CHILD, HERRERO, KHATAMI, SOUTHWORTH, WAYLEN, YANGA Healthy Park Needs Healthy Vegetation – The Story of Gorongosa National Park in the 21st Century

Hannah Herrero, Peter Waylen, Jane Southworth, Reza Khatami, Di Yang, Brian Child

Article first published online: 03 FEB 2020 Remote Sensing

DOI: 10.3390/rs12030476

ABSTRACT: Understanding trends or changes in biomass and biodiversity around conservation areas in Africa is important and has economic and societal impacts on the surrounding communities. Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique was established under unique conditions due to its complex history. In this study, we used a time-series of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) to explore seasonal trends in biomass between 2000 and 2016. In addition, vegetation directional persistence was created. This product is derived from the seasonal NDVI time series-based analysis and represents the accumulation of directional change in NDVI relative to a fixed benchmark (2000–2004). Trends in precipitation from Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS) was explored from 2000–2016. Different vegetation covers are also considered across various landscapes, including a comparison between the Lower Gorongosa (savanna), Mount Gorongosa (rainforest), and surrounding buffer zones. Important findings include a decline in precipitation over the time of study, which most likely drives the observed decrease in NDVI. In terms of vegetation persistence, Lower Gorongosa had stronger positive trends than the buffer zone, and Mount Gorongosa had higher negative persistence overall. Directional persistence also varied by vegetation type. These are valuable findings for park managers and conservationists across the world.

Read the full publication at Remote Sensing

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy Sensors

BUNTING, CHILD, HERRERO, SOUTHWORTHIntegrating Surface-Based Temperature and Vegetation Abundance Estimates into Land Cover Classifications for Conservation Efforts in Savanna Landscapes

Hannah Victoria Herrero, Jane Southworth, Erin Bunting, Romer Ryan Kohlhaas, and Brian Child

Article first published online: 07 AUG 2019 Sensors

DOI: 10.3390/s19163456

ABSTRACT: Southern African savannas are an important dryland ecosystem, as they account for up to 54% of the landscape, support a rich variety of biodiversity, and are areas of key landscape change. This paper aims to address the challenges of studying this highly gradient landscape with a grass–shrub–tree continuum. This study takes place in South Luangwa National Park (SLNP) in eastern Zambia. Discretely classifying land cover in savannas is notoriously difficult because vegetation species and structural groups may be very similar, giving off nearly indistinguishable spectral signatures. A support vector machine classification was tested and it produced an accuracy of only 34.48%. Therefore, we took a novel continuous approach in evaluating this change by coupling in situ data with Landsat-level normalized difference vegetation index data (NDVI, as a proxy for vegetation abundance) and blackbody surface temperature (BBST) data into a rule-based classification for November 2015 (wet season) that was 79.31% accurate. The resultant rule-based classification was used to extract mean Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) NDVI values by season over time from 2000 to 2016. This showed a distinct separation between each of the classes consistently over time, with woodland having the highest NDVI, followed by shrubland and then grassland, but an overall decrease in NDVI over time in all three classes. These changes may be due to a combination of precipitation, herbivory, fire, and humans. This study highlights the usefulness of a continuous time-series-based approach, which specifically integrates surface temperature and vegetation abundance-based NDVI data into a study of land cover and vegetation health for savanna landscapes, which will be useful for park managers and conservationists globally.

Read the full publication at Sensors

 

 

 

 

 

UF Geography’s Dr. Robert Walker discusses indigenous rights, conservation, and global climate change in his latest piece in The Conversation:

Over the past 25 years that I have been conducting environmental research in the Amazon, I have witnessed the the ongoing destruction of the world’s biggest rainforest. Twenty percent of it has been deforested by now – an area larger than Texas.

I therefore grew hopeful when environmental policies began to take effect at the turn of the millennium, and the rate of deforestation dropped from nearly 11,000 square miles per year to less than 2,000 over the decade following 2004.

But a new political climate in Brazil, which set in even before President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, has led to a recent increase in the pace of rainforest felling. And Bolsonaro, a former army officer, made Amazonian development a core campaign pledge.

Read the whole story in The Conversation.

