ATBC Website Editor Search

We are searching for an enthusiastic, dynamic, web-savvy content creator to serve as ATBC’s new Website Editor. The Web Editor will sharpen the ATBC’s online presence, expand this presence in new directions, and use our digital platforms to provide information relevant to both the general public and ATBC members. The primary responsibilities of the ATBC Web Site Editor are to:

  • Revise existing web page (tropicalbio.org) and social media accounts (e.g., Twitter, Facebook).
  • Prepare and solicit content for tropicalbio.org, such as news of interest to tropical biologists, employment opportunities, ATBC award announcements, resolutions and declarations, updated directories, etc.
  • Developing social media and website guidelines for the ATBC.
  • Coordinate with Chairs of the ATBC Annual Meeting, Chapter Meetings, and Local Organizing Committees as they develop their meeting websites and online activities.
  • Coordinate with publisher and Editor of Biotropica to promote journal content and activities of the ATBC website and Biotropica Editor’s Blog (Biotropica.org).
  • Provide annual updates to the ATBC Council on website and social media activity and new initiatives.

This is an opportunity to help shape the future of the society, develop a digital portfolio, and broaden the impacts of the research and teaching activities of the members of the society.  Though it is a volunteer position, the Web Editor will be an ex-officio member of the ATBC Council and hence eligible to apply for travel awards to help defray the costs of attending the annual meeting.

If interested, please contact Nobby Cordeiro (ncordeiro@fieldmuseum.org)

Call for Applications for the Whitley Awards 2016

The Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) is a UK registered charity offering ‘Whitley Awards’ to dynamic conservation leaders around the world. Whitley Awards are both an international profile prize and a form of project funding (currently worth £35,000 over one year).
The application period for the Whitley Awards 2016 is now OPEN – the deadline for applications is October 31st 2015.

Please visit www.whitleyaward.org to download an application form and find guidance notes on how to apply and eligibility.

(Download PDF: Whitley Awards 2016 Call for Applications)

ATBC Resolution in Support of Effective Biosecurity Measures for the State of Hawai’i

Hawai’i is a geographically isolated archipelago comprising a diverse range of biophysical environments. Its situation has resulted in more than 18,000 native species, many of which are unique to Hawai’i, including 81% of birds, 90% of the terrestrial plants, 99% of terrestrial molluscs and insects, and approximately 40% of marine molluscs.

Accidental and intentional introductions of alien species have, however, transformed ecosystems and landscapes. Although most introduced species have little adverse impact, some cause major problems through their spread and ability to transform native ecosystems, frequently causing extensive losses of native biodiversity in the process. These are called invasive alien species. In Hawai’i invasive alien species have caused, and continue to cause harm to the survival of native species, as well as to ecosystem services such as pollination and watershed productivity, production of food and forest commodities, water quality, and public health, all of which impact the local economies and quality of life.

Hawaiʻi imports most of its food, fuel, and construction and consumer goods via marine and air transportation.  It is by these means that most invasive alien species are imported into the state from the US mainland and other countries.  The vast majority of incoming goods are not inspected for pests; ballast water compliance is unverified; and, there are no rules in place to mitigate the risk of biofouling organisms on vessels’ hulls. Thus, introductions of invasive alien species have been facilitated by gaps in biosecurity programs for the prevention, detection, and isolation of potentially problematic alien species.

Two examples of major invasive species and impacts are the Little Fire Ant and Miconia:

Little Fire Ants (Wasmannia auropunctata; also known as the electric ant) are stinging ants that impact public health and quality of life.  They have also affected invertebrate and wild animal populations, and promoted scale insects which in turn impact agricultural crops and plants. Since 1999 Little Fire Ants have spread to over 4,000 locations on the island of Hawaiʻi and have even been found in isolated locations on Kauaʻi, Maui, and Oʻahu Islands.  A 2013 study found that the economic impact of Little Fire Ants on Hawaiʻi Island is $194 million annually.  An immediate expenditure of $8 million in the next 2–3 years plus follow-up prevention, monitoring, and mitigation treatments will yield $1.210 billion in reduced control costs and $129 million in lowered economic damages, over 10 years. It will not, however, result in eradication.

