ResearchPad - habitats https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Development and evaluation of habitat suitability models for nesting white-headed woodpecker (<i>Dryobates albolarvatus</i>) in burned forest]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_14713 Salvage logging in burned forests can negatively affect habitat for white-headed woodpeckers (Dryobates albolarvatus), a species of conservation concern, but also meets socioeconomic demands for timber and human safety. Habitat suitability index (HSI) models can inform forest management activities to help meet habitat conservation objectives. Informing post-fire forest management, however, involves model application at new locations as wildfires occur, requiring evaluation of predictive performance across locations. We developed HSI models for white-headed woodpeckers using nest sites from two burned-forest locations in Oregon, the Toolbox (2002) and Canyon Creek (2015) fires. We measured predictive performance by developing one model at each of the two locations and quantifying discrimination of nest from reference sites at two other wildfire locations where the model had not been developed (either Toolbox or Canyon Creek, and the Barry Point Fire [2011]). We developed and evaluated Maxent models based on remotely sensed environmental metrics to support habitat mapping, and weighted logistic regression (WLR) models that combined remotely sensed and field-collected metrics to inform management prescriptions. Both Maxent and WLR models developed either at Canyon Creek or Toolbox performed adequately to inform management when applied at the alternate Toolbox or Canyon Creek location, respectively (area under the receiver-operating-characteristic curve [AUC] range = 0.61–0.72) but poorly when applied at Barry Point (AUC = 0.53–0.57). The final HSI models fitted to Toolbox and Canyon Creek data quantified suitable nesting habitat as severely burned or open sites adjacent to lower severity and closed canopy sites, where foraging presumably occurs. We suggest these models are applicable at locations similar to development locations but not at locations resembling Barry Point, which were characterized by more (pre-fire) canopy openings, larger diameter trees, less ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), and more juniper (Juniperus occidentalis). Considering our results, we recommend caution when applying HSI models developed at individual wildfire locations to inform post-fire management at new locations without first evaluating predictive performance.

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<![CDATA[Do railway lines affect the distribution of woodland birds during autumn?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/N5f69b466-8155-4760-b7fb-9a995be0d1c7

Research results on the impact of railway noise on birds show a variety of bird responses. These behaviours are often different from those exhibited by birds occupying habitats along tarred roads. Knowledge of this subject is still incomplete. We attempted to define the influence of a heavily transited railway line on bird communities at stopover sites near the tracks during the autumn migration period. Birds were counted using the point method at 45 observation points located at three distances (30 m, 280 m, 530 m) from the tracks. At each point we determined the habitat parameters and the intensity of noise. A total of 614 individuals from 29 species were recorded on the study plot. The results of our observations indicate that the railway line does not adversely affect woodland birds during the autumn migration. The results showed that the abundance of birds and the species richness were actually the highest near the railway line. Species foraging on invertebrates preferred the neighbourhood of the tracks. The number of the most common species did not differ widely in relation to distance from the tracks. These data may be helpful in planning and managing the environment in the context of bird conservation, protection from railway noise and collisions with trains.

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<![CDATA[Human traffic and habitat complexity are strong predictors for the distribution of a declining amphibian]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c8acce2d5eed0c484990222

Invasive species and habitat modification threaten California's native pond-breeding amphibians, including the federally threatened California Red-legged Frog (Rana draytonii). The relative contributions of invasive species, including the American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus), and of habitat changes to these declines are disputed. I conducted a field study over several years in central California to examine the presence/absence of these two species at 79 breeding ponds to determine the predictive role for occupancy of factors including vegetation, pond characteristics, and measures of human activity. I used a boosted regression tree approach to determine the relative value of each predictor variable. Increased measures of human activity, especially proximity to trails and roads, were the best predictors for the absence of California Red-legged Frogs and California Newts. Historical factors and habitat conditions were associated with the extent and spread of the American Bullfrog. The extent and complexity of aquatic macrophytes and pond surface area were good predictors for the presence of these and other amphibian species. Surprisingly, invasive species played a relatively small role in predicting pond occupancy by the native species. These findings can inform conservation and restoration efforts for California Red-legged Frogs, which apparently persist best in small vegetated ponds in areas of low human disturbance.

