how much of APP's 2.5 million ha of holdings in Indonesia will be off-limits to development and which areas, such as degraded scrub land, could be con-.
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ecosystems. All of APP’s suppliers must comply with the new policy. The policy owes its genesis to pressure from Greenpeace, WWF, and other environmental groups, says Scott Poynton, executive director of TFT. These organizations enlisted more than 100 major companies to stop buying paper products from APP. Meanwhile, APP determined that it had enough plantations to supply its needs and approached TFT in February 2012, saying that it was ready to conserve the remaining 250 000 ha of natural forest on the company’s lands. “This decision is hugely significant for forests in Indonesia, which are home to important species such as tigers, elephants,
and rhinos”, Poynton adds. Although APP has broken conservation promises before, “this time the company is serious”, Poynton believes. Regardless, TFT intends to monitor APP closely; APP’s products will be subjected to fiber testing using highpowered microscopes that can distinguish plantation fibers from mixed tropical hardwoods derived from natural forests, and TFT will use Global Forest Watch 2.0, a free software application to be launched in May by the World Resources Institute (WRI), which combines satellite images, maps, and data to generate forest clearing alerts in near-real-time. “It’s in the core business interest of companies like APP to make commitments to become more environmentally responsible”, says Nigel Sizer, an ecologist with WRI (Washington, DC). Being perceived as an environmental pariah limits a company’s customer base and makes it harder to obtain loans as more banks sign on to environmentally responsible financing practices, he continues. “This sets a precedent because if APP can do it, then any company can make its products without causing deforestation”, Poynton concludes. n
don’t know how much underwater noise affects species like the Baltic cod, for example”, says Pajala. At present, there is little information about how sound may influence migration, spawning, and feeding behavior. Pajala points out that scientists are unable to even recognize whether the Baltic’s noise levels have increased over the years, one of the issues they hope the project will address. While the percussive booming emanating from the driving of underwater piles for port expansion and offshore wind farms may have increased as coastal development expands, other sounds, such as shipping noise, may have decreased. “The Baltic can also be quite naturally noisy”, adds Pajala. In winter, ice often cracks and grinds but can be silent when the ice cover is stable. Icebreakers may disturb that silence, with as yet unknown consequences for the Baltic’s marine life.
The six countries – Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Sweden, with the lattermost heading the effort – will simultaneously measure underwater sound at 40 stations over a year, beginning in December 2013. This synchronized approach is key, says Peter Sigray, research director at the Swedish Defence Research Agency (Stockholm) and director of the BIAS project. Sigray notes that research on marine noise, especially by the US Navy and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is not uncommon but is usually focused on the impacts on whale species, making BIAS unique. “Very often these studies are based on modeling, while BIAS will combine modeling and measurements”, explains Sigray. The effort is a part of the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive, adopted in June 2008. n
Paper giant says “no” to deforestation Janet Pelley Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) brought its bulldozers to a halt on February 1st and announced 4 days later that it will no longer log natural forests in Indonesia or anywhere else. The move by the world’s third-largest paper company bodes well for endangered Asian fauna, while demonstrating that Asian corporations are ready to embrace environmental sustainability. APP’s new Forest Conservation Policy, which was brokered by The Forest Trust (TFT), a conservation group headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, declares that the company will only use fiber sourced from plantation trees. TFT is currently identifying how much of APP’s 2.5 million ha of holdings in Indonesia will be off-limits to development and which areas, such as degraded scrub land, could be converted to tree plantations. The policy also prohibits the company from developing peatlands or other carbon-rich
Listening to the Baltic Nancy Bazilchuk The hums, booms, crackles, and whines of the Baltic Sea’s underwater soundscape are being mapped for the first time by a consortium of researchers from six Baltic countries. The 4-year, €4.6 million effort – called the Baltic Sea Information on the Acoustic Soundscape (BIAS) project and funded in part by the European Union (EU) – will establish a baseline of the changing soundscape throughout the year. The goal is to determine what constitutes a healthy underwater soundscape so that human-introduced noise can be regulated, explains Jukka Pajala, senior advisor at the Finnish Environment Institute (Helsinki). But scientists and regulators first need to collect much more data on how human-produced noise may impact Baltic species. “We www.frontiersinecology.org
Indonesia’s Baram River frog wins a reprieve from habitat loss.
