124 research outputs found

    Species diversity, composition and the regeneration potential of native plants at the Wainiveiota mahogany plantation, Viti Levu, Fiji Islands

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    Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King) plantations cover a considerable area on the south-eastern parts of Viti Levu, Fiji. The understorey of these plantations often comprise a diverse, but undocumented, assemblage of native plant species. This study investigates the diversity, composition and regeneration potential of native plant species in the Wainiveiota mahogany plantation 40-50 years after establishment. Ten 10 m x 10 m plots were alternately placed at 10 m intervals perpendicular to a 200 m line transect. A total of 491 individual plants with dbh ≥ 1 cm, comprising 69 species, 51 genera and 34 families, were sampled. In addition to the exotic mahogany, there were 68 native (39 endemic, 24 indigenous and 5 identified to genus only) species recorded. Girronniera celtidifolia Gaud., Dillenia biflora (A.Gray) Martelli ex Dur. & Jacks and Barringtonia edulis Seem. had the highest recruitment and Endospermum macrophyllum (Muell.Arg.) Pax & Hoffm. was the dominant native species. Syzygium Gaertn. (Myrtaceae) was the most diverse genus and Myrtaceae the most diverse family. With 98% of the sapling recruitment consisting of native species, there is potential for re-establishment of a lowland rainforest dominated by native species over time

    Isolated and vulnerable: the history and future of Pacific Island terrestrial biodiversity

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    Islands in the tropical Pacific have a rich and unique biota produced by island biogeographic processes and modified by recent anthropogenic influences. This biota has been shaped by four overlapping phases: natural colonization and dynamics (phase 1), impacts of indigenous (phase 2) and non-indigenous (phase 3) settlers, and increasing environmental awareness (phase 4). Island ecosystems are resilient to natural disturbance regimes but highly vulnerable to invasive species and other human-related influences, due to comparatively low alpha diversity, isolated evolution and the absence of certain functional groups. Habitat loss, overexploitation, invasive alien species and pollution continue to threaten terrestrial biodiversity, compounded by limited environmental awareness, minimal conservation funding, project mismanagement, limited local capacity and inadequate and/or unsuitable conservation policies. To achieve effective conservation of terrestrial biodiversity in the region, biophysical threats need to be mitigated with improved scientific, institutional and management capacity

    Avian diversity and abundance across years: consistent patterns in forests but not grasslands on Viti Levu, Fiji

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    Context. Habitat loss is a global problem and in Fiji >50% of the land area once covered by forests has been converted to grasslands and agricultural land. About 99% of Fiji’s endemic biodiversity and 80% of the land bird species have been identified as forest species. Aims. In this study, we compare forest and grassland sites and test for consistency in avian diversity, abundance, foraging guild, and distribution status (endemic, native, introduced to Fiji) over a 5-year period (2016–2020). Methods. We surveyed bird communities using the point count method with a 100 m radius and 7-min observation period per site. Key results. A one-way analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) analysis showed significant differences in species composition and bird abundance between the forested habitats and grassland habitats. A general linear model test showed significant differences in foraging guild composition and distribution status between forested and grassland habitats. There were no significant differences between the three forested sites (primary montane forest, secondary old-growth forest, old-growth mahogany plantations with regenerating native species), while grassland sites had stronger annual change in species composition. Implications. Forest cover, irrespective of whether these forests are of primary or secondary nature, therefore plays an important role in maintaining the native and endemic land bird species and other biodiversity in oceanic island ecosystems such as Viti Levu Island, Fiji

    Interspecific competition and vertical niche partitioning in Fiji’s forest birds

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    Charles Darwin proposed his ‘principle of divergence’ to account for changes in traits that could promote speciation and coexistence of diverse forms through occupation of different niches to reduce interspecific competition. We explore interspecific foraging behaviour overlap in Fiji’s forest birds, and address two main questions: (1) Is there vertical stratification of foraging behavior? and (2) Is there evidence of interspecific competition driving the differences in foraging behaviour? We explore these questions across three foraging guilds, nectarivores (three species), insectivores (two species), and omnivores (two species), and find vertical portioning of foraging in each group. To investigate the effect of interspecific competition, we compared foraging heights of the Orange-breasted Myzomela (Myzomela jugularis) honeyeater on Viti Levu Island (where it coexists with two other honeyeater species) and Leleuvia Island (no other honeyeater species). On the main island Viti Levu, we found evidence for vertical niche partitioning within each foraging guild. On Leleuvia, with the ‘one-species only foraging guild’, Orange-breasted Myzomela occupied broader vertical foraging niche than on Viti Levu with two other competitor honeyeater species. This result supports the idea that vertical foraging height can be shaped by interspecific competition. The findings of this study support Darwin’s principle of divergence in Fiji’s forest birds for every foraging guild measured and adds to our understanding of the significance of interspecific competition and niche divergence for patterns of ecological speciation on islands

