a promising candidate for the purposes of “green” technologies. Analyzing secondary metabolites of plants, it was shown that their productivity in vitro is a dynamic process closely related to the plant growth and development, and is in close relation with the interactions of the plant with the environment.
The influence of the agricultural system type on essential oil production and antioxidant activity of industrially-cultivated Rosa damascena in the Rose valley (Bulgaria) was reported, comparing organic vs conventional farming. The rose extracts from organic farming were shown to accumulate more phenolic compounds, corresponding to the higher antioxidant potential of organic roses.
A comparative study, based on official data from the statistics office of the EU and the Member countries, concerning viral infection levels in intensive and organic poultry farming, demonstrated that free-range production had a higher incidence of viral diseases with a high zoonotical potential.
Pollinators of Lavandula angustifolia, as an important factor for optimal production of lavender essential oil, were analyzed. It was concluded that, although lavender growers tend to place beehives in the fields for optimal essential oil production, it was crucial to preserve wild pollinators, as well.
New data reported that essential oils and alkaloid-rich plant extracts had the strongest acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity and could be proposed for further testing for insect control.
It was reported that the vegetation diversity of Bulgaria had still not been fully investigated. Grasslands, broad-leaved forests, and wetlands are the best investigated habitats, while data concerning ruderal, shrubland, fringe, and chasmophytic vegetation in Bulgaria are scarce.
New information was presented concerning pre-monitoring geochemical research of river sediments in the area of Ada Tepe gold mining site (Eastern Rhodopes). The obtained results illustrate that the explored landscapes have been influenced by natural geochemical anomalies, as well as, impacted by human activity. The forests habitat diversity of Breznik Municipality was revealed, following the EUNIS Classification and initial data from the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Forestry Management Plans. It was shown that, in addition to the dominant species Quercus dalechampii, Quercus frainetto, Fagus sylvatica, Carpinus betulus, some artificial plantations with Pinus nigra and Pinus sylvestris were also present, as well as non-native species, such as Robinia pseudoacacia and Quercus rubra.
Models for Predicting Solution Properties and Solid-Liquid Equilibrium in Cesium Binary and Mixed Systems were created. The results are of great importance for the development of strategies and programs for nuclear waste geochemical storage. In conclusion, many results in different areas of ecology were presented in the Seminar, followed by interesting discussions. A lot of questions were answered, however many others remained open. A good platform for further discussion will be the next International Seminar of Ecology – 2022, entitled Actual Problems of Ecology.
The road is a dangerous place for animals: they can easily get run over, which can seriously affect wildlife diversity and populations in the long term. There is also a human economic cost and possible injury or even death in these accidents, while crashing into heavier animals or trying to avoid them on the road.
Making roads safer for both animals and people starts with a simple first step: understanding when, where, and how many animals get run over. This knowledge can help protect specific species, for example by using warning signs, preventing access to the roads for animals, creating overpasses and underpasses, or closing roads. Wildlife roadkill data can also help monitor other trends, such as population dynamics, species distribution, and animal behavior.
Thanks to citizen science platforms, obtaining this kind of data is no longer a task reserved for scientists. There are now dozens of free, easy-to-use online systems, where anyone can record wildlife collision accidents or roadkill, contributing to a fuller picture that might later be used to inform policy measures.
One such project is the Flemish Animals under wheels, where users can register the roadkill they saw, adding date, time and geolocation online or by using the apps. The data is stored in the online biodiversity database Waarnemingen.be, the Flemish version of the international platform Observation.org.
Between 2008 and 2020, the project collected almost 90,000 roadkill records from Flanders, Belgium, registered by over 4,000 citizen scientists. Roadkill recording is just a small part of their nature recording activities – the multi-purpose platform which also allows the registration of living organisms. This is probably why the volunteers have remained engaged with the project for over 6 years now.
The researchers analyzed data on 145,000 km of transects monitored, which resulted in records of 1,726 mammal and 2,041 bird victims. However, the majority of the data – over 60,000 bird and mammal roadkill records – were collected opportunistically, where opportunistic data sampling favors larger or more “enigmatic” species. Hedgehogs, red foxes and red squirrels were the most frequently registered mammal roadkill victims.
In the last decade, roadkill incidents in Flanders have diminished, the study found, even though search effort increased. This might be the result of effective road collision mitigation, such as fencing, crossing structures, or animal detection systems. On the other hand, it could be a sign of declining populations among those animals that are most prone to being killed by vehicles. More research is needed to understand the exact reason. Over the last 11 years, roadkill records of the European polecat showed a significant relative decrease, while seven species, including the roe deer and wild boar, show a relative increase in recorded incidents.