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Noreen Parks Over the past two decades the worldwide emergence of the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), which causes chytridiomycosis, has drastically impacted populations of frogs, toads, and salamanders. Currently, as much as 40% of the roughly 6300 known amphibian species are deemed imperiled, and chytridiomycosis is widely considered the worst infectious disease ever recorded among wildlife. However, a novel online knowledge bank that provides realtime surveillance of the pathogen is now giving amphibian conservationists a powerful tool for curtailing this biodiversity crisis. In 2007, US Forest Service ecologist Dede Olson (Corvallis, OR) initiated Bd-Maps to globally track the incidence of Bd and compile information on affected species. The effort soon became an international
Germans curb waste through online food-sharing Jen Fela A network of individuals, retailers, and food producers is tackling the food-waste problem in Germany using a new online platform, www. foodsharing.de. Participants post “baskets” of unwanted but edible food that would otherwise end up being discarded; instead, the surplus food is reserved and picked up by other registered members. No money is exchanged. Valentin Thurn, the director of the 2011 German documentary Taste the Waste, says he began the foodsharing project as a practical way for everyone to help solve the foodwaste crisis: “The difference between food banks and food sharing is that at food banks people have to prove they are needy; it’s like they have to take the scraps from the rich, so it’s a bit stigmatized. With food sharing, the idea is to say that this is good © The Ecological Society of America
collaboration. To date, the interactive online database – accessible to any interested party – includes some 36 000 records of organisms belonging to 1200 species, sampled at more than 4000 sites around the world. Maps of those data pinpoint where Bd testing has occurred and whether tested animals were infected. The information also allows researchers to extrapolate the probability of the disease occurring in specific locations and the severity of the threat facing local amphibian populations. Thus far Bd has shown up in 42% of amphibian species tested and in nearly two-thirds of the 82 countries sampled. The analysis by Olson and her colleagues (PLoS ONE 2013; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056802) reveals that amphibian communities with higher species numbers are more likely to be infected. “This suggests that biodiversity may affect the occurrence and transmission of Bd”, Olson says. “Infection rates are lower in areas with larger ranges in temperature, indicating that climate also
plays a role in its spread. Bd is an aquatic fungus that grows optimally in cool, moist conditions, so the warming of high-latitude areas predicted by climate-change models could favor the expansion of its range”, she warns. Overall, the highest rates of Bd detection were in regions of montane grasslands and shrublands. The rapid, continuing spread of Bd into new areas suggests that the disease has not yet reached a global equilibrium. Studies are underway to understand why some amphibian groups are more susceptible to Bd than others. Meanwhile, the BdMaps website (www.bd-maps.net) offers a forum for sharing information on field-tested strategies for forestalling the disease. “The goal is to move beyond trial-and-error conservation by stimulating scientific exchange on design studies and developing standardized methods for monitoring the effectiveness of various solutions over time”, explains Olson. n
food and everybody can take it. You don’t have to prove anything. Of course, people with little money use it more, but we don’t ask anybody. You could be a millionaire – no problem.” As described in Taste the Waste, more than half of the food produced in Germany ends up in the trash; a total of 15 million tons of food – worth €20 million – is dis- Ready to be shared – discarded food, as shown in the carded in the country documentary Taste the Waste. each year, and the quantity of food wasted in Europe and away has been shared among particiNorth America is enough to feed all pants in those 2 months. Thurn says of the hungry people on the planet this figure does not include the often large quantities of food that are three times over. The program has been very suc- dropped at “hotspots” in cities like cessful since it was launched in Berlin and Cologne. Thurn hopes to spread the idea January 2013, with over 14 000 registered members as of mid-March. and start food-sharing networks in According to the website, more than other countries, including the US. A 6600 lbs (3012 kg) of food that food-sharing smartphone application would otherwise have been thrown is also currently being developed. n www.frontiersinecology.org
© Schnittstelle Film/Thurn Film
Mapping amphibian disease patterns