Miconia calvescens is a plant which can form monotypic stands by outcompeting native plants for light, space, and water resources.  Its large leaves collect and then deposit large water drops that cause soil erosion, and its shallow root system may further destabilize slopes and promote erosion through enhanced run-off.  Economic damage by Miconia in Hawai‘i is estimated at $672 million annually, mainly in lost groundwater recharge and decreased valuation of habitat invaded by Miconia.

Despite the many invasive species already present in Hawai‘i, many more potentially invasive alien species are not yet present.  Greatly enhanced biosecurity measures could prevent new devastating invasive pests from arriving and becoming established.  For instance, the annual economic impact to Hawai‘i if Red Fire Ants (Solenopsis invicta) become established is estimated at $211 million, while that of Brown Tree Snakes (Boiga irregularis) is estimated at $2.14 billion.

The Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, the agency charged with preventing the introduction and establishment of plants, animals and diseases that are detrimental to the state’s agriculture industry and the environment, receives a mere 0.5% of the state budget.  The Hawaiʻi Department of Land and Natural Resources, the agency that is charged with protecting aquatic and terrestrial resources fares little better at 1% of the budget.  A third agency, the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, also plays a role in protecting Hawaiʻi by its vector control and disease monitoring activities.  For example, the mosquito vectors for West Nile virus (WNV) which is having severe impacts on bird populations on the mainland are widespread in Hawai’i and there is no disease-free winter. The DoH’s mosquito monitoring program has, however, experienced budget cuts that have reduced a program supporting hundreds of monitoring traps at all ports and key detection sites on Oʻahu to just four at Honolulu International Airport.

In Summary:

  • Hawaiʻi is one of the world’s richest biodiversity hotspots, with the highest rates of endemism in the world;
  • Hawaiʻi’s plants and floral communities are the most threatened in the United States, but receive a tiny fraction of all US endangered species funds;
  • Hawaiʻi’s remaining biodiversity is increasingly threatened by invasive alien species;
  • Despite multiple federal and state agencies mandated to address invasive alien species, there are still major gaps in funding, resources, and priorities;
  • Many elements of an effective Biosecurity Plan are already in place, but leaders and funding need to be identified to take this forward.

We, the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation representing >850 scientists and conservationists from 64 nations including the United States of America, urge the State of Hawaii and U.S. government to:

  • Secure significant, long-term final staffing commitments by the public, business leaders, and policymakers for addressing key policy, resource, and infrastructure needs to limit the establishment and mitigate the impacts of invasive alien species in Hawaiʻi.
  • Establish effective and fully-functioning quarantine inspection facilities at all major airports on all islands and at Honolulu Harbor.
  • Commit to the establishment, funding, and implementation of a long-term plan to counter invasive alien species.
  • Take full and immediate advantage of the state’s 2050 Sustainability Plan, the Regional Biosecurity Plan, and the Aloha + Challenge targets on reversing the trend of natural resource loss.
  • Fully engage the institutional expertise represented in state and federal agencies, universities, NGOs, and business and policy stakeholders to work together to craft, support, and implement a Hawaiʻi Biosecurity Plan.

(Link to PDF: ATBC-resolution25-Hawaiian-Invasives)

ATBC 2015 Honolulu Declaration in Support of Cultural and Biological Restoration of Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve, Hawaii

The Hawaiian Archipelago is one of the most important, unique and biodiverse hotspots of the world, with approximately ninety percent of its native flowering plants occurring nowhere else, approximately fifty percent of which are endangered with extinction. The natural beauty, diversity, and richness of the native landscape are under threat, as are the cultural practices of the native Hawaiian people that developed in concert with these natural treasures. Kaho‘olawe Island is also culturally and spiritually important to many peoples, and especially to the Kanaka Maoli-people of native Hawaiian ancestry.

Kaho‘olawe Island was used for 52 years (1941-1993) by the U.S. Navy as a “training ground,” primarily as a bombing range for target practice. President George W. Bush stopped the bombing in 1990, and President William J. Clinton returned the island to the State of Hawaii in 1994. The island, upon its return, was to be “held in trust for a Hawaiian entity.” Following a necessary 10-year period of ordnance removal, the final control of access to Kaho‘olawe was transferred to the State of Hawai‘i in 2003. The island was then placed under the administration of the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC). Today, KIRC is responsible for the restoration and sustainable management of the island until it can be transferred to a native Hawaiian entity. These are the first lands that were to be returned to the native Hawaiian people for sovereign maintenance, and represent an important precedent for the potential return of other territories to their original owners.