Associate Professor Dr. Cynthia Simmons and a team of international scholars – including UF Geography’s Dr. Robert Walker, Michael Waylen, and Aghane Antunes – present a strategy for achieving sustainable development in Amazonia, given global climate change and the massive infrastructure program planned for the region, in their latest paper Science in support of Amazonian conservation in the 21st century: the case of Brazil published in Biotropica, the journal of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation. The paper is featured on the front cover of the journal with a photo of Munduruku Women taken at gathering in July 2018 at Patawazal community in the Tapajos river valley, Para State, Brazil, taken by UF Geography doctoral student Ms. Maira Irigaray. On the banner is a greeting to participants “SAWE´! SAWE´! SAWE´!” a Munduruku battle cry signifying “We Are United, And Determined!” “The aim of the gathering was to empower and unite women and men of the tribe to defend their lands, life and culture, which today are in greater peril as Brazil’s President-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, vows to fast-track the large-scale mining and infrastructure plans they have been fighting years to stop,” said Dr. Simmons.

The fate of Amazonia is of great concern given its value as a global resource and the extent of its degradation to date. With nearly 20 percent of a pristine forest gone up in smoke, what happens in the 21st century will determine the fate of this last remaining tropical wilderness. The prognosis is not good, given the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), the cross-continental program of infrastructure development being undertaken by the South American nations. Recent declines in rates of deforestation have raised some hope that the Amazonian nations will be able to ensure the long-run integrity of the region’s ecosystems. The new infrastructure plans could reverse these promising trends. Land clearance for agricultural development may soon be overshadowed by forest die-back associated with global climate change. While infrastructure development will likely bring economic opportunity to the residents of Amazonia, the growth it stimulates will surely generate substantial environmental impacts and strenuous efforts will be required to conserve it for future generations.

The paper sheds light on the massive scale and integrated blueprint design of IIRSA’s transcontinental plan, which synchronizes municipal, state, and national level road and rail projects, with national hydro-electric dam projects that serve the dual purposes to generate energy required for electricity intensive industrialization and make navigable the main tributaries of the Amazon through locks and reservoirs coupled with rock demolition, dredging, and channelization. It clearly illustrates the looming threat from infrastructure plans with a focus on the Tapajos Valley, Para State, where projects will dissect the Munuduruku homelands and transform the entire basin to make way for the Mississippi of South America, Brazil’s ultimate goal to spur the economy. “Readers will be surprised by the magnitude of this integrated plan, and worried when they contemplate the potential cumulative and synergistic impacts that will surely have dire consequences for the environment and the region’s populations,” explained Dr. Simmons.

The paper articulates an approach to conservation based on decades of transdisciplinary research and collaboration among the team of scientists that envisions organizing Amazonia’s protected areas into a basin-scale System of Refugia (SR), capable of maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services in the face of climate change. It also presents a coordinated program of interdisciplinary research capable of simulating Amazonia’s coupled natural and human systems and assessing the social and environmental impacts from IIRSA. Thus it provides essential information for planners and policy makers to select more sustainable alternatives, and it could serve as an early warning system for communities and environments at risk.

For more information, contact Dr. Cynthia Simmons. The full article is available at Biotropica.

ANTUNES, SIMMONS, WALKER, WAYLENScience in support of Amazonian conservation in the 21st century: the case of Brazil

Cynthia S. Simmons, Lisa Famolare, Marcia N. Macedo, Robert T. Walker, Michael T. Coe, Brett Scheffers, Eugenio Arima, Rafael Munoz-Carpena, Denis Valle, Clyde Fraisse, Paul Moorcroft, Marcelo Diniz, Marcia Diniz, Claudio Szlafsztein, Ritaumaria Pereira, Cesar Ruiz, Gilberto Rocha, Daniel Juhn, Luis Otávio do Canto Lopes, Michael Waylen, Aghane Antunes, Yankuic M Galvan

Article first published online: 14 NOV 2018 Biotropica

DOI: 10.1111/btp.12610

ABSTRACT: This article presents a 21st Century agenda for Amazonian conservation. The agenda calls for developing a system of refugia and a scientific methodology for predicting impacts of the infrastructure development vision for the region. It also calls for a collaborative approach to conservation planning, in the interest of fruitful engagement with decision-makers and stakeholders. The ideas explored here emerged from the collaboration of peers over a decade, which culminated in a panel presentation, Scientific Analysis, and Simulation Models to Support Conservation and Development Decision-Making, at the Tools and Strategies Workshop held at the University of Florida in October, 2017.