There seems to be a clear influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on roadkill patterns for some species. Restrictions in movement that followed likely led simultaneously to fewer casualties and a decrease in the search effort.
The number of new observations submitted to Waarnemingen.be continues to increase year after year, with data for 2021 pointing to about 9 million. Even so, the scientists warn that those recorded observations “are only the tip of the iceberg.”
Swinnen KRR, Jacobs A, Claus K, Ruyts S, Vercayie D, Lambrechts J, Herremans M (2022) ‘Animals under wheels’: Wildlife roadkill data collection by citizen scientists as a part of their nature recording activities. In: Santos S, Grilo C, Shilling F, Bhardwaj M, Papp CR (Eds) Linear Infrastructure Networks with Ecological Solutions. Nature Conservation 47: 121-153. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.47.72970
The “Restoration of Wetlands” permanent topical article collection in the open-access, peer-reviewed scholarly journal Nature Conservation is now open for submissions, with the aim to bring together a wide spectrum of knowledge necessary to inform scientists, policy-makers and practitioners about key insights into restoration of wetlands and coastal marine systems, thereby facilitating exchange among different disciplines.
Being a permanent collection means that it is to welcome contributions indefinitely, whereas papers will progress to publication as soon as they are accepted by the editors. While they will be accessible from a central point: the collection, which is also assigned with its own DOI, the articles themselves will feature in different journal volumes, depending on their publication date.
Find more about the specificity of Special issues and Topical collections on the journal’s website.
The issue is managed by an international team of scientists:
Mathias Scholz, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, Germany (lead editor);
Due to intensive land-use, including farming, urbanisation, drainage, construction of levees or bank stabilisation or straightening of river courses and coastlines, wetlands are losing their typical functions, such as carbon storage and habitat provision. As a result, the ecosystem services they provide are declining and so is the coastal biodiversity as a whole.
Among others, the “Restoration of Wetlands” article collection in the Nature Conservation journal seeks to attract contributions addressing issues, such as the roles of society and planning, as well as biology in restoration; indicators to monitor and measure restoration success; the synergies between wetland restoration and climate change adaptation; and hands-on expertise in restoration.
Bird diets provide a real treasure for research into the distribution and conservation of their prey, conclude scientists after studying the Eurasian Eagle Owl in southeastern Bulgaria. In their paper, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Travaux du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle “Grigore Antipa”, they report the frequent presence of the threatened Big-Bellied Glandular Bush-Cricket, and conclude that studies on the Eurasian Eagle Owl could be used to identify biodiversity-rich areas in need of protection.
Bird diets provide a real treasure for research into the distribution and conservation of their prey, such as overlooked and rare bush-cricket species, point out scientists after studying the diet of the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) in southeastern Bulgaria.
While the Balkan Peninsula has already been recognised as the area with the highest diversity of orthopterans (grasshoppers, crickets and bush-crickets) in Europe and one of the generally most biologically diverse areas in the whole Palearctic realm, it is also home to a worrying number of threatened species. Additionally, a thorough and updated country assessment of the conservation status of the orthopterans found in Bulgaria is currently lacking. This is why the Bulgarian team undertook a study on the biodiversity of these insects by analysing food remains from pellets of Eurasian Eagle Owls, collected from 53 breeding sites in southeastern Bulgaria.
As a result, the scientists reported three species of bush crickets that have become a significant part of the diet of the studied predatory birds. Curiously enough, all three species are rare or threatened in Bulgaria. The case of the Big-Bellied Glandular Bush-Cricket is of special concern, as it is a species threatened by extinction. Meanwhile, the local decline in mammals and birds that weigh between 0.2 and 1.9 kg, which are in fact the preferred prey for the Eurasian Eagle Owl, has led the highly opportunistic predator to increasingly seek large insects for food. The researchers even suspect that there might be more overlooked species attracting the owls.
Taking into account the hereby reported interconnected inferences of conservation concern, as well as the vulnerability of the Big-Bellied Glandular Bush-Cricket, a species with a crucial role in the food chain, the scientists call for the newly provided data to prompt the designation of a new Natura 2000 site. Additionally, due to the species’ requirements for habitats of low disturbance and high vegetation diversity, and its large size and easy location via singing males, they point out that it makes a suitable indicator for habitat quality and species community health.
Chobanov D, Milchev B (2020) Orthopterans (Insecta: Orthoptera) of conservation value in the Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo food in Bulgaria. Travaux du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle “Grigore Antipa” 63(2): 161-167. https://doi.org/10.3897/travaux.63.e53867
In a new study, published in the scientific journal Nature Conservation, a research team analyses the genetic diversity of the endangered Four-eyed turtle, a species that has fallen victim to the growing wildlife trade in Vietnam. Having identified several distinct lineages in field-collected and local trade samples, the scientists warn that confiscated animals must not be released back into the wild before they have their origin traced back to the locality they have been captured.