Initial funds for restoration of Kaho‘olawe Island were allocated by Congress after considerable lobbying by former Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel K. Akaka. These funds (US$400 million) were meant to rid the island of unexploded ordnance. The Navy was responsible for clearing ordnance from the entire surface of the island and twenty-five percent of the ground’s subsurface, to a depth of four feet. US$44 million of the funds secured by Sen. Akaka were allocated to KIRC’s management and restoration of the island, and the State issued an emergency US$1 million to keep KIRC in operation for another two years. All funds were exhausted in early 2015, but the island has only been partially restored.

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10436 in 1953, reserving the right of the US military to use Kaho‘olawe as a training facility, the order clearly stated several obligations, including the “eradication of cloven hooved animals” and, upon return of the island to Hawai‘i, “render such area….reasonably safe for human habitation, without cost to the Territory.” These obligations have not been met. Twenty-five percent of the land surface remains to be cleared of ordnance and only one-third of the promised subsurface area has been cleared to date.

In addition to the removal of ordnance, efforts to manage and restore the island have been insufficient. The budget shortfall for the operation of the island is at a critical point as the State is now considering opening the island for commercial activity to generate funds. This plan is in direct conflict with the State’s mandate to hold the island in trust for a sovereign Hawaiian entity, as any revenues generated from that trust should belong to said entity.

Because neither clean-up nor ecological restoration has been completed, the US military and US government have failed in their commitment to fully remediate the island before returning it to the State of Hawaii. The lack of commitment to the restoration of the island is resulting in extensive soil erosion. The State estimates that Kaho‘olawe loses 1.9 million tons of soil each year, increasing the cost of restoration and continually damaging marine and terrestrial biodiversity.

Issues of social justice are also embedded in the issue of providing sufficient restoration funds. Native Hawaiians who cared deeply for Kaho’olawe fought, and in some cases died, to ensure that the island is returned to them in its pre-military condition. Such persons as George Helm, Kimo Mitchell, Emmett Aluli, and Walter Ritte are widely-recognized for their important roles. These native Hawaiians, and others, were the original creators of the non-profit Protect Kaho‘olawe ‘Ohana (PKO) which eventually facilitated the termination of the bombing and the return of the island. The PKO (which operates on a very limited budget) has obtained rights for access to native Hawaiians to conduct cultural practices, and continues to engage Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian people and student groups in cultural and biological restoration of the island.

WE the 107 scientists from Hawai‘i, 149 scientists from 35 other states in the USA, and 256 scientists from 49 other countries who attended the meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) held in Honolulu from 13 – 16 July, 2015, organized under the main theme of Resilience of Island Systems in the Context of Climate Change: Challenges for Biological and Cultural diversity and Conservation:

Recognize that the cultural and biological restoration of Kaho‘olawe Island continues to be a major conservation and socio-ecological issue in Hawai‘i, and has implications in the United States for the US government’s obligations to its states and its indigenous peoples.

Understand that to uphold the original proclamations and guarantees of the US Government, additional funds are required immediately for the continued restoration and management of the biocultural integrity of the island. These monies should include adequate resources to eliminate the remaining feral animals from the island, to conduct biological restoration of the island to a level that greatly reduces the negative impacts of erosion, to make the island “suitable for human habitation”, and to provide an endowment that will allow the State of Hawai‘i, at no cost to itself, to maintain minimal management of the island for as long as is needed before ceding the island to a sovereign Hawaiian entity. We estimate these total funds to be approximately US$1 billion.

The ATBC makes the following recommendations:

  1. The State Fund (or equivalent funds petitioned from the US military) be made available for the full remediation and biocultural restoration of the island;
  2. The US military provide at least US$700 million to complete the environmental clean-up, and remove all remaining ordnance;
  3. The US military provide at least US$300 million to mitigate erosion, restore the native flora, and eliminate invasive animals (feral cats, rats, cloven-hooved animals, etc.).