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<![CDATA[Deer browsing alters sound propagation in temperate deciduous forests]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6dc993d5eed0c484529e60

The efficacy of animal signals is strongly influenced by the structure of the habitat in which they are propagating. In recent years, the habitat structure of temperate forests has been increasingly subject to modifications from foraging by white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Increasing deer numbers and the accompanying browsing have been shown to alter vegetation structure and thus the foraging, roosting, and breeding habitats of many species. However, despite a large body of literature on the effects of vegetation structure on sound propagation, we do not yet know what impact deer browsing may have on acoustic communication. Here we used playback experiments to determine whether sound fidelity and amplitude of white noise, pure tones, and trills differed between deer-browsed and deer-excluded plots. We found that sound fidelity, but not amplitude, differed between habitats, with deer-browsed habitats having greater sound fidelity than deer-excluded habitats. Difference in sound propagation characteristics between the two habitats could alter the efficacy of acoustic communication through plasticity, cultural evolution or local adaptation, in turn influencing vocally-mediated behaviors (e.g. agonistic, parent-offspring, mate selection). Reduced signal degradation suggests vocalizations may retain more information, improving the transfer of information to both intended and unintended receivers. Overall, our results suggest that deer browsing impacts sound propagation in temperate deciduous forest, although much work remains to be done on the potential impacts on communication.

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<![CDATA[Trait divergence and habitat specialization in tropical floodplain forests trees]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c706768d5eed0c4847c6fcb

Habitat heterogeneity of tropical forests is thought to lead to specialization in plants and contribute to the high diversity of tree species in Amazonia. One prediction of habitat specialization is that species specialized for resource-rich habitats will have traits associated with high resource acquisition and fast growth while species specialized for resource-poor habitats will have traits associated with high resource conservation and persistence but slow growth. We tested this idea for seven genera and for twelve families from nutrient-rich white-water floodplain forest (várzea) and nutrient-poor black-water (igapó) floodplain forest. We measured 11 traits that are important for the carbon and nutrient balance of the trees, and compared trait variation between habitat types (white- and black-water forests), and the effect of habitat and genus/family on trait divergence. Functional traits of congeneric species differed between habitat types, where white-water forest species invested in resource acquisition and productive tissues, whereas black-water forest species invested in resource conservation and persistent tissues. Habitat specialization is leading to the differentiation of floodplain tree species of white-water and black-water forests, thus contributing to a high diversity of plant species in floodplain forests.

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<![CDATA[The effects of electric power lines on the breeding ecology of greater sage-grouse]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5b52dbd5eed0c4842bd148

Anthropogenic infrastructure can negatively affect wildlife through direct mortality and/or displacement behaviors. Some tetranoids (grouse spp.) species are particularly vulnerable to tall anthropogenic structures because they evolved in ecosystems void of vertical structures. In western North America, electric power transmission and distribution lines (power lines) occur in sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) landscapes within the range of the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage-grouse). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended using buffer zones near leks to mitigate the potential impacts of power lines on sage-grouse. However, recommended buffer distances are inconsistent across state and federal agencies because data are lacking. To address this, we evaluated the effects of power lines on sage-grouse breeding ecology within Utah, portions of southeastern Idaho, and southwestern Wyoming from 1998–2013. Overall, power lines negatively affected lek trends up to a distance of 2.7 and 2.8 km, respectively. Power lines died not affect lek persistence. Female sage-grouse avoided transmission lines during the nesting and brooding seasons at distances up to 1.1 and 0.8 km, respectively. Nest and brood success were negatively affected by transmission lines up to distances of 2.6 and 1.1 km, respectively. Distribution lines did not appear to affect sage-grouse habitat selection or reproductive fitness. Our analyses demonstrated the value of sagebrush cover in mitigating potential power line impacts. Managers can minimize the effects of new transmission power lines by placing them in existing anthropogenic corridors and/or incorporating buffers at least 2.8 km from active leks. Given the uncertainty we observed in our analyses regarding sage-grouse response to distribution lines coupled with their role in providing electric power service directly to individual consumers, we recommend that buffers for these power lines be considered on a case-by-case basis. Micrositing to avoid important habitats and habitat reclamation may reduce the potential impacts of new power line construction.