In Southeast Asia, wildlife trade is running rampant, and Vietnam plays a key role in combating wildlife trafficking.
Since the country opened its market to China in the late 1980s, a huge amount of wildlife and its products has been transported across the border every year. Species have also been exported to other Asian countries, Europe and the USA. Furthermore, in recent years, Vietnam has also supported the transit of pangolin scales and other wildlife products from across Asia and even as far as Africa all the way to China and other destinations.
Additionally, in line with the expanding wealthy middle class, consumption of wildlife and its products has risen dramatically in Vietnam. As a consequence, the country takes on all three major roles in the international wildlife trade: export, transit and consumption.
Freshwater turtles and tortoises make up a large part of the international trade between Vietnam and China and the domestic trade within Vietnam. Meanwhile, due to the increasing use of social networks, wildlife trade is shifting to online-based platforms, thereby further facilitating access to threatened species. Consequently, the Vietnamese pond turtle and the Swinhoe’s softshell turtle, for example, are already on the brink of extinction. Despite the repeated recent survey efforts of conservation biologists, no viable populations of their species have been found.
One of the effective approaches to the conservation of the most endangered species is to have confiscated animals released back into the wild, following the necessary treatment and quarantine, or transferring them to conservation breeding programmes. However, in either of the cases, it is necessary to know about the origin of the animals, because the release of individuals at sites they are not naturally adapted to, or at localities inhabited by populations of incompatible genetic makeup can have negative effects both on the gene pool and ecosystem health.
In the present research article, published in the peer-reviewed open-access scientific journalNature Conservation, turtle conservationist and molecular biologist Dr. Minh D. Le of Vietnam National University (Hanoi) and the American Museum of Natural History (New York), in collaboration with the Cologne Zoo (Germany) and the Asian Turtle Program – Indo-Myanmar Conservation (Hanoi), the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (Hanoi) and Hanoi Procuratorate University (Hanoi), studies the geographic distribution of genetic diversity of the endangered Four-eyed turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata). The species, whose common name relates to the four eye-resembling spots, located on the back of its head, has traditionally been neglected by scientific and conservation efforts.
Having analysed field-collected and local trade samples along with confiscated animals, the researchers concluded that there is a significant number of genetically distinct lineages distributed in Vietnam and China, and that local trade samples could provide key data for resolving the genetic patterns of the species. They remind that Four-eyed turtles are getting more and more difficult to find in the wild.
On the other hand, the study highlights that confiscated animals are of various origin and, therefore, must not be released arbitrarily where they have been seized. Instead, the researchers recommend that captive programmes establish regular genetic screenings to determine the origin of confiscated turtles, so that the risk of crossing different lineages is eliminated. Such genetic screenings are of crucial importance to solve the current issues with biodiversity conservation in the country and the region.
Like other developing countries, Vietnam does not have any specific guidelines on how to release confiscated animals back into the wild yet. This and other similar studies emphasise the role of the government in the implementation of stricter laws and regulation,”
said Dr. Minh D. Le, lead author of the study.
This research once more underscores the IUCN’s One Plan Approach, which aims to develop integrative strategies to combine in situ and ex situ measures with expert groups, for the purposes of species conservation,
added Dr. Thomas Ziegler of the CologneZoo.
The research was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, the Partnership for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER), the United States Agency for International Development, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology and IDEAWILD.
Le MD, McCormack TEM, Hoang HV, Duong HT, Nguyen TQ, Ziegler T, Nguyen HD, Ngo HT (2020) Threats from wildlife trade: The importance of genetic data in safeguarding the endangered Four-eyed Turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata). Nature Conservation 41: 91-111. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.41.54661
Large carnivores (e.g. bears, big cats, wolves and elephant seals) and zoos should be utilised as powerful catalysts for public engagement with nature and pro-environmental behaviour, highlights a new study in the journal Nature Conservation.
Large carnivores (e.g. bears, big cats, wolves and elephant seals) and zoos should be utilised as powerful catalysts for public engagement with nature and pro-environmental behaviour, suggests a paper published in the scholarly open-access journal Nature Conservation by an international multidisciplinary team, led by Dr Adriana Consorte-McCrea, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK.