The full biocultural restoration of Kaho’olawe is important not only for Hawai‘i and native Hawaiians, but as a model for how restoration could be achieved following demilitarisation anywhere in the world.

16 July 2015, Honolulu, Hawai‘i, USA

New ATBC Strategic Plan for 2015-2020

Byline

Fostering the scientific understanding and conservation of tropical environments

Mission

To foster scientific understanding and conservation of tropical ecosystems by supporting research, collaboration, capacity building, and communication among tropical biologists and conservationists.

Purpose

The ATBC fosters collaboration and information sharing across a broad community of tropical biology professionals. The society provides outlets for research dissemination, and educational and funding opportunities, particularly for early career scientists working across the tropics. As a diverse community of science professionals, the ATBC provides a credible, collective, and authoritative vision of tropical biology and conservation issues that underpin public policy and management action.

Values

  1. Natural systems and the biodiversity they contain have both intrinsic and utilitarian values.
  2. Evidence-based science is critical for understanding how tropical ecosystems function, and how humans affect them.
  3. Sustainable development depends on effective stewardship of ecosystems and their component species.
  4. Biological sciences and related disciplines are essential foundations for effective decision-making, and must inform environmental policy in the tropics.
  5. Communicating tropical biological science to the global public is vital for enhancing the understanding of environmental and conservation values.

Principles

  1. Supportive: A society that fosters mutual support, mentoring and guidance across its membership.
  2. Inclusive: A diverse membership across age groups, genders, cultures, professional positions, disciplinary sectors, and geographical locations, benefits and advances the society.
  3. Participatory: A membership that is informed and engaged in the activities of the society.
  4. Transparent: An open society in which decision-making processes are clear and participatory.
  5. Multidisciplinary: A society that encompasses scientific breadth across all relevant disciplines.

Strategic Foci

  1. Support the development of tropical biology and related interdisciplinary scientific approaches.
  2. Communicate tropical biological science among the scientific and conservation community.
  3. Foster the application of science in conservation policy and management action.
  4. Grow the society by serving the needs and interests of the tropical biology research community.
  5. Build organizational capacity and financial stability.

1. Support the development of tropical biology and related interdisciplinary scientific approaches

The ATBC supports the development of biology and conservation scientists working in the tropics. The development of skills and knowledge among scientists is essential for the development of robust tropical biology and conservation science. The society therefore strives to provide opportunities for gaining new experiences, knowledge, perspectives and skills through mentorship, networking and courses. These goals will be met through the ATBC Capacity Building Program.

Establish mechanisms for identifying educational needs: create a network through which educational needs can be communicated.

Provide a wide array of courses and workshops: capitalize on the existing expertise within the society to provide targeted short courses and workshops on topics that respond to the needs of the membership.

Establish an online library of instructional resources: develop a repository for course notes, guided learning materials, virtual lectures, and exercises.

Enhance the effectiveness of scientific networking and mentoring: improve networking opportunities, particularly among students and early career scientists, by providing increased opportunities for interaction and access to mentors.

Provide financial support for scientists: establish mechanisms to facilitate the participation of early career scientists and those from tropical regions in ATBC activities and meetings.

2. Communicate world-leading tropical biological science across the scientific community

A fundamental purpose of the ATBC is to support and disseminate high quality tropical biological science through its peer-reviewed journal, scientific meetings, and educational opportunities. As such, it is imperative that we strengthen our science communication pathways.

Appraise and publish high quality original research: improve the recognition and outreach of Biotropica by raising its impact, and broaden its recognition by capitalizing on new forms of communication and media outreach to promote its scientific content.

Allow Biotropica to adapt: ensure that the journal is sufficiently flexible to respond to emerging areas of science, conservation and practice, as well as to respond to the changing landscape of scientific publishing.

Hold regular scientific meetings for the tropical biology community: continue to provide fora for direct interaction and information exchange across the international science community.

Improve the accessibility and appeal of the scientific meetings: update the format for the annual meetings to enhance opportunities for interaction and discussion across members and the international science community.

Enhance representative participation in the international meetings: prioritize meeting locations that broaden the ATBC membership globally, as well as provide remote access to meeting content to all members.

Establish regional meetings through the year: foster the development of smaller regional and thematic meetings to increase the opportunities for attendance and dialogue. These meetings should be organized in conjunction with other relevant societies when appropriate.