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<![CDATA[An ecologically constrained procedure for sensitivity analysis of Artificial Neural Networks and other empirical models]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c5b5252d5eed0c4842bc656

Sensitivity analysis applied to Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) as well as to other types of empirical ecological models allows assessing the importance of environmental predictive variables in affecting species distribution or other target variables. However, approaches that only consider values of the environmental variables that are likely to be observed in real-world conditions, given the underlying ecological relationships with other variables, have not yet been proposed. Here, a constrained sensitivity analysis procedure is presented, which evaluates the importance of the environmental variables considering only their plausible changes, thereby exploring only ecological meaningful scenarios. To demonstrate the procedure, we applied it to an ANN model predicting fish species richness, as identifying relationships between environmental variables and fish species occurrence in river ecosystems is a recurring topic in freshwater ecology. Results showed that several environmental variables played a less relevant role in driving the model output when that sensitivity analysis allowed them to vary only within an ecologically meaningful range of values, i.e. avoiding values that the model would never handle in its practical applications. By comparing percent changes in MSE between constrained and unconstrained sensitivity analysis, the relative importance of environmental variables was found to be different, with habitat descriptors and urbanization factors that played a more relevant role according to the constrained procedure. The ecologically constrained procedure can be applied to any sensitivity analysis method for ANNs, but obviously it can also be applied to other types of empirical ecological models.

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<![CDATA[High-accuracy detection of malaria vector larval habitats using drone-based multispectral imagery]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c4a305cd5eed0c4844bfe34

Interest in larval source management (LSM) as an adjunct intervention to control and eliminate malaria transmission has recently increased mainly because long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) and indoor residual spray (IRS) are ineffective against exophagic and exophilic mosquitoes. In Amazonian Peru, the identification of the most productive, positive water bodies would increase the impact of targeted mosquito control on aquatic life stages. The present study explores the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for identifying Nyssorhynchus darlingi (formerly Anopheles darlingi) breeding sites with high-resolution imagery (~0.02m/pixel) and their multispectral profile in Amazonian Peru. Our results show that high-resolution multispectral imagery can discriminate a profile of water bodies where Ny. darlingi is most likely to breed (overall accuracy 86.73%- 96.98%) with a moderate differentiation of spectral bands. This work provides proof-of-concept of the use of high-resolution images to detect malaria vector breeding sites in Amazonian Peru and such innovative methodology could be crucial for LSM malaria integrated interventions.

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<![CDATA[Towards a sampling design for characterizing habitat-specific benthic biodiversity related to oxygen flux dynamics using Aquatic Eddy Covariance]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c61e8b6d5eed0c48496f005

The Aquatic Eddy Covariance (AEC) technique has emerged as an important method to quantify in situ seafloor metabolism over large areas of heterogeneous benthic communities, enabling cross-habitat comparisons of seafloor productivity. However, the lack of a corresponding sampling protocol to perform biodiversity comparisons across habitats is impeding a full assessment of marine ecosystem metabolism. Here, we study a range of coastal benthic habitats, from rocky-bed communities defined by either perennial macroalgae or blue mussel beds to soft-sediment communities comprised of either seagrass, patches of different macrophyte species or bare sand. We estimated that the maximum contribution to the AEC metabolic flux can be found for a seafloor area of approximately 80 m2 with a 5 meter upstream distance of the instrument across all the habitats. We conducted a sampling approach to characterize and quantify the dominant features of biodiversity (i.e., community biomass) within the main seafloor area of maximum metabolic contribution (i.e., gross primary production and community respiration) measured by the AEC. We documented a high biomass contribution of the macroalgal Fucus vesiculosus, the seagrass Zostera marina and the macroinvertebrate Mytilus edulis to the net ecosystem metabolism of the habitats. We also documented a significant role of the bare sediments for primary productivity compared to vegetated canopies of the soft sediments. The AEC also provided insight into dynamic short-term drivers of productivity such as PAR availability and water flow velocity for the productivity estimate. We regard this study as an important step forward, setting a framework for upcoming research focusing on linking biodiversity metrics and AEC flux measurements across habitats.