Read the full publication at Biotropica

 

 

 

 

 

GAINESVILLE, FL – Amidst global amphibian population collapses, ranavirus causes up to 90% mortality in amphibians, undermining conservation efforts and wetland. restoration projects. In a recent study University of Florida Medical Geography researchers identified important variables to measure in assessments of ranaviral infection risk in newly constructed ponds which are important components of wetland restoration. Considering these variables can better inform the construction of artificial ponds for amphibian conservation.

Frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians are facing population declines and extinctions worldwide. Habitat destruction is the main cause of these declines, closely followed by disease. As a result, amphibian populations are declining even in protected and restored habitats. Over the past 100 years, the landscape of upstate New York has reforested from farmland. Although forests have regrown, the original ponds present in the landscape have not returned. Conservation efforts directed at reestablishing endangered frog populations largely depend on the construction of artificial ponds.

The study, led by Ms. Tess Youker-Smith from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), examined the prevalence of of the Frog virus 3 variety of ranavirus among wood frogs and green frogs in artificially constructed ponds in central New York’s Heiberg Forest, a former location of intensive agriculture, which has seen forest regrowth after the farms were abandoned. In 2010 SUNY-ESF constructed the ponds to create breeding habitat as part of an amphibian conservation effort. Field assays found that cool ponds, without much zooplankton, and with lots of froglets ready to metamorphose, had the highest ranavirus prevalence rate.

“This is another case where geography matters,” said senior author Dr. Sadie Ryan. “When we take things from the lab to the field, we often find our predictions challenged, and sometimes we find entirely new things.”

“It’s very exciting This is the first time we’ve seen zooplankton playing an important role in mitigating ranavirus infection in the wild,” said Dr. Philipp Boersch-Supan, who participated on the project while a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Florida. “It appears that the grazing zooplankton remove or inactivate the virus in the ponds.”

The findings have been published in a paper titled Environmental Drivers of Ranavirus in Free-Living Amphibians in Constructed Ponds in the journal EcoHealth.

The study was part of a collaboration between UF’s Dr. Sadie Ryan and Dr. Philipp Boersh-Supan, and researchers from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF).

RYAN, BOERSCH-SUPANEnvironmental Drivers of Ranavirus in Free-Living Amphibians in Constructed Ponds

Tess E. Youker-Smith, Philipp H. Boersch-Supan, Christopher M. Whipps, Sadie J. Ryan

Article first published online: 09 AUG 2018 EcoHealth

DOI: 10.1007/s10393-018-1350-5

ABSTRACT: Amphibian ranaviruses occur globally, but we are only beginning to understand mechanisms for emergence. Ranaviruses are aquatic pathogens which can cause >90% mortality in larvae of many aquatic-breeding amphibians, making them important focal host taxa. Host susceptibilities and virulence of ranaviruses have been studied extensively in controlled laboratory settings, but research is needed to identify drivers of infection in natural environments. Constructed ponds, essential components of wetland restoration, have been associated with higher ranavirus prevalence than natural ponds, posing a conundrum for conservation efforts, and emphasizing the need to understand potential drivers. In this study, we analyzed 4 years of Frog virus 3 prevalence and associated environmental parameters in populations of wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) and green frogs (Lithobates clamitans) in a constructed pond system. High prevalence was best predicted by low temperature, high host density, low zooplankton concentrations, and Gosner stages approaching metamorphosis. This study identified important variables to measure in assessments of ranaviral infection risk in newly constructed ponds, including effects of zooplankton, which have not been previously quantified in natural settings. Examining factors mediating diseases in natural environments, particularly in managed conservation settings, is important to both validate laboratory findings in situ, and to inform future conservation planning, particularly in the context of adaptive management.

