Threatened South American coati found roaming in a large city

Researchers recorded an individual at the Canoas Airbase, one of the last remaining green spaces in a densely urbanized area of a large city in southern Brazil.

You may assume that metropolitan areas are devoid of wildlife, but that is very far from the truth. The remaining green spaces within the urban matrices of large cities can serve as corridors or stepping stones for wild animals. Sometimes, even threatened mammal species end up using them.

On August 12, 2020, a research team from Brazil recorded a South American coati in Canoas, the fourth most populous and densely urbanized city in the southernmost state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul. The animal was detected with a camera trap during a Masters research project conducted at the Canoas Airbase, one of the last green spaces remaining in the municipality.

South American Coati at the Canoas airbase in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Video by Diego Floriano da Rocha, Thaís Brauner do Rosario and Cristina Vargas Cademartori

Widely distributed throughout the continent, the South American coati is a medium-sized carnivore living on trees and feeding mainly on small invertebrates and fruits. The species is classified as Vulnerable in Rio Grande do Sul, and it’s considered threatened mainly because of the loss of its forest habitats.

The study that recorded an individual in the urban area was conducted as part of a partnership between the Canoas Airbase and La Salle University. Led by Dr Cristina Vargas Cademartori from La Salle University, the research team was made up of Diego Floriano da Rocha (Doctoral student), Thaís Brauner do Rosario (Masters student), Ana Carolina Pontes Maciel (biologist at the Canoas Airbase), and Duana Suelem Alves (undergraduate student). They described in detail the record and the study area in a paper in the open-access journal Neotropical Biology and Conservation.

The researchers were surprised to find the coati in the midst of a dense urban area. Although the species is not considered threatened in the majority of its area of distribution, its populations have been in decline because of habitat loss and hunting.

“This record confirms the capacity of this species to use environments that have been changed by anthropic activity,” the researchers write in their paper, adding that, because of all the food that humans leave behind, urban environments can in fact favor the establishment of more adaptable species like the coati.

The discovery highlights the importance of urban green spaces for wildlife conservation. “This is very important for defining appropriate conservation measurements for endangered species, especially beyond protected areas,” the authors conclude.

Research article:
da Rocha DF, do Rosario TB, Maciel ACP, Alves DS, Cademartori CV (2022) Record of occurrence of Nasua nasua (Linnaeus, 1766) (Carnivora, Procyonidae) in a densely urbanized area of the city of Canoas, southern Brazil. Neotropical Biology and Conservation 17(2): 111-116. https://doi.org/10.3897/neotropical.17.e81824

Researchers find post-fire logging harms Spotted owls

Wildlife ecologists studying the rare Spotted owl in the forests of California have discovered that large, intense wildfires are not responsible for the breeding territory extinction that has been reported recently.

Instead, the researchers found that post-fire logging operations, which are common on both private and national forest lands, were in fact causing the declines in the territory occupancy of this imperiled wildlife species. In areas, where no logging took place following large forest fires, the scientists failed to detect any significant effect in the spotted owls’ territory occupancy or extinction rate.

“This is good news for declining California spotted owls because this is something that we can control–we can make policy decisions to stop post-fire logging operations in spotted owl habitat,” says Dr. Chad Hanson, a research ecologist with the John Muir Project of the Earth Island Institute and the study’s lead author. His team’s article is published in the open access scientific journal Nature Conservation.

The study sheds light on recent large fires, such as the 99,000-acre King fire from 2014 which affected the Eldorado National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. As a result, spotted owl occupancy declined in the northern portion of the King fire area. However, the present study finds post-fire logging is to blame.

Post-fire logging removes important spotted owl foraging areas in “snag forest habitats” created by patches of intense fire, explain the scientists. These habitats are rich in small mammal species preyed on by the owls, whereas post-fire logging destroys these habitats, causing higher territory extinction rates.

The study also reports that many of the spotted owl territories in the King fire, which were previously described as lost due to the fire, had in fact already been unoccupied for years before it occurred. Other factors acting before the fire turn out to have been responsible for the occupancy changes at these sites.

The scientists’ findings also help to explain why previous research has found very high spotted owl occupancy in the 257,000-acre Rim fire in the Sierra Nevada prior to post-fire logging, which was then followed by a decline in owl territory occupancy after such logging occurred.

“These results were not surprising considering that spotted owls evolved with forest fires, but logging is a new disturbance to which they are not adapted,” says co-author Monica Bond, a wildlife ecologist with the Wild Nature Institute.

Wildlife researcher and co-author Derek Lee, also affiliated with the Wild Nature Institute, adds, “It is time to stop thinking logging will help the forest; we need to take a much more hands-off approach to forest management, so natural processes can be re-established.”

The study’s results coincide with the strong consensus among hundreds of U.S. scientists opposing post-fire logging operations due to a wide range of ecological harms. Pro-logging members of the U.S. Congress have recently pointed to large forest fires as a justification for proposed logging bills that would override most environmental laws and dramatically increase logging, including post-fire logging, on U.S. National Forests and other public lands.

The results of this study indicate that such legislative proposals would contradict scientific evidence, and harm spotted owls populations. Other studies have also indicated that increased logging would substantially reduce forest carbon storage, and increase greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change.

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Original source:

Hanson CT, Bond ML, Lee DE (2018) Effects of post-fire logging on California spotted owl occupancy. Nature Conservation 24: 93-105. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.24.20538

When lemons give you life: Herpetofauna adaptation to citrus orchards in Belize

Natural habitat areas exhibit similar abundances and diversity of herpetofauna as citrus orchards and reclaimed orchard forests in Stann Creek, Belize, reports a comparative study by researchers Russell Gray and Dr. Colin Strine of Suranaree University of Technology (SUT), Thailand.