Improve dialogue with other societies and institutions: organize joint meetings with other biology or conservation-oriented professional societies and NGOs in order to provide additional opportunities for networking and engagement, and a more efficient use of the available resources.

Diversify the array of communication pathways among the membership: increase communication platforms for members through an active website, online newsletters, and online network platforms.

3. Foster the application of science in conservation policy and management action

The application of sound science in conservation and policy is essential for effective resource management. The ATBC must explore pathways by which science can best inform policy and management at local, national, regional, and global levels.

Facilitate communication and collaboration with managers and policy-makers: ensure participation from and engagement with the public and private sectors, and the NGO community at the international meetings and other ATBC events to foster an inclusive dialogue.

Improve uptake of policy and management relevant research through partnerships: establish partnerships with appropriately positioned individuals, professional societies, and NGOs and international organizations to improve the uptake of research outputs.

Raise awareness of urgent conservation issues: produce scientifically robust resolutions and declarations on topics of urgent conservation concern in order to increase awareness and contribute relevant information to the decision-making process.

Improve the accessibility of scientific outputs: build capacity and provide training to reframe scientific results in more accessible and policy/management relevant formats.

Improve use of media outlets: provide training on how best to secure media interest and coverage for conservation or policy relevant research.

Achieve wider public outreach: communicate science to the wider public through more effective use of the media and by an ATBC public lecture series.

4. Grow the society by serving the needs and interests of the tropical biology and conservation research community

The ATBC can develop as a professional society by responding to the needs of tropical biologists, and users of tropical research outputs. Its successful development is predicated on a strong membership that is actively engaged in implementing its activities, shaping its structure, and directing its course of action.

Identify the needs and interests of the tropical biology and conservation research community: regular appraisal of current and prospective members’ motivations for joining the ATBC, and the benefits they derive, or would like to derive, from membership.

Improve member retention and encourage new members: the benefits of ATBC membership to be regularly appraised and communicated to the scientific community.

Analyze and report on membership trends: statistics to be kept and updated on the number and distribution of members.

Network with other professional bodies: promote collaboration with other relevant science and conservation institutions, regionally and globally.

5. Build organizational capacity and financial stability

The ATBC’s organizational capacity, coordination, and funding base need to be strengthened to deliver the strategic plan. A strong and transparent organizational structure is required to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the ATBC Council committees, and of the chapters within ATBC.

Encourage participation in organizational activities: the ATBC must strive for a more inclusive dialogue in decision-making processes. New ideas and proposals should be regularly disseminated to the membership for feedback and comment.

Decision-making process should be transparent: major strategic or organizational changes are to be informed by prior consultation with the membership, and any decisions made should be clearly announced and explained.

Capitalize on existing strengths within the society: the breadth of skills and experience across the society needs to be recognized and harnessed.

Facilitate the emergence of regional and thematic chapters: many activities will be more efficient and accessible when undertaken by regional or thematic chapters. The development of chapters, led by appropriate representatives, is encouraged and supported by the ATBC.

Develop long-term budgets for the separate objectives of the strategic plan: realizing the objectives of the strategic plan will require funds, and funding allocation should be appropriately aligned to priority objectives.

Enhance revenue acquisition: create a business and investment plan that specifies how income will be secured to achieve strategic goals and objectives, and that ensures investment choices and management are aligned with ATBC’s values.

Deliver transparent reporting of expenditure set against progress made: all activities funded by the ATBC should deliver an annual financial statement and outcome report to the ATBC Council to benefit future planning and allocations.

(12 July 2015)

Native ecosystems, species underpin Hawaiian culture

Dr. Samuel M. ‘Ohukani’ōhi’a Gon, III is the Senior Scientist and Cultural Advisor for The Nature Conservancy of Hawai’i, and a leading expert on Hawaiian ecology.

This year he is one of the four keynote speakers at the annual Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) meeting, which is being held next week in Honolulu, on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

Mongabay recently interviewed him to find out more about Hawaii’s unique environment and culture.

Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2015/0707-dangelo-interview-gon-atbc.html#ixzz3fcrMYAvy

ATBC Resolution in Support of Urgent Measures to Conserve Protected Animal Species in the Greater Congo Basin

The forests of the Greater Congo Basin, encompassing the contiguous forests of central Africa, comprise the second largest tropical wilderness area on Earth. They are home to forest elephants, giant pangolins, okapi, great apes, and many other unique animals. However, commercial hunting and trade in bushmeat is increasingly practiced at unsustainable levels, emptying forests of wildlife, threatening the conservation of regional biodiversity, jeopardizing the livelihoods of local people, and affecting the long-term stability of the region’s diverse and little-studied ecosystems.

The situation has grown urgent for many species, particularly for protected species, and is unlikely to improve unless well supported monitoring and enforcement are operational on the ground, and infractions followed up effectively in the courts. Still, it may not be possible to protect remaining faunas if commercial demand for protected species remains unchecked. Enforcement therefore must go hand in hand with efforts to end demand for protected species in urban and suburban markets.

The Congo hydrographic basin contains most of the forest in the region. It spans nearly all of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and parts of Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Tanzania. The DRC alone contains roughly 60% of central Africa’s lowland forest cover and is thus a critical stakeholder in the region.
We applaud efforts in the DRC to establish Lomami National Park (9,000 km2), which is poised to be the first new National Park in the country in 40 years, and the first National Park in the region to be delimited through a participatory process involving local and regional stakeholders.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world’s largest scientific organization devoted to the study, protection, and sustainable use of tropical ecosystems, implores the Governments of countries in the Greater Congo Basin to take urgent and significant action to:

  • Provide local communities practical support to ensure their rights over territory are respected and avoid the illegitimate and unsustainable use of wildlife by outsiders;
  • Implement community and other wildlife management approaches that allow for the sustainable use of resilient non protected species;
  • Encourage the NGO partners of wildlife administrations to maintain direct investment and involvement in conservation, and to coordinate efforts with the development community in order to help poverty reduction programs develop better conservation outcomes;
  • Evaluate and update wildlife laws involving completely protected species;
  • Strengthen enforcement of laws and penalties associated with the killing and sale of protected species, train and provide support for park guards to arrest commercial bushmeat traders;
  • Lengthen the closed hunting season in the central DRC, and in other areas where this is expected to reduce highly unsustainable commercial hunting and trade by non-locals, with a net positive impact on the livelihoods of local subsistence hunters;
  • Improve monitoring of commercial bushmeat harvesting and trade, particularly at the port, market and road barrier levels;
  • Undertake scientifically-sound assessments of wildlife on a regular basis to determine whether upgraded legal protection is warranted;
  • Seek collaboration with scientists and conservationists to achieve these goals;

Networking for the Sustainable Future of the Tropics

Japanese Society for Tropical Ecology (JASTE) will hold its 25th Annual Meeting from 19 to 21 June, in Kyoto, Japan, kicking off with an international symposium, “Networking for the Sustainable Future of the Tropics”. The International Network of Next Generation Ecologist (INNGE) will sponsor a YouTube live streaming this event, available only to those pre-registered.

Date: 19 June 2015
Time: 14:00 – 18:00 (Japan Standard Time)
(Register here for YouTube Live Streaming: https://goo.gl/cVJk7R)
(For full program, visit http://tofreproj.kais.kyoto-u.ac.jp/ja…/symposium/index.html)

Program details:

Moderator: Kaoru Kitajima (Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University, Japan; President Elect, Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation)

Speakers 

  • 14:10–14:35 Stuart J. DAVIES (Center for Tropical Forest Science, Smithsonian Institution, USA; Global Forest Observatory) “Forests in the Anthropocene: Recent results from a global forest observing system”
  • 14:35–15:00 Robin L. CHAZDON (University of Connecticut, USA; Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation) “Networking to understand tropical reforestation and its socio-ecological context in an age of deforestation”
  • 15:00–15:25 Hajanirina F. RAKOTOMANANA (University of Antananarivo, Madagascar; Tropical Biology Association) “Tropical Biology Association for safeguarding the natural resources in Africa and other tropical regions”
  • 15:35–16:00 Moira M. M. MOELIONO (Center for International Forestry Research, Indonesia; Asian Social Forestry Network) “ASFN, ASFCC and CIFOR Research”
  • 16:00–16:25 Mitsuru OSAKI (Hokkaido University, Japan; International Peat Society) “The peatland / wetland as carbon-water linkage ecosystems”
  • 16:25–16:50 F. E. (Jack) PUTZ (University of Florida, USA) “Research networks to promote responsible tropical forest management”

