Distinguishing between effects of natural and anthropogenic environmental factors on ecosystems is a fundamental problem in environmental science. In river systems the longitudinal gradient of environmental factors is one of the most relevant sources of dissimilarity between communities that could be confounded with anthropogenic disturbances. To test the hypothesis that in macroinvertebrate communities the distribution of species' sensitivity to organic toxicants is independent of natural longitudinal factors, but depends on contamination with organic toxicants, we analysed the relationship between community sensitivity SPEAR(organic) (average community sensitivity to organic toxicants) and natural and anthropogenic environmental factors in a large-scale river system, from alpine streams to a lowland river. The results show that SPEAR(organic) is largely independent of natural longitudinal factors, but strongly dependent on contamination with organic toxicants (petrochemicals and synthetic surfactants). Usage of SPEAR(organic) as a stressor-specific longitude-independent measure will facilitate detection of community disturbance by organic toxicants.
Inclusion of spatially explicit information on ecosystem services in conservation planning is a fairly new practice. This study analyses how the incorporation of ecosystem services as conservation features can affect conservation of forest biodiversity and how different opportunity cost constraints can change spatial priorities for conservation. We created spatially explicit cost-effective conservation scenarios for 59 forest biodiversity features and five ecosystem services in the county of Telemark (Norway) with the help of the heuristic optimisation planning software, Marxan with Zones. We combined a mix of conservation instruments where forestry is either completely (non-use zone) or partially restricted (partial use zone). Opportunity costs were measured in terms of foregone timber harvest, an important provisioning service in Telemark. Including a number of ecosystem services shifted priority conservation sites compared to a case where only biodiversity was considered, and increased the area of both the partial (+36.2%) and the non-use zone (+3.2%). Furthermore, opportunity costs increased (+6.6%), which suggests that ecosystem services may not be a side-benefit of biodiversity conservation in this area. Opportunity cost levels were systematically changed to analyse their effect on spatial conservation priorities. Conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services trades off against timber harvest. Currently designated nature reserves and landscape protection areas achieve a very low proportion (9.1%) of the conservation targets we set in our scenario, which illustrates the high importance given to timber production at present. A trade-off curve indicated that large marginal increases in conservation target achievement are possible when the budget for conservation is increased. Forty percent of the maximum hypothetical opportunity costs would yield an average conservation target achievement of 79%.
Cites: Nature. 2000 May 11;405(6783):243-5310821285
Department of Archaeology & Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200, Australia. firstname.lastname@example.org
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2007 Feb 28;362(1478):219-28
In the highlands of New Guinea, the development of agriculture as an indigenous innovation during the Early Holocene is considered to have resulted in rapid loss of forest cover, a decrease in forest biodiversity and increased land degradation over thousands of years. But how important is human activity in shaping the diversity of vegetation communities over millennial time-scales? An evaluation of the change in biodiversity of forest habitats through the Late Glacial transition to the present in five palaeoecological sites from highland valleys, where intensive agriculture is practised today, is presented. A detailed analysis of the longest and most continuous record from Papua New Guinea is also presented using available biodiversity indices (palynological richness and biodiversity indicator taxa) as a means of identifying changes in diversity. The analysis shows that the collapse of key forest habitats in the highland valleys is evident during the Mid - Late Holocene. These changes are best explained by the adoption of new land management practices and altered disturbance regimes associated with agricultural activity, though climate change may also play a role. The implications of these findings for ecosystem conservation and sustainability of agriculture in New Guinea are discussed.
Cites: Asia Pac Viewp. 2001;42(2-3):209-1819170258
Testate amoebae are widely used in ecological and palaeoecological studies of peatlands, particularly as indicators of surface wetness. To ensure data are robust and comparable it is important to consider methodological factors which may affect results. One significant question which has not been directly addressed in previous studies is how sample size (expressed here as number of Sphagnum stems) affects data quality. In three contrasting locations in a Russian peatland we extracted samples of differing size, analysed testate amoebae and calculated a number of widely-used indices: species richness, Simpson diversity, compositional dissimilarity from the largest sample and transfer function predictions of water table depth. We found that there was a trend for larger samples to contain more species across the range of commonly-used sample sizes in ecological studies. Smaller samples sometimes failed to produce counts of testate amoebae often considered minimally adequate. It seems likely that analyses based on samples of different sizes may not produce consistent data. Decisions about sample size need to reflect trade-offs between logistics, data quality, spatial resolution and the disturbance involved in sample extraction. For most common ecological applications we suggest that samples of more than eight Sphagnum stems are likely to be desirable.