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Wind power: renewable but not unlimited Jane Bradbury A study combining a meteorological model with parameterization of the effect of wind turbines suggests that previous estimates of total global wind power may be too high. “We used a mesoscale model that considers phenomena at smaller spatial and time scales than global models to look at how increasingly large wind farms interact”, explains Amanda Adams (University of North Carolina, Charlotte). “Because wind turbines slow local winds, as soon as you start to build wind farms you alter the wind power resource”, she continues, “which means that wind resources are not linearly additive”. Adams and David Keith (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA) used their model to run simulations of turbine arrays of up to 270 × 103 km2 over a 10-day period in winter in the US Midwest. Their simulations indicate that power production is limited to about 1 watt per square meter (W m–2) for large wind farms; previous
California wildlife in rat poison lawsuit Adrian Burton The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a conservation organization based in San Francisco, California, issued an intent to sue the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) on February 21st in an attempt to protect wildlife from unintended poisonings caused by second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs). SGARs, such as brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and difenacoum, kill rodents by preventing blood clotting; death eventually occurs through hemorrhaging. However, these chemicals can also harm or kill other animals that feed on poisoned bait or previously affected rodents. In addition, the relatively long half-life of SGARs enhances their risk of bioaccumulation. In its
Windfarm beside the River Nene near Peterborough, UK.
global estimates assumed that wind power production of 2–4 W m–2 can be sustained over large areas (Environ Res Lett 2013; doi:10.1088/17489326/8/1/015021). “The approach taken in this research is robust in principle”, says meteorologist Cristina Archer (University of Delaware, Newark), “but the short time and spatial scales invalidate this robustness”. Archer strongly disagrees with the researchers’ conclusion that wind resources are not linearly additive. Her own research, she explains, indicates that the wind resource is linearly additive up to a large number of turbines. “We will never reach the upper limit where the notice of intent to sue, the CBD presented evidence that even top predators such as bobcats and golden eagles, among over 20 other species, had become unintended victims. All pesticides used in California must be registered by the CDPR. Registration can be denied when, for example, the pesticides are expected to cause greater environmental detriments than benefits, or when there are reasonable alternatives available. Furthermore, if a registered pesticide is found to have had a major adverse impact, its registration must be re-evaluated. The CBD argues that the problems SGARs are causing among wild animals, including protected species, leave the CDPR in violation of the US Endangered Species Act and other state and federal conservation laws. “Protected species affected by these poisons include the San Joaquin kit fox, golden eagle, and Pacific fisher”,
resource is no longer additive”, she says, “because we simply cannot build that many turbines”. Lee Miller (Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany), who is investigating the extraction limits of renewable energy resources, agrees with Adams’ and Keith’s conclusions. “Most estimates by researchers and governmental agencies represent wind power production rates that cannot be realized”, he warns. “But, while wind power can certainly contribute [to our future energy needs], developing a renewable energy resource that directly utilizes solar power deserves more research attention.” Despite their contradictory views, both Adams and Archer believe that wind power is likely to provide a substantial proportion of future global energy needs. “The wind resource is gigantic, even when you allow for the climatic feedbacks of kinetic energy extraction [such as slower wind speeds]”, explains Archer. But, cautions Adams, “we need to understand all the possible outcomes of integrating wind into energy production at a larger scale”. n says Jonathan Evans, CBD Toxics and Endangered Species Campaign Director. “The state’s own scientific reports indicate at least 76 incidents of San Joaquin kit fox poisonings, and in the Bakersfield area some 87% are exposed. Everything from skunks to mountain lions has been poisoned. When safer alternatives are on the shelves today, there’s no excuse to leave these products on the general market. It’s time for California to take these super-toxic poisons out of circulation.” According to Paul Verke, CDPR Assistant Director, Outreach and Public Engagement (Sacramento, CA), “The [CDPR] is developing new regulations and other measures after a review of [information] and studies submitted by wildlife agencies and obtained from other sources, based on a peer-reviewed analysis of data showing rodentin cide residues in wildlife.”
