An increasing number of applied disciplines are utilizing evidence-based frameworks to review and disseminate the effectiveness of management and policy interventions. The rationale is that increased accessibility of the best available evidence will provide a more efficient and less biased platform for decision making. We argue that there are significant benefits for conservation in using such a framework, but the scientific community needs to undertake and disseminate more systematic reviews before the full benefit can be realized. We devised a set of guidelines for undertaking formalized systematic review, based on a health services model. The guideline stages include planning and conducting a review, including protocol formation, search strategy, data inclusion, data extraction, and analysis. Review dissemination is addressed in terms of current developments and future plans for a Web-based open-access library. By the use of case studies we highlight critical modifications to guidelines for protocol formulation, data-quality assessment, data extraction, and data synthesis for conservation and environmental management. Ecological data presented significant but soluble challenges for the systematic review process, particularly in terms of the quantity, accessibility, and diverse quality of available data. In the field of conservation and environmental management there needs to be further engagement of scientists and practitioners to develop and take ownership of an evidence-based framework.
Amazon beef and soybean industries, the primary drivers of Amazon deforestation, are increasingly responsive to economic signals emanating from around the world, such as those associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, "mad cow disease") outbreaks and China's economic growth. The expanding role of these economic "teleconnections" (coupled phenomena that take place in distant places on the planet) led to a 3-year period (2002-2004) of historically high deforestation rates. But it also increases the potential for large-scale conservation in the region as markets and finance institutions demand better environmental and social performance of beef and soy producers. Cattle ranchers and soy farmers who have generally opposed ambitious government regulations that require forest reserves on private property are realizing that good land stewardship-including compliance with legislation-may increase their access to expanding domestic and international markets and to credit and lower the risk of "losing" their land to agrarian reform. The realization of this potential depends on the successful negotiation of social and environmental performance criteria and an associated system of certification that are acceptable to both the industries and civil society. The foot-and-mouth eradication system, in which geographic zones win permission to export beef, may provide an important model for the design of a low-cost, peer-enforced, socioenvironmental certification system that becomes the mechanism by which beef and soy industries gain access to markets outside the Amazon.
A new species of allocreadiid digenean is described from Priapichthys annectens (Regan) (Osteichthyes: Poeciliidae) in the Área de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. A new genus, Paracreptotrema, is proposed to accommodate this species as well as Fellodistomum mendezi Songandares-Bernal, 1955, which was previously described from another poeciliid, Brachyrhaphis episcopi, in Panama. Paracreptotrema differs from all other nominal genera of Allocreadiidae by a combination of its symmetrical testes, restricted vitellaria, and the lack of oral lappets (muscular ‘papillae’) or other such appendages. Paracreptotrema blancoi n. sp. resembles Creptotrema creptotrema Travassos, Artigas and Pereira, 1928, but differs in lacking ventral oral lappets and in having vitellaria extending posteriorly only to the level of the testes. It can be distinguished from P. mendezi n. comb. in having a relatively larger and more posteriorly placed acetabulum, vitellaria that are more restricted anteriorly, smaller testes, and a u...
A major challenge for conservation assessments is to identify priority areas that incorporate biological patterns and processes. Because large-scale processes are mostly oriented along environmental gradients, we propose to accommodate them by designing regional-scale corridors to capture these gradients. Based on systematic conservation planning principles such as representation and persistence, we identified large tracts of untransformed land (i.e., conservation corridors) for conservation that would achieve biodiversity targets for pattern and process in the Subtropical Thicket Biome of South Africa. We combined least-cost path analysis with a target-driven algorithm to identify the best option for capturing key environmental gradients while considering biodiversity targets and conservation opportunities and constraints. We identified seven conservation corridors on the basis of subtropical thicket representation, habitat transformation and degradation, wildlife suitability, irreplaceability of vegetation types, protected area networks, and future land-use pressures. These conservation corridors covered 21.1% of the planning region (ranging from 600 to ) and successfully achieved targets for biological processes and to a lesser extent for vegetation types. The corridors we identified are intended to promote the persistence of ecological processes (gradients and fixed processes) and fulfill half of the biodiversity pattern target. We compared the conservation corridors with a simplified corridor design consisting of a fixed-width buffer along major rivers. Conservation corridors outperformed river buffers in seven out of eight criteria. Our corridor design can provide a tool for quantifying trade-offs between various criteria (biodiversity pattern and process, implementation constraints and opportunities). A land-use management model was developed to facilitate implementation of conservation actions within these corridors.
