By Jade Boyd
Widespread logging and hunting have endangered virtually all of Madagascar’s 100-plus species of iconic lemurs, and a new study by Rice University ecologists illustrates how saving the animals may also be key to saving the island’s largest trees.
“Forest loss is a huge problem in Madagascar right now, but our study suggests that just saving the trees is not enough,” said Amy Dunham, associate professor of biosciences at Rice and co-author of a paper appearing online today in a special issue of the International Journal of Primatology. “Not only are we facing the loss of these unique, charismatic animals, we’re also losing their role in the ecosystem. Without lemurs, the rainforests themselves will change because the lemurs alone disperse the seeds of many of the forests’ largest hardwoods.”
The study builds upon nearly a decade of collaborative work by Dunham and lead author Onja Razafindratsima at the island nation’s Ranomafana National Park.
Lemurs mostly eat fruit, and for many of the largest trees in Madagascar, lemurs are the only animals large enough to ingest the seeds of their fruit. By dispersing seeds throughout the forest in their scat, lemurs serve as the unwitting gardeners of these large canopy trees.
A few more timber projects may move ahead on Montana state forests, even where they are in critical habitat for endangered species, under terms of a new state-federal conservation agreement. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released the final draft of an EIS that outlines management guidelines for more than 620,000 acres of state forests.
By Amit S Upadhye, Bengaluru, India
Backed by political leaders and anti social elements, the villagers living around the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary are resorting to attacks on forest officials. The attacks are on the rise after the recent shootout incident where a resident of Doddahalli was shot dead.
Fearing more attacks, the foresters have suspended patrolling duties in the sanctuary. The foresters who retaliated a shooting group and killed a poacher are now demanding police protection for them and their family members.
Wetlands and waterfowl in Canada’s boreal forest will be the beneficiaries of a new program launched by Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) and forestry sector leaders. The partnership is a visionary approach to sharing knowledge and resources to advance sustainable forest management and wetland stewardship in the boreal forest, an area that offers one of the greatest conservation opportunities in the world.
Under the ‘Forest Management and Wetland Stewardship Initiative’, the partners will work collaboratively on priority projects that integrate wetland and waterfowl conservation into ongoing forest management planning and field operations. The coalition will establish wetland conservation guiding principles and best management practices. These will support companies in achieving their forest management objectives and help them meet the criteria for forest certification programs.
By TODD McLEISH/ecoRI News contributor
While climate change gets most of the media attention these days for the dramatic effects it is predicted to have — and, in some cases, is already having — on coastal communities, it has yet to have serious effects on eastern forests.
Eventually, say local experts, climate change will likely cause a shift in the composition of tree species in the region, due in part to southern species moving into the area and the arrival of new pests and pathogens, which may reduce the abundance of currently common species. The predicted drier weather conditions will also likely play a role in altering woodlands.
But Rhode Island’s forests are already facing what some say is an even greater threat than climate change: an overabundance of deer. That’s the warning from foresters, biologists and ecologists from throughout the Northeast, who say that even without climate change, Rhode Island’s forests are in trouble unless the state’s deer herd can be reduced and managed more effectively.
According to forester Marc Tremblay, outreach coordinator for the Rhode Island Forest Conservators Organization, deer have had a dramatic impact on forest understory by feeding on young trees, shrubs and plants.
How do you protect some of the most endangered forest habitats in the United States? The answer may lie with a critter that often lives beneath that forest: a burrowing species called the gopher tortoise.
Gopher tortoises, which are listed as threatened by the federal government, are native to the Southeastern United States, where they have made their home in a unique, sandy ecosystem called the longleaf pine forest. These forests, which once covered more than 90 million acres across the Southeast, have all but disappeared. Today, after more than 200 years of development, only about 3 percent of historic longleaf pine forests remain.
Most of the longleaf forest that still stands—including more than 80 percent of gopher tortoise habitat—exists on privately held lands. To help both species, the U.S. Department of Agriculture this month launched a strategy to provide landowners with the tools and resources they need to restore and enhance their pine forests.
According to a new report by the American Forest Foundation, Southern Wildlife At Risk: Family Forest Owners Offer a Solution, family landowners, who own the majority (58 percent) of forests in the South, are key to providing forested habitat for at-risk species. Eighty-seven percent of landowners in the South say protecting and improving wildlife habitat is the top reason they own land. In addition, 73 percent state they want to do more on their land for wildlife in the future. Landowners cite an uncertainty about whether they are doing right by their land, difficulty finding support and the cost of management, as barriers.