Results of the ATBC 2015 Survey

Thanks to all who completed the recent ATBC survey. Your responses have been very helpful in the development of our new Strategic Plan, a draft of which will soon be distributed to all ATBC members. For your interest, we provide a summary of the responses to the survey. Note that some open-ended questions could not be readily summarised and have not been included. There will be opportunities to discuss these survey results, and how the ATBC will respond to them, at the forthcoming annual meeting in July. We look forward to seeing you there.

ATBC Survey May 2015

Jaboury Ghazoul

Are tropical species intensely vulnerable to global warming?

From William Laurance at www.alert-conservation.org

On 12 January 2002, Cambridge University doctoral student Justin Welbergen was studying the behavior of a large colony of flying foxes in subtropical eastern Australia.  What he witnessed that day shocked him.

Doesn't like the heat… a grey-headed flying fox.

Doesn’t like the heat… a grey-headed flying fox.

It was a hot afternoon, and as the thermostat climbed above 40 degrees Centigrade, the giant bats became obviously distressed.  They began fighting over shady spots in the canopy.  Then they began licking their wrists and flapping their wings in a desperate effort to cool themselves.

Finally, as the temperature hit 42 degrees C, they began to die — in the thousands.  On that day at least 3,500 bats died, in nine different nearby colonies.  Females and juveniles were especially vulnerable.

What Welbergen observed was a phenomenon that has now been seen elsewhere — from mass disappearances of lizards in Mexico to the dramatic population collapse of the white lemuroid possum in north Queensland rainforests.

There are two striking conclusions from these observations.  First, to the surprise of many, tropical species may be the most vulnerable of all organisms on the planet to global warming.  Second, it isn’t a steadily rising thermostat that endangers most species, but short, intense pulses of unusually warm conditions — heat waves.

Why are tropical species so vulnerable?  In short, many are thermal specialists.  Think, for instance, about a polar bear — our traditional icon for global warming.  It has to deal with temperatures ranging from, say, minus 50 degrees C in winter to plus 35 degrees C in summer — a huge range of temperatures.

But tropical species are different.  Lowland tropical species, for instance, might see temperatures ranging from just 25 to 35 degrees during the course of a normal year — a far narrower range.  As a result, they can become much more thermally specialized.

Where temperatures vary the most in the tropics is as a function of elevation.  On average, for every thousand meters that one goes up in elevation, the temperature drops by 6 degrees C.

What that means is that tropical species are not just thermal specialists, they also tend to be elevational specialists.  Species tend to be adapted for the very warm lowlands, or for the cooler mid-elevations, or for the wet, cloudy high elevations, where conditions are almost chilly.

And it’s the high-elevation specialists — such as the white lemuroid possum — that a lot of scientists are really worried about.

Many tend to be locally endemic species, because their populations are genetically isolated from other populations on different mountaintops.  Hence, they have small geographic ranges and, often, small population sizes.

And they may be intensely vulnerable to global warming.  As temperatures rise, the geographic ranges of many high-elevation species in the tropics are predicted to shrink and fragment — potentially disappearing altogether.  For instance, in the Australian wet tropics, most upland-endemic species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians are predicted to disappear entirely if temperatures should rise by more than 4-6 degrees C.

It’s a frightening prospect, and it suggests that global warming could have far wider-reaching impacts than many might suspect — especially in the tropics, the world’s biologically richest real estate.

ALERT member Pierre-Michel Forget has just given a wonderful 30-minute interview on this topic.  Forget is a highly authoritative scientist — a former president of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation and now Vice-President of the Society for Tropical Ecology.  He asks, what would just a 1 degree C increase in temperature do to tropical forests and their species?

It’s definitely worth a half-hour to hear this enlightening lecture — and to share it with your colleagues and students.

The bottom line is this: Given that tropical ecosystems are so rich in species and thermal specialists, the best icon for global warming might not be a polar bear — but a tropical white possum or flying fox.