Archive by category | Society for Conservation Biology

The impoverishment of isolated trees

In work both simple and poetically sad, Florian Werner shows how trees left behind in clearings, separated from the mass of the forest, lose their epiphytes—those plants that live on them, including ferns, orchids, and bromeliads. Werner discovered that the harsh micro-climate of an isolated tree kills off epiphytes, especially those that love moisture, while the distance from the forest reduces new seedlings and that same harsh micro-climate kills off many of the seedlings that manage to germinate.  Read more

Opening dance

This year’s conference is being held at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University which opened in 2005 upon the merger of several institutions. The opening reception in the school’s arena was crowded and fun. Introductory speeches were alternated with performances from a high school girl’s choir and an energetic dance troupe which showed off African dance stylings including 1940s jive. The proceedings were marred, though, but a continual basso continuo of chit chat from the back of the room. Don’t people know that those free drink tickets are a kind of payment for attentive silence during the unavoidable preliminary speeches? Hold up your end of the bargain, people.  Read more

Starting with a bang

I write from windy Port Elizabeth, South Africa, a port city on the Eastern Cape of the country. It is described by some as “the Detroit of South Africa” for its prowess in the manufacturing sector. It is also an embarkation point for those with a yen to commune with large African mammals. Many of these do their communing through the medium of a large gun.  Read more

SCB: Conservation classifications

Okay, so Nick Salafky’s big idea isn’t just his, but a whole bunch of people who have been meeting and meeting and meeting to hammer out one standardized vocabulary to describe the conservation problems and solutions. He described it as “so unsexy”, but so important. The idea is, that if you are a conservationist describing a bit of land being threatened by overgrazing, you could describe that problem as “cows” or “cattle” or “grazing” or “overgrazing” or any number of other words. But if everyone uses the same words, suddenly everyone can work off of the same checklist, can summarize their site in just a few simple words, and search databases and journals effectively for similar issues.  Read more

SCB: Screen vs. green

I hesitate to write this next item, as it may well make you turn off your computer and put on your hiking boots. Patricia Zaradic of the University of Illinois has found an eerily tight correlation between a decline in attendance at US National Parks since 1987 and the rise of electronic entertainment: movie rentals, video games, and our friend the internet. Oil prices fit well too. So, although it is just a correlation, one can easily make up a story about a nation of people who can’t afford to drive to parks, who are turning away from nature and towards screens.  Read more

SCB: Pristine wilderness?

Here’s an interesting story. John Neidel from Yale went to Kerinci Seblat National Park on Sumatra, a supposedly pristine wilderness. There are two villages inside the park, accessible only by foot, which, according to Neidel, are generally seen by conservationists as encroachments. Neidel did a bit of poking around, and found something like 40 former village sites, some with evidence of moats around them, some with large stones. Some of the villagers have documents supporting their residency that go back to the seventeenth century.  Read more