Saving South American river turtles


This 2015 video says about itself:

The giant South American river turtle is not as abundant as it once was in some areas, but conservation methods—including patrols of nesting beaches by armed guards—help Brazil maintain a healthy population. Here turtles interacting with one another underwater are observed, for what could be the first time.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Conservation efforts for giant South American river turtles have protected 147,000 females

The paper surveyed 85 conservation projects that protect the ‘charapa’ in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins

June 25, 2019

By analyzing records in countries of the Amazon and Orinoco basins — which include Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador — a paper published today in Oryx — The International Journal of Conservation, categorized 85 past and present initiatives or projects that work to preserve the South American River Turtle, or charapa (Podocnemis expansa), a critically endangered species. These projects are protecting more than 147,000 female turtles across the basin, an unprecedented figure.

The paper “On the future of the giant South American river turtle, Podocnemis expansa” was drafted by 29 Latin American researchers and scientists, including WCS’s German Forero Medina, Camila R. Ferrara, and Camila K. Fagundes, Ruben Cueva, and Brian D. Horne. The collaboration stems from a 2014 workshop held in Balbina, Brazil in which park rangers, indigenous people, and conservationists from the six countries provided information on their work to protect the charapa. The efforts discussed in that continental meeting and subsequent study reveal the serious commitment of public and private entities to conserve the species.

The charapa is considered the largest river turtle in South America. It inhabits the tributaries of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, and is an important cultural symbol for many communities in the region. It also has great ecological importance for ecosystems, as it helps transport fruits and seeds along the rivers and serves as prey for birds, catfish, foxes, jaguars, alligators, and water dogs. In the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of turtles spawned on beaches throughout the continent.

Despite their local importance and past abundance, turtle populations are still threatened by the hunting and collection of adults and juveniles, looting of nests, the illegal trafficking of hatchlings to be used as pets, and the use of inappropriate fishing gear which can harm or kill individuals. In addition, broader degradation of their habitat is contributing to their decline.

Germán Forero, Scientific Director with WCS Colombia and lead author, called for the creation of a protection network for the charapa — a regional monitoring program that would link technical information and lessons learned among all the projects in the six countries. He noted the importance of communities in this future network.

“The participation of local communities that live with the charapa is essential to protecting them,” said Forero. “They live side by side with the turtles and are interested in controlling or preventing the commercialization of eggs or meat to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the species as a food source and important part of their culture.”

Camila Ferrara, co-author and researcher with WCS Brazil, added that the formation of this network would be extraordinary, because it would allow stakeholders to design and assess methodologies for management and conservation of the species, from its gestation and protection of nesting beaches to population monitoring.

In Brazil, the charapa is not considered critically endangered, but a near-threatened species. Ferrara explains that although Brazil is home to important populations of the species, the turtle is still the second most consumed vertebrate group in the Amazon, surpassing even some fish. Therefore, she believes that the network should focus their efforts on strengthening environmental education in Brazil to ensure the sustainability of the reptile’s consumption.

Ferrara said: “We are seeing positive results as work progresses, as communities are expressing greater interest in working with turtles. We have seen a decrease in the consumption of eggs, an important achievement that we must replicate throughout the continent.”

The paper highlights the importance of the monitoring conducted by the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), which provides the only way to assess the trends of populations over time and thus is valuable information for decision-making on the species.

In Colombia, initiatives are working to protect at least two large populations, one in the Caquetá River in the Amazon basin and another in the Meta River in the Orinoco basin. In both areas, local communities are committed to protecting the nesting females at beaches, and these programs are expected to receive continued support over time.

Going forward, the proposed network plans to develop a platform that can serve as an observatory of the species, tracking population trends across the basin over time to prioritize intervention sites and ensure the long term conservation of the species.

This paper reviews a diversity of initiatives that seek to recover these turtle populations. Rick Hudson, President of the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), believes that interest in protecting the charapa in South America comes at an opportune moment, as there are still robust populations of river turtles to protect; this is not the case in Asia, where many of turtle species have gone extinct.

Hudson said: “The lesson is clear: protect the habitat and large nesting aggregations of river turtles now and avoid crisis management in the future. This paper makes a strong case for improving levels of protection while there is still time.”

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Climate change threatens South American monkeys


This 2009 video says about itself:

Great video from BBC Earth epic Wild South America. Learn more about the secret life of Bromeliads, a type of plant that thrives in an extreme rainforest environment. Watch as the plant is used as a drinking well for thirsty tree top monkeys and a swimming pool for preening brightly coloured birds.