Read the full publication at EcoHealth

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy Ms. Maira Irigaray Castro and Amazon Watch

One of Amazonia’s most pristine waterways, the Tapajós River, is under a development threat that holds implications for the entire basin. This threat stems from an infrastructure plan proposed by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), in coordination with complementary projects on the part of its 12 member states. UNASUR’s Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) seeks to transform Amazonia into a multimodal transportation corridor and a source of hydropower. Critical to this transformation are projects in Brazil, which has recently built dams on the Xingu and Madeira rivers, with a combined capacity of ~18,000 megawatts. Although environmental resistance surfaced in both cases, it was insufficient to stop the bulldozers, electric shovels, and wheel excavators. The same cannot be said for the Tapajós River, where an indigenous people, the Munduruku, has slowed development. Our goal is to illuminate this asymmetrical conflict between the Brazilian State and this tribal group, in an effort to address the conservation challenges Amazonia faces in the 21st century. To accomplish this, we attempt to answer two questions. First, how significant is the development threat posed by IIRSA, to both the Tapajós Valley and the Amazon Basin? Second, do the Munduruku provide a possible conservation response to development processes set in motion by large-scale infrastructure projects? If environmental policy fails, does political resistance hold promise as a conservation strategy?

 

 

Figure 1 The infrastructure plan for the Tapajós Valley. Image courtesy Mr. Michael Waylen.

The Munduruku are Ready and Willing to Defend their Homeland. Image courtesy Ms. Maíra Irigaray Castro and Amazon Watch.

The Tapajós Valley. Image courtesy Dr. Robert Walker.

Munduruku Warriors Patrolling Their River. Image courtesy Ms. Maíra Irigaray Castro and Amazon Watch.

Waters to be Dredged and Channelized for Barge Traffic. Image courtesy Dr. Robert Walker.

Wild Waters on the Historical Chopping Block. Image courtesy Dr. Robert Walker.
Women warriors of the Munduruku. Image courtesy Ms. Maíra Irigaray Castro and Amazon Watch

SIMMONS, WALKEREndangered Amazon: An Indigenous Tribe Fights Back Against Hydropower Development in the Tapajós Valley

Robert Walker and Cynthia Simmons

Article first published online: 01 MAR 2018 Environment Magazine

ABSTRACT: One of Amazonia’s most pristine waterways, the Tapajós River, is under a development threat that holds implications for the entire basin. This threat stems from an infrastructure plan proposed by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), in coordination with complementary projects on the part of its 12 member states. UNASUR’s Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) seeks to transform Amazonia into a multimodal transportation corridor and a source of hydropower. Critical to this transformation are projects in Brazil, which has recently built dams on the Xingu and Madeira rivers, with a combined capacity of ~18,000 megawatts. Although environmental resistance surfaced in both cases, it was insufficient to stop the bulldozers, electric shovels, and wheel excavators. The same cannot be said for the Tapajós River, where an indigenous people, the Munduruku, has slowed development. Our goal is to illuminate this asymmetrical conflict between the Brazilian State and this tribal group, in an effort to address the conservation challenges Amazonia faces in the 21st century. To accomplish this, we attempt to answer two questions. First, how significant is the development threat posed by IIRSA, to both the Tapajós Valley and the Amazon Basin? Second, do the Munduruku provide a possible conservation response to development processes set in motion by large-scale infrastructure projects? If environmental policy fails, does political resistance hold promise as a conservation strategy?

Read the full publication at Environment Magazine

Figure 1 The infrastructure plan for the Tapajós Valley. Image courtesy Mr. Michael Waylen.

The Munduruku are Ready and Willing to Defend their Homeland. Image courtesy Ms. Maíra Irigaray Castro and Amazon Watch.

The Tapajós Valley. Image courtesy Dr. Robert Walker.

Munduruku Warriors Patrolling Their River. Image courtesy Ms. Maíra Irigaray Castro and Amazon Watch.

Waters to be Dredged and Channelized for Barge Traffic. Image courtesy Dr. Robert Walker.

Wild Waters on the Historical Chopping Block. Image courtesy Dr. Robert Walker.

Join the UF study abroad program with Geography!

REALIZE the complexities of conservation within the African context.
GAIN practical field skills conducting empirical research.
INCREASE cross-cultural understanding.
EXPERIENCE the most amazing protected landscapes left in the world.

UF in South Africa: People, Parks, & Conservation in Africa
Summer A: May 17 – June 7, 2018
Application Deadline: March 15, 2018
Apply online at: www.ufic.ufl.edu/sas