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Researchers’ roles in conservation Lindsay Deel Many scientists conduct their field research in protected environments that experience a range of conservation challenges, such as poaching, illegal logging, and encroachment. A new study by William Laurance (Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Cairns, Australia) examines the role that researchers play in the conservation of these threatened landscapes (Trends Ecol Evol 2013; doi:10.1016/j.tree.2013.01.017). Laurance found that the presence of field researchers generally has a positive impact on protected areas. “Potentially, it can be very powerful. Many researchers behave like de facto park guards, deterring poachers and encroachers, either actively or simply by being present in the park”, he explains. “Other scientists are enthusiastic advocates for protected areas,
promote ecotourism, and employ or aid nearby residents and thereby build local support for the park.” The review includes numerous examples of how researchers have benefitted protected areas. Dian Fossey spent her life studying and fighting to protect mountain gorillas in Rwanda, which eventually led to her murder in 1985. In Indonesia, researchers in a protected area encouraged park staff to spike trees to deter rampant illegal logging. Field scientists in Papua New Guinea helped indigenous communities evaluate offers from logging and mining companies seeking to exploit their land. And from Laurance’s own experience, a Brazilian PhD student once faced down a truckload of armed poachers in an Amazonian reserve. While there is ample evidence that the presence of field researchers has advantages, their presence could also have negative impacts. For example, “mark–recapture or radiotelemetry studies can stress wildlife; researchers
need to be careful about rare or locally endemic species in this regard”, points out Laurance. “There’s also a chance that scientists might inadvertently transmit infectious diseases to wildlife.” Researchers that are insensitive to local cultures or customs risk coming into conflict with local communities, jeopardizing conservation efforts. Also, according to Laurance, because some sensitive species avoid areas with high levels of human activity, popular research sites could be biased biologically. Despite these problems, Laurance believes that scientists are uniquely positioned to contribute to the conservation of the areas they study. “Because many protected areas are truly embattled, I think we need more researchers in the field, especially if they take an active role in defending or promoting their study sites. For foreign researchers [in host countries], such activities need to be done sensitively and ideally in collaboration with locals.” n
Can acetaminophen cure invasive snake headache? Later this spring, researchers will drop acetaminophen-laced dead mice over 110 ha of forest canopy on the island of Guam, in the largest experiment yet conducted to control the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), Guam’s biggest invasive species problem. Over the past 60 years, brown tree snakes have decimated much of Guam’s native wildlife. The mousedrop strategy took shape once researchers realized that brown tree snakes are susceptible to acetaminophen, an oral toxicant with minimal non-target effects, and that unlike most snakes they will readily eat already-dead prey. The focus now is on how to optimize aerial delivery of the baited mice to reach the arboreal pest more effectively. The current test will use mice mounted onto flaggers – cardboard pieces attached to streamers – that, when dropped from a helicopter, have © The Ecological Society of America
Flaggers deliver drug-laden mice to the forest canopy.