From the University of Stirling in Scotland:

Monkeys face climate change extinction threat

June 12, 2019

Monkeys living in South America are highly vulnerable to climate change and face an “elevated risk of extinction”, according to a new University of Stirling-led study.

The research, involving an international team of scientists, found that a large percentage of non-human primates — including monkeys, lemurs and apes — are facing substantial temperature increases and marked habitat changes over the next 30 years.

The team, led by Dr Joana Carvalho of Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, said that New World monkeys — which live primarily in tropical South America — will be particularly affected.

Dr Carvalho said: “Based on our analysis, it is clear that New World monkeys in particular can be considered highly vulnerable to projected temperature increases, consequently facing an elevated risk of extinction.”

The study looked at all 426 species of non-human primates contained within the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List database — and examined their exposure risk to changes in climatic and land use conditions forecast for the year 2050. The authors considered the best-case scenario — slowly declining emissions, with appropriate mitigation measures put in place — and the worst-case scenario, assuming that emissions continue to increase unchecked.

The team identified key regions where future conditions will be particularly bleak for species — with New World monkeys exposed to extreme levels of warming. They said that 86 percent of Neotropical primate ranges will experience maximum temperature increases of greater than 3°C, while extreme warming — of more than 4°C — is likely to affect 41 percent of their ranges, including many areas that presently harbour the highest number of primate species.

Dr Carvalho continued: “Studies that quantify what magnitudes of warming primates are able to tolerate physiologically are lacking. However, we have reason to believe that extreme temperature increases — as those predicted based on the low mitigation scenario — would most likely surpass the thermal tolerance of many species.”

Professor Hjalmar Kuehl, senior author of the study and primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, said: “Climate-change mitigation measures have not yet been systematically included into on-site management and strategic development of primate conservation.

“Given the timescale on which climate change and resulting impact on primate populations will occur, efforts for integrating climate change mitigation measures need to be enhanced urgently in order to be able to develop and implement appropriate actions.”

The study also suggests that anticipated changes in how humans use the land and alter existing primate habitats will exacerbate the negative effects on primate populations brought about by global warming.

According to the authors, about one quarter of Asian and African primates will face up to 50 percent agricultural crop expansion within their range, while undisturbed habitat is expected to disappear nearly entirely across species’ ranges and will be replaced by some form of human-disturbed habitat.

The authors conclude that “urgent action” is required — in relation to the implementation of climate-change mitigation measures — to avert primate extinctions on an unprecedented scale.

The study also involved Professor Bruce Graham, University of Stirling; Dr Gaëlle Bocksberger, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; Dr Christoph Meyer, University of Salford; Professor Serge Wich, Liverpool John Moores University; and Hugo Rebelo, Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetics Resources in Portugal.

A Noah’s Ark strategy will fail. In the roughest sense, that’s the conclusion of a first-of-its-kind study that illuminates which marine species may have the ability to survive in a world where temperatures are rising and oceans are becoming acidic. Two-by-two, or even moderately sized, remnants may have little chance to persist on a climate-changed planet. Instead, for many species, “we’ll need large populations,” says Melissa Pespeni a biologist at the University of Vermont who led the new research examining how hundreds of thousands of sea urchin larvae responded to experiments where their seawater was made either moderately or extremely acidic. The study was published on June 11, 2019, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: here.

South American Miocene mammals, new research


This 2013 video is called John Flynn on Extreme [prehistoric] Mammals South America.

From the University of Arizona in the USA:

Climate, grasses and teeth: The evolution of South America mammals

April 29, 2019

Grass-eating mammals, including armadillos as big as Volkswagens, became more diverse in South America about 6 million years ago because shifts in atmospheric circulation drove changes in climate and vegetation, according to a University of Arizona-led research team.

Geoscientists already knew the Earth was cooling 7 to 5.5 million years ago, a period of time known as the Late Miocene.

However, the changes in ocean climate during that time have been better understood than changes in the continental climate, said lead author Barbara Carrapa, professor and head of the UA department of geosciences.

The new research shows that about 7 to 6 million years ago, the global tropical atmospheric circulation known as the Hadley circulation intensified. As a result, the climate of South America became drier, subtropical grasslands expanded and the numbers of mammal species that were good at eating grasses increased.

Carrapa and her colleagues used a computer model to figure out that the Hadley circulation had strengthened in the late Miocene, altering the climate. They then compared the model’s predictions of the past climate with the natural archives of rainfall and vegetation stored in ancient soils. The model’s predictions agreed with the natural archives.

“We found a strong correlation between this big change in late Miocene climate and circulation that affected the ecology — the plants and animals,” she said. “It has implications for ecosystem evolution.”