Evaluations of the success of different conservation strategies are still in their infancy. We used four different measures of project outcomes-ecological, economic, attitudinal, and behavioral-to test hypotheses derived from the assumptions that underlie contemporary conservation solutions. Our hypotheses concerned the effects of natural resource utilization, market integration, decentralization, and community homogeneity on project success. We reviewed the conservation and development literature and used a specific protocol to extract and code the information in a sample of papers. Although our results are by no means conclusive and suffer from the paucity of high-quality data and independent monitoring (80% of the original sample of 124 projects provided inadequate information for use in this study), they show that permitted use of natural resources, market access, and greater community involvement in the conservation project are all important factors for a successful outcome. Without better monitoring schemes in place, it is still impossible to provide a systematic evaluation of how different strategies are best suited to different conservation challenges.
To better understand responses of reptiles and amphibians to forest fragmentation in the lowland Neotropics, we examined community and population structure of frogs and lizards in the fragmented landscape surrounding La Selva Biological Station in the Sarapiquí region of northeastern Costa Rica. We used diurnal quadrats and nocturnal transects to sample frogs and lizards in nine forest fragments (1-7ha each) and La Selva (1100 ha). Species richness in all fragments combined was 85% of that found in La Selva with comparable sampling effort. Richness varied from 10 to 24 species among forest fragments, compared with 36 species at La Selva. Lizard density was higher and frog density was lower in forest fragments than in La Selva. Community composition varied among sites and by fragment size class, and species occurrence was nested with respect to fragment area. Isolation and habitat variables did not significantly affect species richness, composition, or nestedness. We classified 34% of species as fragmentation sensitive because they were absent or occurred at low densities in fragments. Nevertheless, the relatively high diversity observed in the entire set of fragments indicates that preserving a network of small forest patches may be of considerable conservation value to the amphibians and reptiles of this region.
Insect parasitoids are a major component of global biodiversity and affect the population dynamics of their hosts. However, identification of insect parasitoids is often difficult, and they are suspected to contain many cryptic species. Here, we ask whether the cytochrome c oxidase I DNA barcode could function as a tool for species identification and discovery for the 20 morphospecies of Belvosia parasitoid flies (Diptera: Tachinidae) that have been reared from caterpillars (Lepidoptera) in Area de Conservaci6n Guanacaste (ACG), northwestern Costa Rica. Barcoding not only discriminates among all 17 highly host-specific morphospecies of ACG Belvosia, but it also raises the species count to 32 by revealing that each of the three generalist species are actually arrays of highly hostspecific cryptic species. We also identified likely hybridization among Belvosia by using a variable internal transcribed spacer region 1 nuclear rDNA sequence as a genetic covariate in addition to the strategy of overlaying barcode clusters with ecological information. If general, these results will increase estimates of global species richness and imply that tropical conservation and host-parasite interactions may be more complex than expected.
Although central to much biological research, the identification of species is often difficult. The use of DNA barcodes, short DNA sequences from a standardized region of the genome, has recently been proposed as a tool to facilitate species identification and discovery. However, the effectiveness of DNA barcoding for identifying specimens in species-rich tropical biotas is unknown. Here we show that cytochrome c oxidase I DNA barcodes effectively discriminate among species in three Lepidoptera families from Area de Conservación Guanacaste in northwestern Costa Rica. We found that 97.9% of the 521 species recognized by prior taxonomic work possess distinctive cytochrome c oxidase I barcodes and that the few instances of interspecific sequence overlap involve very similar species. We also found two or more barcode clusters within each of 13 supposedly single species. Covariation between these clusters and morphological and/or ecological traits indicates overlooked species complexes. If these results are general, DNA barcoding will significantly aid species identification and discovery in tropical settings.
The preoccupation of many conservation planners with the refinement of systematic assessment techniques has manifested an "implementation crisis" in conservation planning. This preoccupation has provided systematic assessments with well-tested tools (e.g., area selection algorithms) and principles (e.g., representation, complementarity), but our understanding of these techniques currently far exceeds our ability to apply them effectively to pragmatic conservation problems. The science is informative about where one needs to do conservation, but silent on how to achieve it. Operational models, defined as simplified conceptualizations of processes for implementing conservation action at priority conservation areas, are essential for guiding conservation planning initiatives because they assist understanding of how these processes function. Operational models developed to date have largely been linear, simplistic, and focused on the systematic assessment of biological entities. Experience in the real world indicates that operational models for conducting conservation planning initiatives should explicitly complement a systematic conservation assessment with activities that empower individuals and institutions (enabling) and explicitly aim to secure conservation action (implementation). Specifically, implementing effective conservation action requires that systematic assessments be integrated functionally with a process for developing an implementation strategy and processes for stakeholder collaboration while maintaining a broad focus on the implementation of conservation action. A suite of hallmarks define effective operational models (e.g., stakeholder collaboration, links with land-use planning, social learning, and action research). Greater development and testing of the practical application of operational models should lead to higher levels of effective implementation and alleviate the implementation crisis. Social learning institutions are essential for ensuring ongoing improvement in the development and application of operational models that deliver effective conservation action.