    Floristic Composition and Natural History Characteristics of Dry Forests in the Pacific

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    We compare the floristic composition of tropical dry forests at the stand level using Gentry's transect method (0.1 ha) in some of the largest and highest-quality remaining fragments in the Pacific (Hawai'i, 15 sites; Fiji, 9; the Marianas, 3; the Marquesas, 6; New Caledonia, 7) and compare results with neotropical dry forests. A total of 299 species or morphospecies =2.5 cm diameter at breast height were identified from all 40 sites in the Pacific. Rubiaceae (28 spp.), Euphorbiaceae (25 spp.), Fabaceae (23 spp.), Sapindaceae (18 spp.), and Myrtaceae (17 spp.) were the most speciose families in Pacific dry forest; however, no family dominated across regions in the Pacific. The most common species by frequency and density in each region were native with the exception of Hawai'i, which contains a high number of nonnative species. Observed and estimated (Chao 2) levels of native species richness show that New Caledonia and Fiji contain the highest species richness followed by Hawai'i, the Marianas, and the Marquesas. There is very little overlap at the native species level among regions, with Hawaiian dry forests the most dissimilar at the native species, genus, and family level and New Caledonia and Fiji the most similar. Unlike mainland neotropical dry forest, dry forests in the Pacific contain very few deciduous species and a low proportion of wind-dispersed species.There is a high proportion of dioecious species in Hawai'i, which is similar to the neotropics; however, other Pacific regions have fewer dioecious species

    Fijian sea krait behavior relates to fine - scale environmental heterogeneity in old - growth coastal forest: the importance of integrated land – sea management for protecting amphibious animals

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    The importance of terrestrial coastal ecosystems for maintaining healthy coral reef ecosystems remains understudied. Sea kraits are amphibious snakes that require healthy coral reefs for foraging, but little is known about their requirements of terrestrial habitats, where they slough their skin, digest prey, and breed. Using concurrent microclimate measurements and behavior surveys, we show that a small, topographically flat atoll in Fiji with coastal forest provides many microhabitats that relate to the behaviors of Yellow Lipped Sea Kraits, Laticauda colubrina. Microclimates were significantly related to canopy cover, leaf litter depth, and distance from the high-water mark (HWM). Sea kraits were almost exclusively observed in coastal forest within 30 m of the HWM. Sloughing of skins only occurred within crevices of mature or dying trees. Resting L. colubrina were significantly more likely to occur at locations with higher mean diurnal temperatures, lower leaf litter depths, and shorter distances from the HWM. On Leleuvia, behavior of L. colubrina therefore relates to environmental heterogeneity created by old-growth coastal forests, particularly canopy cover and crevices in mature and dead tree trunks. The importance of healthy coastal habitats, both terrestrial and marine, for L. colubrina suggests it could be a good flagship species for advocating integrated land-sea management. Furthermore, our study highlights the importance of coastal forests and topographically flat atolls for biodiversity conservation. Effective conservation management of amphibious species that utilize land- and seascapes is therefore likely to require a holistic approach that incorporates connectivity among ecosystems and environmental heterogeneity at all relevant scales

    Microhabitats and canopy cover moderate high summer temperatures in a fragmented Mediterranean landscape

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    This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.Extreme heat events will become more frequent under anthropogenic climate change, especially in Mediterranean ecosystems. Microhabitats can considerably moderate (buffer) the effects of extreme weather events and hence facilitate the persistence of some components of the biodiversity. We investigate the microclimatic moderation provided by two important microhabitats (cavities formed by the leaves of the grass-tree Xanthorrhoea semiplana F.Muell., Xanthorrhoeaceae; and inside the leaf-litter) during the summer of 2015/16 on the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia. We placed microsensors inside and outside these microhabitats, as well as above the ground below the forest canopy. Grass-tree and leaf-litter microhabitats significantly buffered against high temperatures and low relative humidity, compared to ground-below-canopy sensors. There was no significant difference between grass-tree and leaf-litter temperatures: in both microhabitats, daily temperature variation was reduced, day temperatures were 1–5°C cooler, night temperatures were 0.5–3°C warmer, and maximum temperatures were up to 14.4°C lower, compared to ground-below-canopy sensors. Grass-tree and leaf-litter microhabitats moderated heat increase at an average rate of 0.24°C temperature per 1°C increase of ambient temperature in the ground-below-canopy microhabitat. The average daily variation in temperature was determined by the type (grass-tree and leaf-litter versus ground-below-canopy) of microhabitat (explaining 67%), the amount of canopy cover and the area of the vegetation fragment (together explaining almost 10% of the variation). Greater canopy cover increased the amount of microclimatic moderation provided, especially in the leaf-litter. Our study highlights the importance of microhabitats in moderating macroclimatic conditions. However, this moderating effect is currently not considered in species distribution modelling under anthropogenic climate change nor in the management of vegetation. This shortcoming will have to be addressed to obtain realistic forecasts of future species distributions and to achieve effective management of biodiversity