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<![CDATA[Modelling potential habitat for snow leopards (Panthera uncia) in Ladakh, India]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c59febcd5eed0c484135369

The snow leopard Panthera uncia is an elusive species inhabiting some of the most remote and inaccessible tracts of Central and South Asia. It is difficult to determine its distribution and density pattern, which are crucial for developing conservation strategies. Several techniques for species detection combining camera traps with remote sensing and geographic information systems have been developed to model the habitat of such cryptic and low-density species in challenging terrains. Utilising presence-only data from camera traps and direct observations, alongside six environmental variables (elevation, aspect, ruggedness, distance to water, land cover, and prey habitat suitability), we assessed snow leopard habitat suitability across Ladakh in northern India. This is the first study to model snow leopard distribution both in India and utilising direct observation data. Results suggested that elevation and ruggedness are the two most influential environmental variables for snow leopard habitat suitability, with highly suitable habitat having an elevation range of 2,800 m to 4,600 m and ruggedness of 450 m to 1,800 m. Our habitat suitability map estimated approximately 12% of Ladakh's geographical area (c. 90,000 km2) as highly suitable and 18% as medium suitability. We found that 62.5% of recorded livestock depredation along with over half of all livestock corrals (54%) and homestays (58%) occurred within highly suitable snow leopard habitat. Our habitat suitability model can be used to assist in allocation of conservation resources by targeting construction of livestock corrals to areas of high habitat suitability and promoting ecotourism programs in villages in highly suitable snow leopard habitat.

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<![CDATA[Seasonal home ranges and habitat selection of three elk (Cervus elaphus) herds in North Dakota]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c61e8b4d5eed0c48496efe5

Changes in land use have resulted in range shifts of many wildlife species, including those entering novel environments, resulting in the critical need to understand their spatial ecology to inform ecosystem effects and management decisions. Dispersing elk (Cervus elaphus) were colonizing areas of suitable habitat in the Northern Great Plains, USA, resulting in crop depredation complaints in these areas. Although state resource managers had little information on these elk herds, limited evidence suggested temporal movements into Canada. We collected and analyzed essential information on home range and habitat selection for 3 elk herds residing in North Dakota. We captured 5 adult female elk in each study area, affixed global positioning system collars, and monitored them for 1 year (2016–2017). We estimated diel period, seasonal, and hunting season home ranges using Brownian Bridge Movement Models for each individual. We analyzed habitat selection using multinomial logit models to test for differences in use of land classes, and for departures from proportionate use based on random sampling; our predictor variables included individual elk, diel period, and season. Home ranges differed between the 3 herds, seasons, and diel period; gun and winter season home ranges were both larger than in summer, as was night when compared with day. Female elk generally restricted themselves to cover during the day and entered open areas at night and during winter months. Our results also suggest that elk in our study areas tended to seek more cover, and in the case of our Turtle Mountain study area, some cross into Canada during gun season. Our study provides a better understanding of the spatial ecology of elk in the Northern Great Plains while highlighting the need for enhanced international cooperative management efforts.

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<![CDATA[Generalizing clusters of similar species as a signature of coexistence under competition]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c50c454d5eed0c4845e8551

Patterns of trait distribution among competing species can potentially reveal the processes that allow them to coexist. It has been recently proposed that competition may drive the spontaneous emergence of niches comprising clusters of similar species, in contrast with the dominant paradigm of greater-than-chance species differences. However, current clustering theory relies largely on heuristic rather than mechanistic models. Furthermore, studies of models incorporating demographic stochasticity and immigration, two key players in community assembly, did not observe clusters. Here we demonstrate clustering under partitioning of resources, partitioning of environmental gradients, and a competition-colonization tradeoff. We show that clusters are robust to demographic stochasticity, and can persist under immigration. While immigration may sustain clusters that are otherwise transient, too much dilutes the pattern. In order to detect and quantify clusters in nature, we introduce and validate metrics which have no free parameters nor require arbitrary trait binning, and weigh species by their abundances rather than relying on a presence-absence count. By generalizing beyond the circumstances where clusters have been observed, our study contributes to establishing them as an update to classical trait patterning theory.

