Recently Evolved Species Cope Better with Changing Land Use

A 12-year field study of birds in Costa Rica shows that older lineages, or species with the longest evolutionary histories, are more likely to go extinct in agricultural landscapes than newer lineages. This finding demonstrates how habitat conversion can actually restructure the tree of life by favoring certain branches over others, and it may inform conservation efforts in the future. Luke Frishkoff and colleagues studied 44 plots of land that represented three different types of land use: forest reserves, which are undisturbed by humans; diversified agricultures, which host different kinds of crops; and intensive monocultures, which host only one kind of crop. They performed surveys of birds, documenting 118,127 sightings of 487 different species, and designed a model to estimate when and where such species disappeared from those landscapes. 

Read more about this research from the 12 September issue of Science here.

[Photo courtesy of Daniel Karp. Please click here for further information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Recently Evolved Species Cope Better with Changing Land Use

A 12-year field study of birds in Costa Rica shows that older lineages, or species with the longest evolutionary histories, are more likely to go extinct in agricultural landscapes than newer lineages. This finding demonstrates how habitat conversion can actually restructure the tree of life by favoring certain branches over others, and it may inform conservation efforts in the future. Luke Frishkoff and colleagues studied 44 plots of land that represented three different types of land use: forest reserves, which are undisturbed by humans; diversified agricultures, which host different kinds of crops; and intensive monocultures, which host only one kind of crop. They performed surveys of birds, documenting 118,127 sightings of 487 different species, and designed a model to estimate when and where such species disappeared from those landscapes.

Read more about this research from the 12 September issue of Science here.

[Photo courtesy of Daniel Karp. Please click here for further information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Paying Brazil’s Farmers to Conserve 

A new study by Cristina Banks-Leite and colleagues suggests that it would cost Brazil less than 1% of its gross domestic product to set aside private farmland for conservation in the Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most threatened biodiversity hotspots. How to affordably implement conservation efforts in mixed landscapes, consisting of both public and private protected areas, is widely discussed now; this finding provides a cost-effective path forward for this conservation strategy, hinting at how to do it in other similarly mixed landscapes as well. The researchers analyzed data on 43 mammalian species, 140 bird species and 29 amphibian species from various regions of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and found that such communities require about 30% forest cover to maintain their integrity, or a level of biodiversity similar to that found in protected landscapes. 

Read more about this research from the 29 August issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Sandro Von Matter. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Paying Brazil’s Farmers to Conserve

A new study by Cristina Banks-Leite and colleagues suggests that it would cost Brazil less than 1% of its gross domestic product to set aside private farmland for conservation in the Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most threatened biodiversity hotspots. How to affordably implement conservation efforts in mixed landscapes, consisting of both public and private protected areas, is widely discussed now; this finding provides a cost-effective path forward for this conservation strategy, hinting at how to do it in other similarly mixed landscapes as well. The researchers analyzed data on 43 mammalian species, 140 bird species and 29 amphibian species from various regions of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest and found that such communities require about 30% forest cover to maintain their integrity, or a level of biodiversity similar to that found in protected landscapes.

Read more about this research from the 29 August issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Sandro Von Matter. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Discovering Species (Without Killing Them)

Newly discovered species — or “rediscovered” species that were thought to be extinct — often come from small and isolated populations, which makes them particularly vulnerable. That’s why the standard practice of collecting voucher specimens for museums and private collections should be reconsidered, according to the authors of this Perspective article.

Read more in the 18 April issue of Science here.

[Photo by Robert Puschendorf. Please click here for more information.]
© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Discovering Species (Without Killing Them)

Newly discovered species — or “rediscovered” species that were thought to be extinct — often come from small and isolated populations, which makes them particularly vulnerable. That’s why the standard practice of collecting voucher specimens for museums and private collections should be reconsidered, according to the authors of this Perspective article.

Read more in the 18 April issue of Science here.

[Photo by Robert Puschendorf. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Study Finds Global Changes in Biodiversity, Not Loss

Although human activity has accelerated the rate of species’ extinction around the world, there has not been a consistent loss of biodiversity across marine and terrestrial habitats, researchers say. Instead, it’s the composition of species that has been systematically changing from ecosystem to ecosystem, according to a new study. These findings suggest that novel communities of plants and animals are likely emerging — and that conservation efforts should shift their focus from biodiversity loss to biodiversity change. 

Read more about this research from the 18 April issue of Science here.

[Photo by Maria Dornelas. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Study Finds Global Changes in Biodiversity, Not Loss

Although human activity has accelerated the rate of species’ extinction around the world, there has not been a consistent loss of biodiversity across marine and terrestrial habitats, researchers say. Instead, it’s the composition of species that has been systematically changing from ecosystem to ecosystem, according to a new study. These findings suggest that novel communities of plants and animals are likely emerging — and that conservation efforts should shift their focus from biodiversity loss to biodiversity change.

Read more about this research from the 18 April issue of Science here.

[Photo by Maria Dornelas. Please click here for more information.]

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Global Map of 21st Century Forest Changes

With the first high-resolution global map of 21st century changes in forest cover, Matthew Hansen and colleagues have provided a detailed view of which areas of the world are losing and gaining these natural resources and the critical ecosystem services they provide. The researchers built their map using satellite images of the Earth’s surface on a 30-meter resolution scale. The trends revealed by the map can guide future efforts to conserve forest cover, the researchers suggest.

Read more about this research from the 15 November issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Rebecca McCulley. Please click the image for more information.]

© 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Fragmented Forests: More Harm Than Good?

Deforestation typically results in fragmented patches of forest surrounded by land that has been converted for agriculture or other non-forest uses — and a new study demonstrates that the small, fragmented forests that result from this process can actually hasten the extinction of the mammals dwelling within. In light of this finding, researchers are suggesting that conservation efforts focus on the preservation of large expanses of forest.

Read more about this research from the 27 September issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Antony Lynam. Click the image for more information.]

© 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Learning From Captivity: Zoos Offer Insights on Conservation

Zoos have been instrumental in helping researchers develop management techniques and conservation strategies for threatened species around the world. However, raising wild populations in isolation remains a difficult task and the most effective conservation strategies tend to integrate approaches developed in zoos with those pioneered in the wild, according to Kent Redford and colleagues.

Read more about this research from the 30 November issue of Science here.

[Image courtesy of Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo; click the image for more information.]

© 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

Science Cover Flashback: 20 April 2001

Female African elephants and their dependent offspring live in matrilineal groups led by the oldest female, or matriarch. Research reveals that group members are dependent on the matriarch for their store of social knowledge. The removal of these key individuals, often targets for illegal hunters because of their large size, could have serious consequences for the conservation of this endangered species. See page 491.

[Photograph: K. McComb]

Anyone wishing to use the cover of Science must contact AAAS to request permission to do so.

© 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

To Boost Biodiversity, Keep Farmed and Wild Lands Separate

Protecting the largest possible area of natural habitats while growing food on the smallest possible area of farmland could be the best way to reconcile food production with conservation, researchers say. In the debate over how to preserve biodiversity, some experts argue for “land sharing,” in which land serves as both wildlife habitat and farmland for crops grown using wildlife-friendly farming methods. Other experts recommend “land sparing,” in which some land is set aside for conservation and some is used for high-yield farming.

Read more about this research here.

[Click the image above for caption information.]

© 2011 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.

© 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science. All Rights Reserved.