    Current climate, isolation and history drive global patterns of tree phylogenetic endemism

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    AimWe mapped global patterns of tree phylogenetic endemism (PE) to identify hotspots and test hypotheses about possible drivers. Specifically, we tested hypotheses related to current climate, geographical characteristics and historical conditions and assessed their relative importance in shaping PE patterns.LocationGlobal.Time periodWe used the present distribution of trees, and predictors covering conditions from the mid‐Miocene to present.Major taxa studiedAll seed‐bearing trees.MethodsWe compiled distributions for 58,542 tree species across 463 regions worldwide, matched these to a recent phylogeny of seed plants and calculated PE for each region. We used a suite of predictor variables describing current climate (e.g., mean annual temperature), geographical characteristics (e.g., isolation) and historical conditions (e.g., tree cover at the Last Glacial Maximum) in a spatial regression model to explain variation in PE.ResultsTree PE was highest on islands, and was higher closer to the equator. All three groups of predictor variables contributed substantially to the PE pattern. Isolation and topographic heterogeneity promoted high PE, as did high current tree cover. Among mainland regions, temperature seasonality was strongly negatively related to PE, while mean annual temperature was positively related to PE on islands. Some relationships differed among the major floristic regions. For example, tree cover at the Last Glacial Maximum was a positive predictor of PE in the Palaeotropics, while tree cover at the Miocene was a negative predictor of PE in the Neotropics.Main conclusionsGlobally, PE can be explained by a combination of geographical, historical and current factors. Some geographical variables appear to be key predictors of PE. However, the impact of historic and current climate variables differs considerably among the major floristic regions, reflecting their unique histories. Hence, the current distribution of trees is the result of globally relevant geographical drivers and regional climatic histories.Peer Reviewedhttps://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/153237/1/geb13001.pdfhttps://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/153237/2/geb13001_am.pd

    The capacity of refugia for conservation planning under climate change

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    Refugia – areas that may facilitate the persistence of species during large-scale, long-term climatic change – are increasingly important for conservation planning. There are many methods for identifying refugia, but the ability to quantify their potential for facilitating species persistence (ie their “capacity”) remains elusive. We propose a flexible framework for prioritizing future refugia, based on their capacity. This framework can be applied through various modeling approaches and consists of three steps: (1) definition of scope, scale, and resolution; (2) identification and quantification; and (3) prioritization for conservation. Capacity is quantified by multiple indicators, including environmental stability, microclimatic heterogeneity, size, and accessibility of the refugium. Using an integrated, semi-mechanistic modeling technique, we illustrate how this approach can be implemented to identify refugia for the plant diversity of Tasmania, Australia. The highest- capacity climate-change refugia were found primarily in cool, wet, and topographically complex environments, several of which we identify as high priorities for biodiversity conservation and management

    Large- and small-scale environmental factors drive distributions of cool-adapted plants in karstic microrefugia

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    Background and aims Dolines are small- to large-sized bowl-shaped depressions of karst surfaces. They may constitute important microrefugia, as thermal inversion often maintains cooler conditions within them. This study aimed to identify the effects of large- (macroclimate) and small-scale (slope aspect and vegetation type) environmental factors on cool-adapted plants in karst dolines of East-Central Europe. We also evaluated the potential of these dolines to be microrefugia that mitigate the effects of climate change on cool-adapted plants in both forest and grassland ecosystems. Methods We compared surveys of plant species composition that were made between 2007 and 2015 in 21 dolines distributed across four mountain ranges (sites) in Hungary and Romania. We examined the effects of environmental factors on the distribution and number of cool-adapted plants on three scales: (1) regional (all sites); (2) within sites and; (3) within dolines. Generalized linear models and non-parametric tests were used for the analyses. Key Results Macroclimate, vegetation type and aspect were all significant predictors of the diversity of cool-adapted plants. More cool-adapted plants were recorded in the coolest site, with only few found in the warmest site. At the warmest site, the distribution of cool-adapted plants was restricted to the deepest parts of dolines. Within sites of intermediate temperature and humidity, the effect of vegetation type and aspect on the diversity of cool-adapted plants was often significant, with more taxa being found in grasslands (versus forests) and on north-facing slopes (versus south-facing slopes). Conclusions There is large variation in the number and spatial distribution of cool-adapted plants in karst dolines, which is related to large- and small-scale environmental factors. Both macro- and microrefugia are therefore likely to play important roles in facilitating the persistence of cool-adapted plants under global warming