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<![CDATA[Influence of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program wetland practices on winter occupancy of Passerellidae sparrows and avian species richness]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c536b5ad5eed0c484a48792

Wetlands enrolled in the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) are established as a means of restoring wetland ecosystems and wildlife habitat on private, agricultural land. In West Virginia, USA, ACEP wetlands have never been evaluated to determine how they function as wildlife habitat in comparison to other available wetland habitat in the state. We measured the wintering occupancy of Passerellidae species and apparent avian species richness on ACEP wetlands and a set of reference wetlands located on public land in West Virginia to evaluate if ACEP wetlands are being used similarly by avian species to other available wetland habitat in the state. Apparent avian species richness and the occupancy probability of four Passerellidae species—song sparrows (Melospiza melodia), dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis), swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana), and white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis)—did not differ between ACEP and reference sites. In addition to other vegetative and habitat associations for each species, dark-eyed junco occupancy was negatively correlated with wetland size while swamp sparrow occupancy and apparent avian species richness were positively associated with wetland size. These results indicate that ACEP wetlands are providing winter avian habitat as well as another source of wetland habitat in the state. Maintaining and expanding ACEP wetlands in West Virginia would continue to provide wetland systems in areas that are otherwise lacking these habitats.

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<![CDATA[Mapping wader biodiversity along the East Asian—Australasian flyway]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c644880d5eed0c484c2e7f2

Background and goal

The study is conducted to facilitate conservation of migratory wader species along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, particularly to 1) Identify hotspots of wader species richness along the flyway and effectively map how these might change between breeding, non-breeding and migratory phases; 2) Determine if the existing network of protected areas (PA) is sufficient to effectively conserve wader biodiversity hotspots along the EAAF; 3) Assess how species distribution models can provide complementary distribution estimates to existing BirdLife range maps.

Methods

We use a species distribution modelling (SDM) approach (MaxEnt) to develop temporally explicit individual range maps of 57 migratory wader species across their annual cycle, including breeding, non-breeding and migratory phases, which in turn provide the first biodiversity hotspot map of migratory waders along the EAAF for each of these phases. We assess the protected area coverage during each migration period, and analyse the dominant environmental drivers of distributions for each period. Additionally, we compare model hotspots to those existing range maps of the same species obtained from the BirdLife Internationals’ database.

Results

Our model results indicate an overall higher and a spatially different species richness pattern compared to that derived from a wader biodiversity hotspot map based on BirdLife range maps. Field observation records from the eBird database for our 57 study species confirm many of the hotspots revealed by model outputs (especially within the Yellow Sea coastal region), suggesting that current richness of the EAAF may have been underestimated and certain hotspots overlooked. Less than 10% of the terrestrial zones area (inland and coastal) which support waders are protected and, only 5% of areas with the highest 10% species richness is protected.

Main conclusions

The study results suggest the need for new areas for migratory wader research and conservation priorities including Yellow Sea region and Russian far-East. It also suggests a need to increase the coverage and percentage of current PA network to achieve Aichi Target 11 for Flyway countries, including giving stronger consideration to the temporal dynamics of wader migration.

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<![CDATA[Waterhole detection using a vegetation index in desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis cremnobates) habitat]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c50c445d5eed0c4845e8402

In arid ecosystems, desert bighorn sheep are dependent on natural waterholes, particularly in summer when forage is scarce and environmental temperatures are high. To detect waterholes in Sierra Santa Isabel, which is the largest area of desert bighorn sheep habitat in the state of Baja California, Mexico, we used the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and normalized difference water index (NDWI) from Sentinel-2 satellite images. Waterhole detection was based on the premise that sites with greater water availability, where NDVI was higher, can be identified by their density of vegetation greenness. For the detected waterholes, we estimated the escape terrain (presence of cliffs or steep, rocky slopes) around each by the vector ruggedness measure to determine their potential use by desert bighorn sheep based on the animals’ presence as documented by camera traps. We detected 14 waterholes with the NDVI of which 11 were known by land owners and 3 were unrecorded. Desert bighorn were not detected in waterholes with high values of escape terrain, i.e., flat areas. Waterhole detection by NDVI is a simple method, and with the assistance and knowledge of the inhabitants of the Sierra, it was possible to confirm the presence each waterhole in the field.