a 90% chance of becoming entangled in the forest canopy, according to Daniel Vice, assistant state director of USDA APHIS Wildlife Services (Barrigada, Guam). Dropping baited mice in both open and fenceenclosed areas will enable researchers to determine how snake population recovery rates are affected by snake movements. The team is also developing artificial bait – a gelatinous substance containing chemical compounds found in dead mice – and a faster, automated deployment system. They hope that an aerially deployed bait system will be operational within
the next couple of years. “An overarching goal is [snake] eradication, but we simply don’t know if that’s feasible at this point”, explains Vice. For now, the primary aim is to control snakes on Guam, which will also help prevent their escape to other Pacific islands. “If interdiction wasn’t happening, there would be brown tree snakes in Hawaii fairly quickly”, says William Pitt, supervisory wildlife research biologist at the National Wildlife Research Center’s Hawaii Field Station (Hilo). If successful in Guam, acetaminophen could potentially be used for dealing with susceptible invasive species elsewhere; for instance, preliminary experiments indicate that acetaminophen is also toxic to Burmese pythons and Nile monitor lizards, invasive predators in southern Florida. Identifying and reducing potential non-target impacts remains the biggest hurdle, however. “There’s a long way to go before acetaminophen would be operational for these species”, says Pitt. n www.frontiersinecology.org
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Drought drives pigeons to drink
their food. Warm weather helps the ripe fruit ferment in the pigeons’ crop – an internal pouch that’s part of their digestive system – where it turns into alcohol. The recovery center usually cares
for around 60 pigeons a year that have fallen victim to windows or cars. This year, 22 kereru have already come in, “and these are just the drunk ones”, says Webb. So many are falling out of trees that wildlife carers are appealing for people to take on the job of designated driver and bring paralytic pigeons in for detox. The birds are given water and kept for about 3 days before being released. “It creates a lot of problems, although it is funny to watch”, Webb admits. “You can stand in front of them and they go to peck you and miss and fall over. I can’t imagine what their vision must be like – they must be cross-eyed.” But the danger is that a drunk bird has no defenses. “They will semihide somewhere in a garden, or what they think is hiding, but they are wide open to predators”, Webb explains. “We’re asking people to be more aware – these birds shouldn’t be on the ground, it’s not natural. A lot of people don’t realize birds can get drunk, just like humans.” n
every county in England. But otter health issues remain, warns Liz Chadwick (Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK), coauthor of the CUOP’s 2013 report entitled Persistent Organic Pollutants and Indicators of Otter Health. Of the sampled otters, all tested positive for POPs, albeit at levels low enough that adverse impacts on the semiaquatic mammals are minimal. Nevertheless, Chadwick says of the otters, “We’re seeing more cases of cryptorchidism, where one of the testes failed to descend. We’ve also been recording the presence of cysts on the vas deferens recently”. In addition, there has been a small but significant decrease in baculae [penis bone] weight since 1992. Although the sample size of otters with cysts and cryptorchidism is too small to make a statistical link with a particular contaminant, “the occurrences are cause for concern”, warns Chadwick. Out of more than
2000 otters examined during the project, only five cases of cryptorchidism were observed, but all five were seen after 2008; cysts were detected in 11% of all adult male otters examined. The most likely culprit is an endocrine disruptor, which would explain the sexual abnormalities, continues Chadwick, although the lighter baculae could also be caused by general bone density loss, which has been linked to abnormally high PCB levels. The CUOP has yet to initiate testing for new likely contaminants. “We should probably start seeing what contaminants are affecting fish [an important otter food source], and work up to the otters”, Chadwick adds. “I think there are human health implications, but until we discover which chemicals are driving these trends, we won’t know which pathways could lead to humans being exposed to these same contaminants.” n
Claire Miller The woman on the phone was baffled. The native New Zealand wood pigeon, or kereru (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae), in her yard was acting strangely. First it clung to the branch with both wings, before tipping over to hang by its feet. Two feet became one, and after bobbing gently for moment, it fell to the ground. “What’s wrong with it?” she asked Robert Webb (Manager, Native Bird Recovery Centre, Whangarei, New Zealand). “It’s drunk”, he told her. And so another kereru was brought in to join the crowd sobering up after a big day out on the guava. It has been a particularly busy season for intoxicated kereru in Whangarei, 160 km north of Auckland. Drought is driving more birds out of the forest and into urban gardens, where they are gorging on an especially bountiful fruit harvest. After eating their fill, the birds sit in the sun for long periods to digest
Mixed picture for otter health in the UK Rachel Kaufman According to a new report, the reproductive condition of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) in the UK appears to be deteriorating, despite observed declines in certain man-made environmental contaminants in sampled otter livers. For more than 20 years, scientists affiliated with the Cardiff University Otter Project (CUOP) have been performing necropsies on roadkill otter corpses, measuring – among other things – quantities of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that have accumulated in their organs. It is widely accepted that POPs – including dieldrin, DDT, and PCBs – caused otter populations to crash in the 1970s, prior to legislation largely banning their use. Since then, POP levels have decreased and otter populations have begun to rebound; otters are now found in www.frontiersinecology.org
Kereru with a hangover at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre.
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