Another interesting project closely related to PREDICTS is the BIOFRAG Project, which tries to construct a global database of research papers dealing with Forest Fragmentation and its impacts on Biodiversity taxa. One final goal of the BIOFRAG project is the development of a new fragmentation index using watersheds delineation algorithm and fragment descriptors in order to characterize Fragment traits. I am very interested in seeing the final outcome of this approach and maybe I even find the time to implement their algorithm in LecoS for QGIS as soon as it is released. Their database paper, lead authored by Marion Pfeifer, was just released to the public as open-access paper. You can read it in full here.
If you consider of contributing data then more information can be found on the BIOFRAG blog and all researchers involved with forest fragmentation research should consider contributing to them and also to PREDICTS (see here) if you haven’t already done so. And as usual: If you were studying in Africa, then please get in touch with me! I will contact you as soon as I return from my Fieldwork in Kenya and Tanzania at the end of May.
Just now a new webportal promoting the protection of roadless areas around the world opened up. Featuring a road alert ticker, a very entertaining short clip and more news about current deforestations.
Although in my opinion roads are merely a proxy for anthropogenic (agricultural) development, but they are certainly a good indicator of follow up development and literally all large-scale deforestations in the last decade are accompanied by road construction. However this mostly matters for forests and large scales. Poachers can enter a forest without cars, invasive species can spread without roads within naturally disturbed areas in forests, pollution can affect it through water, soil and air and so on. So keep in mind that just because there is no road it doesn’t mean that a particular area counts as well protected wilderness (what does this word mean anyway in the ‘Anthropocene’). Nevertheless, forest without roads are certainly worth protecting and they should be kept roadless!
Jörg Albrecht, my former co-supervisor at the University of Marburg finally published his first results from his PhD. I was eagerly waiting for this publication as i also helped to raise a lot of data as a volunteer ornithologist while working on my bachelor thesis. Looking back i remember many nice beautiful moments like sitting in a camouflaged tent early in the morning counting frugivorous birds in the very core zone of Bialowieza forest. Bisons, Mooses, wildcats, the sound of howling wolfs in the morning were among the nice experiences i took with me. It was definitely a nice period of my life and i congratulate Jörg for publishing this nice paper! Published in the renown Journal of Ecology you can now access the paper in early-view:
For those of you who want a little appetizer of what the paper is about. The paper itself incorporates information gained from many recently developed techniques for ecological network analysis to draw conclusions using general ecological theory (Optimal Foraging Theory). The optimal Foraging Theory developed by MacArthur (1955) hasn’t yet much appeared in the ecological network literature, which is a shame as it allows predictions about changing plant/animal specialization patterns in the light of habitat perturbations. Here is a little summary, but i still recommend to read the full paper as both methods and conclusions are quite sophisticated 🙂
- 2 years of recorded plant-frugivorous interactions in Europe’s last old-growth lowland forest (Białowieza, Eastern Poland)
- Hypothesis (Summarized from the 3 expectations in the paper): Increased competition at Forest edges (caused by logging) compared to the interior forest leads to higher, respectively lower, redundancy in plant-frugivore networks. (But better read the paper!)
- To fully understand the extent of this study you need to dive deep into the study design and purpose. It uses state of the art statistical network-analysis techniques to calculate network redundancy and interaction specialization. Two and a half pages alone explain the data gathering and analysis, while the results sections is nearly half a page long 🙂
- Despite the small sample size (which was/is a major critical point) the results show that the networks redundancy was reduced at forest edges due to shifting dietary specialization of the interacting partners. As i remember from the data collection Black-caps and Blackbirds dominated in most of the assessed trees, which leads to an asymmetry in the interaction network. As shown in the paper this might be due to forest fragmentation.
- Possible Critic:The sampling effort of 10 studysites, which were sampled over 2 years might not be enough to detect real properties of ecological networks. However so far every study investigating ecological networks worked with incomplete data. I also don’t really trust the whole separation of species in specialist and generalists based on available literature. Although much is known up to now, both foraging and behavioral patterns of birds might change due to forest fragmentation and therefore such classification might be inaccurate depending on the study sites properties.
- Why is the study of interest? Up to now not much is known about how temperate Plant-frugivore interactions change in the face of habitat perturbation. Most of the available literature was conducted in the tropics or didn’t incorporated whole interaction networks. Probably due to the geographical bias, most of the available literature furthermore failed to detect an effect on network stability as this study shows.
So, enough advertising 😉
Following current papers and newly proposed methods is always exciting. Especially when someone proposes a new technique for conservation planning, which
includes the habitat fragmentation caused by roads. The decrease of road-less areas in Europe certainly has an impact on a wide range of species (Selva et al. 2011), especially if they inhabit large home-ranges and frequently move between for instance forest patches. To give an example: Conservation NGOs in Germany are currently celebrating the return of wolves in east German forests. While this is certainly a good thing it requires a lot of future management actions (possible compensation of farmers, education of the public, …) and furthermore the high fragmentation of east German landscapes might also alter wolf behavior and migration. Many other animals are also affected by fast moving traffic (see the picture of the poor frog) and therefore i am certain that roads will become more and more important in future conservation area prioritizations and landscape planing.
In their recent paper Freudenberger et al (2013) shed light on the current fragmentation of an east German state and introduce a new landscape metric called the spatial road disturbance index (SPROADI). The SPROADI is an aggregated index, which integrates the (1) traffic intensity on the habitat intersecting road, (2) density and distribution of roads in a landscape and (3) overall fragmentation caused by roads. Mathematically the new index is just a weighted sum of the three equally weighted subindices, which were previously categorized using available quantitative data. While this is certainly not perfect (data maybe biased and thus has to be normalized beforehand, correlations with subindices) i think that due to its simplicity and easy understanding it might become a handy index for landscape planners and biologists conducting impact assessments for roads. Although i am not entirely convinced by the mathematics behind this new index (next rainy sunday i will put some thoughts behind it) i recommend interested people to give their paper a try.
- Freudenberger et al. “Spatial road disturbance index (SPROADI) for conservation planning: a novel landscape index, demonstrated for the State of Brandenburg, Germany”. Landscape Ecology (2013): 1-17. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10980-013-9887-8
Selva, Nuria, et al. “Roadless and low-traffic areas as conservation targets in Europe.” Environmental management 48.5 (2011): 865-877.