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<![CDATA[Altitudinal range-size distribution of breeding birds and environmental factors for the determination of species richness: An empirical test of altitudinal Rapoport’s rule and non-directional rescue effect on a local scale]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c6448bad5eed0c484c2ec96

Range-size distributions are important for understanding species richness patterns and led to the development of the controversial Rapoport’s rule and Rapoport-rescue effect. This study aimed to understand the relationship between species richness and range-size distribution in relation to environmental factors. The present study tested the following: (1) altitudinal Rapoport’s rule, and a subsequent test on climatic and ambient energy hypotheses, (2) non-directional rescue effect, and a subsequent test on effect of environmental factors associated with the distribution of narrowest to widest-range species. Altitudinal species range-size distribution increased with increasing altitude and showed a negative relationship with climatic variables. These results support the altitudinal Rapoport’s rule and climatic hypothesis; however, they do not fully support the ambient energy hypothesis. Results from testing the non-directional rescue effect showed that the inflow intensity of species from both directions (high and low elevations) affected species richness. And we found that the species with intermediate range-size, rather than narrowest or widest range-size were the main cause of a mid-peak of species richness and the non-directional rescue effect. Additionally, the richness of species with intermediate range-size was highly related to minimum temperature, habitat heterogeneity, or primary productivity. Although altitudinal range-size distribution results were similar to the phenomenon of altitudinal Rapoport’s rule, the mid-peak pattern of species richness could not be explained by the underlying mechanism of Rapoport’s-rescue effect; however, the non-directional rescue effect could explain a mid-peak pattern of species richness along altitudinal gradient.

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<![CDATA[Whole animal matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry of ticks – Are spectra of Ixodes ricinus nymphs influenced by environmental, spatial, and temporal factors?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c478c79d5eed0c484bd289b

In the recent years matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry (MS) has become a useful tool to characterize arthropod species and their different stages of development. It was reported for sand flies and mosquitoes at immature stages and also assumed for ticks that geographic location can have a subtle influence on MALDI-TOF mass spectra which allows the discrimination of animals with specific local variations of the MALDI-TOF MS phenotype. It is so far uncertain, however, if these mass-spectrometric differences are based on genetic variation or on spectral features which depend on environmental or temporal features. The aim of this study was to analyze the influence of the geographic location, environmental factors and the season of the year on the MALDI-TOF mass spectra of Ixodes (I.) ricinus nymphs and if spectral variation would allow to draw conclusions with respect to the tick’s provenience or conditions that influence the tick life cycle. Application of multivariate statistical models on spectra of ticks collected in different seasons and different habitats and locations within Germany showed that the impact of the location seemed to be small while season and habitat seemed to have stronger impact on the MALDI-TOF mass spectra. Possibilities and limitations of MALDI-TOF mass spectra to draw conclusions on the tick life cycle are discussed.

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<![CDATA[Habitat restoration opportunities, climatic niche contraction, and conservation biogeography in California's San Joaquin Desert]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c478c6bd5eed0c484bd2381