The paper, which offers a synthesis of contributions, presented at the symposium “Large carnivores and zoos as catalysts for biodiversity conservation: how do we engage the public in the protection of biodiversity?” at the 5th European Congress for Conservation Biology (ECCB), Finland 2018, highlights the wide-reaching influence of the institutions visited by over 700 million people a year worldwide and combining knowledge with emotions and social values. Bringing together natural and social sciences, as well as psychology and education, it provides a rich multifaceted approach to the conservation of biodiversity by exploring the connections between people, large carnivores and zoos.
“[Zoos] may provide a space where field conservation and human dimensions can combine to foster a commitment between people, from all backgrounds, and the rest of the living world, and break down key barriers to biodiversity conservation, catalysed by the charismatic keystone species housed within their facilities,” concludes the team.
According to the scientists, large carnivores are essential to engage the public in the urgent need to arrest biodiversity loss due to the many links between wild predators and enhanced biodiversity. They acknowledge that the interactions between people and carnivores are complex and can give rise to conflicts such as concerns related to fears for own safety, fear of loss of other favoured species, material interests, or socio-economic tensions formed by an urban-rural divide.
Due to continuous changes in land use, areas of healthy habitat and protected areas are usually small and fragmented and cannot sustain wild carnivores, the paper explains, so it is necessary to coexist with large carnivores. Large carnivores show capabilities to adapt to different human-dominated ecosystems across the world which supports the idea that separation is not a necessary condition for large carnivore conservation. The bigger challenge remains whether human societies can accept and adapt to non-predator-free landscapes.
“Considering that the occurrence of predator attacks on humans is rare, tolerance of risks is affected by norms, culture, spiritual beliefs, cognitive and emotional factors, including risk perception,” elaborated the specialists and added that, “[p]eople’s progressive amnesia of what the landscapes were like before large carnivores disappeared may result in acceptance of natural spaces devoid of carnivore species.”
Research also points to the lack of interest in nature and reduced commitment to biodiversity conservation as being linked cognitive elements such as misconceptions and negative messages about wildlife in formative years and declining opportunities to engage with nature from childhood. This phenomenon has been described as the extinction of experience.
“Support for the conservation of large carnivores and for biodiversity is more likely when people have an emotional appreciation for diverse species, not just understanding. Both aspects are likely to be enhanced by direct experiences, such as visits to zoos and aquariums that provide an increasingly important opportunity for contact with other species,” add the scientists.
Recognising the role of zoos as a catalyst for conservation for their contributions in skills and expertise that span animal care and husbandry, public engagement, education and research, is vital for biodiversity conservation. Though education programmes based on knowledge gain are not enough to change people’s perceptions, opportunities for emotional engagement and reduction of fear, combined with social context provided by the zoo are great assets in promoting tolerance of large carnivores and biodiversity among visitors who are typically estranged from the wildlife.
Consorte-McCrea A, Fernandez A, Bainbridge A, Moss A, Prévot A-C, Clayton S, Glikman JA, Johansson M, López-Bao JV, Bath A, Frank B, Marchini S (2019) Large carnivores and zoos as catalysts for engaging the public in the protection of biodiversity. Nature Conservation 37: 133-150. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.37.39501
Ferns and their allied species, which together comprise the pteridophytes, are vascular non-flowering plants that reproduce via spores. Many of their species are admired for their aesthetics.
However, despite being excellent bioindicators that allow for scientists and decision-makers to monitor the state of ecosystems in the face of climate change and global biodiversity crisis, these species are too often overlooked due to their relatively small size and lack of vivid colours.
To bridge the existing gaps in the knowledge about the diversity of ferns and their allied species, while also seeking to identify the ways these plants select their habitats and react to the changes occurring there later on, a research team from Togo and France launched an ambitious biodiversity project in 2013. As for the setting of their long-term study, they chose Togo – an amazingly species-rich country in Western Africa, whose flora expectedly turned out to be hugely understudied.
In this first-of-a-kind checklist of Togolese ferns, the researchers record as many as 73 species previously not known to inhabit the country, including 12 species introduced for horticultural purposes. As a result of their 4-year study, the pteridophyte diversity of Togo – a country barely taking up 56,600 km² – now counts a total of 134 species.
Still, the authors believe that there are even more species waiting to be discovered on both national and global level.
“Additional investigations in the difficult to access areas of the far north of the country, and Togo Mountains are still needed to fill possible biodiversity data gaps and enable decision-makers to make the right decisions,” say the researchers.
In addition to their taxonomic paper, the authors are also set to publish an illustrated guide to the pteridophytes of Togo, in order to familiarise amateur botanists with this fascinating biodiversity.
Original source: Abotsi KE, Kokou K, Dubuisson J-Y, Rouhan G (2018) A first checklist of the Pteridophytes of Togo (West Africa). Biodiversity Data Journal 6: e24137. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.6.e24137