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Zoos and animal welfare advocates differ over elephants in captivity. Critics say zoos lack space to house elephants. Zoos argue that they are expanding and improving exhibits, and that elephants live better in captivity than in the wild with disease, drought, habitat loss, poaching, and conflicts with people.
Unchecked deer populations are causing a decline in forest diversity. Overbrowsing by deer leaves only the few plant species deer can't digest as survivors. Managing deer populations through revised hunting practices, however, meets strong resistance.
The conservation of global biodiversity increasingly relies on a network of protected areas, such as national parks and other types of reserves, to help ensure the survival of selected plant and animal species. Recent research identified gaps in this network—occurrences of key species not covered by protected areas—along with priority locations for creating new protected areas to fill the gaps. In this study we examine human demographics, land cover, and agricultural suitability in the priority gap locations to assess their potential for hosting some form of biodiversity conservation. Our results indicate that many gaps in the protected area network occur in settings conducive to conservation, characterized by limited human presence, large contiguous tracts of conservation-compatible habitat, and low agricultural potential. Detailed studies of gap locations, using local data and incorporating input from key stakeholders, will allow conservation actions that are appropriate for their human context.
The overexploitation of the world's biomes for natural products calls for the prioritization of biologically important ecosystems for conservation. Here we show that limestone karsts are “arks” of biodiversity and often contain high levels of endemism. Humans have exploited karsts for a variety of products and services, but unsustainable practices have caused population declines and extinctions among site-endemic taxa. Limestone quarrying is the primary threat to karst biodiversity in Southeast Asia, where quarrying rates exceed those in other tropical regions. Several socioeconomic, political, and scientific issues undermine the stewardship of these karsts. Mitigation of these problems will involve (a) better land-use planning to prevent karst resources from being exhausted in developing regions, (b) comprehensive assessments of a karst's economic and biological value before development, (c) improved legislation and enforcement to protect karst biodiversity, and (d) increased research and activities to promote public awareness of the importance of karsts and the threats facing them.
Grasshoppers are insect herbivores common to grassland ecosystems worldwide. They comprise important components of biodiversity, contribute significantly to grassland function, and periodically exhibit both local and large-scale outbreaks. Because of grasshoppers' potential economic importance as competitors with ungulate grazers for rangeland forage, periodic grasshopper outbreaks in western US rangeland often elicit intervention over large areas in the form of chemical control. Available information combined with alternative underlying conceptual frameworks suggests that new approaches for sustainable management of grasshopper outbreaks in US rangeland should be pursued. There are many reasons to believe that approaches to grasshopper management that aim to reduce or prevent outbreaks are possible. These habitat manipulation tactics maintain existing ecological feedbacks responsible for sustaining populations at economically nonthreatening levels. Sustainable strategies to minimize the likelihood and extent of grasshopper outbreaks while limiting the need for chemical intervention are a rational and attainable goal for managing grasslands as renewable resources.
A widely held belief is that only through interdisciplinarity can academics effectively address today's complex ecological problems, because these problems demand cross-disciplinary efforts and specialized knowledge from natural and social scientists. Innovative interdisciplinary research and curricula have been created to train a new generation of scientists to engage with complex issues. It seems critical that those most affected by interdisciplinary education—doctoral students—provide feedback about such innovations. Without understanding students' experiences in interdisciplinary programs, faculty will not know whether they are “getting it right” for future generations of interdisciplinarians. From our experiences as doctoral students, we provide reflections and perspectives on the National Science Foundation–funded Urban Ecology IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship) Program at the University of Washington. We discuss the aspects of the program that provided the most beneficial interdisciplinary experiences, as well as those aspects that could be improved. We identify three stages of intellectual development, present questions encountered during each stage, and develop six core recommendations for interdisciplinary research and training programs.
The identification and recovery of endangered species is difficult because of their rarity, the continuing threats to their survival, and inadequate funding for research and conservation. There have been some success stories, but also a number of failures. Have biologists learned from our failures, or are we repeating the same mistakes? While habitat availability and cost are important limitations to species recovery, other, more easily addressed issues also hamper recovery programs. The Wyoming toad (Bufo baxteri) is an endangered species whose recovery has been stalled by problems that are common to species recovery efforts, especially for animals without significant “charisma.” I summarize the research undertaken on the Wyoming toad since its listing, highlight the difficulties in building a scientifically based recovery program, and identify some of the unmet challenges impeding recovery. Although specific to the Wyoming toad, these recommendations are relevant to recovery programs facing similar issues.