A recent global trend toward retirement of farmland presents opportunities to reclaim habitat for threatened and endangered species. We examine habitat restoration opportunities in one of the world’s most converted landscapes, California’s San Joaquin Desert (SJD). Despite the presence of 35 threatened and endangered species, agricultural expansion continues to drive habitat loss in the SJD, even as marginal farmland is retired. Over the next decades a combination of factors, including salinization, climate change, and historical groundwater overdraft, are projected to lead to the retirement of more than 2,000 km2 of farmland in the SJD. To promote strategic habitat protection and restoration, we conducted a quantitative assessment of habitat loss and fragmentation, habitat suitability, climatic niche stability, climate change impacts, habitat protection, and reintroduction opportunities for an umbrella species of the SJD, the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard (Gambelia sila). We use our suitability models, in conjunction with modern and historical land use maps, to estimate the historical and modern rate of habitat loss to development. The estimated amount of habitat lost since the species became protected under endangered species law in 1967 is greater than the total amount of habitat currently protected through public ownership and conservation easement. We document climatic niche contraction and associated range contraction away from the more mesic margins of the species’ historical distribution, driven by the anthropogenic introduction of exotic grasses and forbs. The impact of exotic species on G. sila range dynamics appears to be still unfolding. Finally, we use NASA fallowed area maps to identify 610 km2 of fallowed or retired agricultural land with high potential to again serve as habitat. We discuss conservation strategies in light of the potential for habitat restoration and multiple drivers of ongoing and historical habitat loss.

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<![CDATA[The effect of local land use on aerial insectivorous bats (Chiroptera) within the two dominating crop types in the Northern-Caribbean lowlands of Costa Rica]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c478ca7d5eed0c484bd3b14

Land transformation into agricultural areas and the intensification of management practices represent two of the most devastating threats to biodiversity worldwide. Within this study, we investigated the effect of intensively managed agroecosystems on bat activity and species composition within two focal areas differing in landscape structure. We sampled bats via acoustic monitoring and insects with flight interception traps in banana and pineapple monoculture plantations and two nearby protected forested areas within the area of Sarapiquí, Costa Rica. Our results revealed that general occurrence and feeding activity of bats was higher above plantations compared to forested areas. We also recorded higher species richness at recording sites in plantations. This trend was especially strong within a fragmented landscape, with only four species recorded in forests, but 12 above pineapple plantations. Several bat species, however, occurred only once or twice above plantations, and forest specialist species such as Centronycteris centralis, Myotis riparius and Pteronotus mesoamericanus were only recorded at forest sites. Our results indicated, that mostly mobile open space and edge foraging bat species can use plantations as potential foraging habitat and might even take advantage of temporal insect outbreaks. However, forests are vital refugia for several species, including slower flying forest specialists, and thus a prerequisite to safeguard bat diversity within agricultural dominated landscapes.

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<![CDATA[Migratory patterns and settlement areas revealed by remote sensing in an endangered intra-African migrant, the Black Harrier (Circus maurus)]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5c605a14d5eed0c4847cc90f

Annual movements have been widely described for birds migrating across the Americas and between Eurasia and Africa, yet relatively little information exists for intra-African migrants. Identifying the areas used throughout a species annual cycle by understanding migratory patterns and settlement areas during breeding and non-breeding seasons is essential for conservation initiatives. Here, we describe for the first time, the migratory patterns and settlement areas of an endangered raptor endemic to Southern Africa, the Black Harrier (Circus maurus). From 2008 to 2015, thirteen breeding adult Black Harriers were trapped in south-western South Africa and fitted either with a GPS-GSM or with a PTT tracker device. Adults were monitored for 365 ± 198 days (range: 56–819 days) revealing great individual variability in annual movements. Most Black Harriers performed an unusual West-East migration from their breeding areas, but routes of all migrating individuals covered the entire southern land area of South Africa and Lesotho. The distance travelled averaged 814 ± 324 km, but unlike many other species, migrants travelled faster during post-breeding (i.e. austral summer) (207.8 ± 113.2 km.day-1) than during pre-breeding (i.e. austral winter/spring) migrations (143.8 ± 32.2 km.day-1). Although most marked individuals displayed movements similar to those that bred following pre-breeding migrations, only two of thirteen were confirmed as breeders the year after being tagged. This suggests that individuals may sometimes take a sabbatical year in reproduction, although this requires confirmation. Most tagged birds died on migration or during the non-breeding season. Adults frequently returned to the same non-breeding settlement areas, and often used up to 3 different locations an average of about 200 km apart. On the other hand, there was wide variation in distance between subsequent reproductive events. We discuss the implications of our study for the conservation of Black Harriers and more broadly for intra-African bird migrants.

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