Carrapa said the new research — an unusual blend of mammalian paleontology, the geochemistry of ancient soils and global climate computer models — provides a new understanding of the late Miocene, a time when near-modern ecosystems became established.

The paper, “Ecological and hydroclimate responses to strengthening of the Hadley circulation in South America during the Late Miocene Cooling,” by Carrapa, Mark Clementz of the University of Wyoming in Laramie and Ran Feng of the University of Connecticut in Storrs is scheduled for publication the week of April 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Science Foundation funded the research.

Geoscientists use the geochemistry of ancient soils, specifically forms of the elements oxygen and carbon, to infer past precipitation and vegetation. Researchers had thought the precipitation at the time the soil formed was mostly a function of the site’s topography and elevation.

Carrapa wanted to test that idea by looking at the geochemistry of ancient soils on a continental scale. She teamed up with her long-time colleague Clementz, a paleontologist.

The researchers compiled the published data of the oxygen-18/oxygen-16 ratio and carbon-13/carbon-12 ratio from ancient soils covering a wide swath of South America — from 15 degrees South latitude to 35 degrees South latitude, or about the change from La Paz, Bolivia to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Changes in the oxygen ratio provide information on past precipitation, while changes in carbon ratio indicate what plants were growing at the time.

Clementz scoured the published literature and did what Carrapa called .” .. an amazing job of pulling all the data together so we could look at it in a comprehensive way.”

The results were surprising, Carrapa said. The changes in soil geochemistry during the late Miocene changed in latitudinal bands from north to south, indicating an underlying cause spanning much of South America, not just local changes in elevation or topography.

The two researchers thought the systematic shifts in soil geochemistry were related to changes in climate, so they asked Feng to help them by applying the global climate model she used for research.

Feng loaded known information about the Miocene-to-late-Miocene climate, including atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and the ocean temperatures, into the computer model and then asked it to simulate three different versions of late Miocene climate — not much cooler, cooler, and much cooler than before. In each case, the simulation indicated what soil geochemistry would have occurred under that climate regime.

The team found the geochemistry of South American ancient soils predicted by the model matches the geochemistry of the actual soil samples.

Feng figured out that the Earth’s Hadley circulation intensified from 7 to 6 million years ago.

“The records compiled by Barbara and Mark could be explained by a significant change in the strength of the Hadley circulation,” she said.

Feng’s work with the global climate model shows how the past climate could have created the patterns the team was seeing in the soil geochemistry, Clementz said.

The carbon ratio from the ancient soils reflects the vegetation of the time and indicates that in the late Miocene, grasslands were expanding as the climate was changing.

“During the late Miocene, things are starting to dry out, particularly in the 25-30 degree South zone,” he said. “There’s also an increase in the numbers of animals with high-crowned or ever-growing teeth.”

Grasses contain silica, an abrasive substance, which is why grass-eaters have either high-crowned teeth or teeth that continue to grow. The mammals that became more prevalent in the late Miocene included giant armadillos and rhinoceros-like animals and also smaller mammals, he said.

Carrapa said, “Looking at geological pasts is like looking at different planets. The state of the Earth we see today is very different from the Earth of 10 million years ago, 6 million years ago — it’s a different planet. You have the possibility of looking at a different planet through the lens of time, and with the geological record we can do that.”

Protecting American migratory birds


This March 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Bird Migration in North America

An overview on how and why birds migrate, including species such as the Yellow Warbler and the Woodthrush, as well as challenges migratory birds face today. This educational video was completed for ‘Birds Ecosystems and People’ at Allegheny College.

From Cornell University in the USA:

Scientists use eBird data to propose optimal bird conservation plan

The goal is to conserve habitat and protect migratory birds

April 15, 2019

A new paper published today in the journal Nature Communications shows a blueprint for conserving enough habitat to protect the populations of almost one-third of the warblers, orioles, tanagers, and other birds that migrate among the Americas throughout the year.

For the research, an international team of scientists used the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s global citizen science database, eBird, to calculate how to sufficiently conserve habitat across the Western Hemisphere for all the habitats these birds use throughout their annual cycle of breeding, migration, and overwintering. The study provides planners with guidance on the locations and amounts of land that must be conserved for 30 percent of the global populations for each of 117 Neotropical migratory bird species.

More than a third of Neotropical migratory birds are suffering population declines, yet a 2015 global assessment found that only 9 percent of migratory bird species have adequate habitat protection across their yearly ranges to protect their populations. Conservation of migratory birds has historically been difficult, partly because they require habitat across continents and conservation efforts have been challenged by limited knowledge of their abundance and distribution over their vast ranges and throughout the year.