The scientists utilized several drift-fence arrays equipped with double-funnel traps to monitor and compare reptile and amphibian communities in a lowland broadleaf forest, a lime orchard and a reclaimed citrus orchard at the Toucan Ridge Ecology and Education Society (TREES) field station. Their study was recently published in the open-access journal ZooKeys.

Often referred to as Central America’s “hidden gem” for its abundance of undisturbed rainforests and natural beauty, Belize has a long-standing record for vigorously protecting and maintaining their forested areas. However, just as in any other developing country, its primary sector is expanding with agricultural land clearings becoming more frequent with newly established properties.

Approximately midway through the study (June – September 2016), the site was hit by Hurricane Earl, a Category 1 hurricane. The hurricane-force winds altered the canopy cover significantly over the forested study sites, due to felled trees and broken branches.

Surprisingly enough, the herpetofauna remained relatively unchanged in the aftermath of Earl. The phenomenon revealed that not only were herpetofaunal communities lacking sensitivity to anthropogenic changes in the area, but also to extreme weather events, even though these had affected most of the standing vegetation.

Some notable observations occurred within three days of Hurricane Earl, according to Russell Gray:

“One of the trapping system was catching arboreal [tree climbing] snake species, like the cat-eyed snake and blunt-headed tree snake. This wasn’t only interesting because arboreal snakes were caught in terrestrial traps, but rather because they were never caught in our traps during the study up to this point.”

“Even more interesting is that they were caught exclusively in the manicured orchard area, which makes me wonder if they somehow predicted falling trees and fled to the only habitat without them. Some animals appear to forecast weather events due to sudden or drastic changes in environmental conditions. I wonder if this is a similar case.”

Amongst other notable scientific discoveries reported during the project were two new accounts of the Petén Centipede Snake (Tantilla hendersoni), one of which was the first documented male of the species. This secretive snake had only been documented once prior to the study and is the only endemic snake species to Belize.

Further noteworthy instances were two range extensions for relatively data deficient species – one for the Doflein’s Salamander (Bolitoglossa dofleini) and another for the Ringneck Coffee Snake (Ninia diademata).

Besides providing important data on herpetofauna assemblages in various disturbed and undisturbed habitats in Belize, the research identifies future conservation methods to be considered.

The study serves as new evidence that as long as agricultural areas remain surrounded with natural habitat buffers, they have little effect on herpetofaunal communities.

Replicates of this study are encouraged by the authors and can be utilized as a feasible and efficient way to monitor reptiles and amphibians in Belize.

Although Belize still preserves a considerable amount of intact forest cover, there are several on-going conservation concerns. Besides agricultural land clearings, there are constant struggles with xate poachers, or “Xateros”, on the Guatemalan border, as well as illegal logging activities and illegal off-season hunting.

Unfortunately, reptiles and amphibians have been understudied in comparison to other vertebrates and government action is rarely enforced on their conservation throughout the Neotropics.

A striking example of this relates to the only critically endangered reptile in Belize – the Hickatee turtle (Dermatemys mawii). Although the species is likely to become extinct, it is still traditionally collected for its culinary value, while its hunting is banned only in May.

In conclusion, the authors note that it is crucial to pay close attention to anthropogenic activity and the potential repercussions it may have on native species. With extensive and active efforts to study Mesoamerican herpetofauna, proper conservation efforts can be implemented and focused.

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Original Source:

Gray R, Strine CT (2017) Herpetofaunal assemblages of a lowland broadleaf forest, an overgrown orchard forest and a lime orchard in Stann Creek, Belize. ZooKeys 707: 131-165. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.707.14029

Robust rattan palm assessed as Endangered, new Species Conservation Profile shows

An African rattan palm species has recently been assessed as Endangered, according to the IUCN Red List criteria. Although looking pretty robust at height of up to 40 m, the palm is restricted to scattered patches of land across an area of 40 km². It grows in reserves and conservation areas in Ghana and a single forest patch in Côte d’Ivoire. Its Species Conservation Profile is published in the open access Biodiversity Data Journal by an international research team, led by Thomas Couvreur, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), France, in collaboration with the University of Yaoundé, Cameroon, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, and the Conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Geneva, Switzerland.

oo_106255The rattan palm is confined to moist evergreen forests with high rainfall, located at 100 to 200 meters above sea level. The species is poorly known, yet it is likely very rare judging from the limited amount of forest habitat remaining across its range. Furthermore, the known populations are isolated from each other by large distances, which makes them particularly vulnerable.

Even though there are gaps of knowledge concerning the rattan palm species, the research team conclude that it is most likely currently declining, due to habitat loss, fragmentation and over-harvesting. Often mistaken for a sister species, commonly used in trade, the stems of the endangered species are largely used in furniture production. When longitudinally split into ribbons, the canes are also used as ropes for thatching, for making baskets and sieves, and to make traps.

“As with most African rattan species, there is inadequate information on the international trade, but it is likely to be negligible,” explain the scientists.

“Conservation measures are urgently needed to protect the habitat of this species and to control the unsustainable harvest of the stems. A promising solution might be sustainable cultivation of rattans to avoid the exploitation of wild populations,” suggests Ariane Cosiaux (IRD), the lead author of the study currently based in Cameroon.

With their present paper, the authors make use of a specialised novel publication type feature, called Species Conservation Profile, created by Biodiversity Data Journal, to provide scholarly credit and citation for the IUCN Red List species page, as well as pinpoint the population trends and the reasons behind them.

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Original source:

Cosiaux A, Gardiner L, Ouattara D, Stauffer F, Sonké B, Couvreur T (2017) An endangered West African rattan palm: Eremospatha dransfieldii. Biodiversity Data Journal 5: e11176. https://doi.org/10.3897/BDJ.5.e11176