“We are excited to be the first to use a data-driven approach that identifies the most critical places for bird conservation across breeding, overwintering, and migratory stopover areas throughout the Western Hemisphere. In doing so, we provide guidance on where, when, and what type of habitat should be conserved to sustain populations,” said Richard Schuster, Liber Ero Postdoctoral Fellow at Carleton University, and lead author on the Nature Communications paper. “This is a vital step if conservationists are to make the best use of limited resources and address the most critical problems at a hemispheric scale.”

The team’s analysis found that conservation strategies were most efficient when they incorporated working lands, such as agriculture or forestry, rather than exclusively focusing on areas with limited human impacts (i.e., intact or undisturbed landscapes). The importance of shared-use or working landscapes to migratory birds underscores how strategic conservation can accommodate both human livelihoods and biodiversity. The research also found that efficiency was greatest — requiring 56 percent less land area — when planning across the entire year in full, rather than separately by week.

“Efforts to conserve migratory species have traditionally focused on single species and emphasized breeding grounds. Our results show that planning for multiple species across the entire year represents a far more efficient approach to land use planning,” said Scott Wilson, Environment and Climate Change Canada research scientist and co-author on the paper.

“This study illustrates how globally crowd-sourced data can facilitate strategic planning to achieve the best return on conservation investments. No other data source could have achieved anything close to this level of detail and efficiency in spatial planning over such a vast area,” said Cornell Lab senior conservation science director and co-author Amanda Rodewald.

“Prioritizing sites in which to invest our conservation dollars will dramatically improve our returns on the roughly $1 billion spent annually on the conservation of birds by government and nonprofit organizations, often in the absence of spatially explicit information on year-round abundance or geographical representation,” said Peter Arcese, co-author and FRBC Chair in Applied Conservation Biology at University of British Columbia.

Kinkajou on video


This 14 April 2019 video says about itself:

On this episode of Breaking Trail: Legacy Series, we take a look back at the time that Coyote encountered and fed one ferociously adorable KINKAJOU! How adorable do you think he is on a scale of 1-10?! We’re thinking a 10!

Kinkajous live in Central and South America.

American migratory birds and climate change


This 2016 video from North America says about itself:

Where do Golden-winged and Cerulean Warblers go when they migrate? A collaboration between multiple universities is seeking to answer this question. Using light level geolocators, researchers are mapping the migration of these tiny songbirds. The goal is to share their findings to protect and manage habitat for these birds on their migratory route, wintering grounds, and breeding sites for full lifecycle conservation.

From Cornell University in the USA:

How will the winds of climate change affect migratory birds?

New study finds both positive and negative impacts possible

December 10, 2018

Under future climate scenarios, changing winds may make it harder for North American birds to migrate southward in the autumn, but make it easier for them to come back north in the spring. Researchers from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology came to this conclusion using data from 143 weather radar stations to estimate the altitude, density, and direction birds took during spring and autumn migrations over several years. They also extracted wind data from 28 different climate change projections in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their findings were published today in the journal Global Change Biology.

“We combined these data to estimate how wind assistance is expected to change during this century under global climate change,” explains lead author Frank La Sorte, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology scientist. “This matters for migratory birds because they use more energy flying into headwinds. But they get a nice boost from tailwinds so they can conserve energy during flight.”

La Sorte and co-authors project that winds from the south are expected to become stronger by the end of the century during both spring and fall migration periods. Winds from the west may be stronger during spring migration and slightly weaker during the fall. Westerly winds are much more variable overall and harder to predict because they are tied to erratic fluctuations in the high altitude jet stream. Wind changes will be most pronounced in the central and eastern portions of the continent.

With an assist from stronger tailwinds during spring migration, birds would likely arrive in better condition on their northern breeding grounds with better odds of survival. Their fall migration flights into stronger headwinds would drain more energy. If headwinds are too strong, birds may choose not to fly at all on a particular night, throwing off the timing of their migrations.

“The thing to remember about these projected wind changes is that they will not occur in isolation,” La Sorte says. “There will be other global change factors for birds to contend with, including changes in temperatures, rainfall, and land cover.”

Some birds may be able to adapt because the expected wind changes are likely to happen gradually. Studies also show that migratory birds already adjust their migration strategy under current conditions, altering their headings to compensate for winds that push them from their intended flight path.

“The bottom line is that some climate change effects could be negative for migratory birds, and some might even be positive, at least during a specific phase of their migration,” says La Sorte. “There’s an awful lot of uncertainty because both climate and migration are complex systems that can intersect in many different ways.”

The breeding seasons of wild house finches are shifting due to climate change, a Washington State University researcher has found: here.