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Mitchard E.T.A.,University of Edinburgh | Saatchi S.S.,Jet Propulsion Laboratory | White L.J.T.,Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux | White L.J.T.,University of Stirling | And 13 more authors.
Biogeosciences | Year: 2012

Spatially-explicit maps of aboveground biomass are essential for calculating the losses and gains in forest carbon at a regional to national level. The production of such maps across wide areas will become increasingly necessary as international efforts to protect primary forests, such as the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) mechanism, come into effect, alongside their use for management and research more generally. However, mapping biomass over high-biomass tropical forest is challenging as (1) direct regressions with optical and radar data saturate, (2) much of the tropics is persistently cloud-covered, reducing the availability of optical data, (3) many regions include steep topography, making the use of radar data complex, (5) while LiDAR data does not suffer from saturation, expensive aircraft-derived data are necessary for complete coverage. We present a solution to the problems, using a combination of terrain-corrected L-band radar data (ALOS PALSAR), spaceborne LiDAR data (ICESat GLAS) and ground-based data. We map Gabon's Lopé National Park (5000 km2) because it includes a range of vegetation types from savanna to closed-canopy tropical forest, is topographically complex, has no recent contiguous cloud-free high-resolution optical data, and the dense forest is above the saturation point for radar. Our 100 m resolution biomass map is derived from fusing spaceborne LiDAR (7142 ICESat GLAS footprints), 96 ground-based plots (average size 0.8 ha) and an unsupervised classification of terrain-corrected ALOS PALSAR radar data, from which we derive the aboveground biomass stocks of the park to be 78 Tg C (173 Mg C ha-1). This value is consistent with our field data average of 181 Mg C ha-1, from the field plots measured in 2009 covering a total of 78 ha, and which are independent as they were not used for the GLAS-biomass estimation. We estimate an uncertainty of ± 25% on our carbon stock value for the park. This error term includes uncertainties resulting from the use of a generic tropical allometric equation, the use of GLAS data to estimate Lorey's height, and the necessity of separating the landscape into distinct classes. As there is currently no spaceborne LiDAR satellite in operation (GLAS data is available for 2003-2009 only), this methodology is not suitable for change-detection. This research underlines the need for new satellite LiDAR data to provide the potential for biomass-change estimates, although this need will not be met before 2015. © 2012 Author(s).

Schuttler S.G.,University of Missouri | Philbrick J.A.,University of Missouri | Jeffery K.J.,Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux | Jeffery K.J.,University of Stirling | And 2 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Spatial patterns of relatedness within animal populations are important in the evolution of mating and social systems, and have the potential to reveal information on species that are difficult to observe in the wild. This study examines the fine-scale genetic structure and connectivity of groups within African forest elephants, Loxodonta cyclotis, which are often difficult to observe due to forest habitat. We tested the hypothesis that genetic similarity will decline with increasing geographic distance, as we expect kin to be in closer proximity, using spatial autocorrelation analyses and Tau Kr tests. Associations between individuals were investigated through a non-invasive genetic capture-recapture approach using network models, and were predicted to be more extensive than the small groups found in observational studies, similar to fission-fusion sociality found in African savanna (Loxodonta africana) and Asian (Elephas maximus) species. Dung samples were collected in Lopé National Park, Gabon in 2008 and 2010 and genotyped at 10 microsatellite loci, genetically sexed, and sequenced at the mitochondrial DNA control region. We conducted analyses on samples collected at three different temporal scales: a day, within six-day sampling sessions, and within each year. Spatial autocorrelation and Tau Kr tests revealed genetic structure, but results were weak and inconsistent between sampling sessions. Positive spatial autocorrelation was found in distance classes of 0-5 km, and was strongest for the single day session. Despite weak genetic structure, individuals within groups were significantly more related to each other than to individuals between groups. Social networks revealed some components to have large, extensive groups of up to 22 individuals, and most groups were composed of individuals of the same matriline. Although fine-scale population genetic structure was weak, forest elephants are typically found in groups consisting of kin and based on matrilines, with some individuals having more associates than observed from group sizes alone. © 2014 Schuttler et al.

Oslisly R.,IRD Montpellier | White L.,Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux | White L.,Institute Of Recherche En Ecologie Tropicale | White L.,University of Stirling | And 5 more authors.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2013

Central Africa includes the world's second largest rainforest block. The ecology of the region remains poorly understood, as does its vegetation and archaeological history. However, over the past 20 years, multidisciplinary scientific programmes have enhanced knowledge of old human presence and palaeoenvironments in the forestry block of Central Africa. This first regional synthesis documents significant cultural changes over the past five millennia and describes how they are linked to climate. It is now well documented that climatic conditions in the African tropics underwent significant changes throughout this period and here we demonstrate that corresponding shifts in human demography have had a strong influence on the forests. The most influential event was the decline of the strong African monsoon in the Late Holocene, resulting in serious disturbance of the forest block around 3500 BP. During the same period, populations from the north settled in the forest zone; they mastered new technologies such as pottery and fabrication of polished stone tools, and seem to have practised agriculture. The opening up of forests from 2500 BP favoured the arrival of metallurgist populations that impacted the forest. During this long period (2500-1400 BP), a remarkable increase of archaeological sites is an indication of a demographic explosion of metallurgist populations. Paradoxically, we have found evidence of pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) cultivation in the forest around 2200 BP, implying a more arid context. While Early Iron Age sites (prior to 1400 BP) and recent pre-colonial sites (two to eight centuries BP) are abundant, the period between 1600 and 1000 BP is characterized by a sharp decrease in human settlements, with a population crash between 1300 and 1000 BP over a large part of Central Africa. It is only in the eleventh century that new populations of metallurgists settled into the forest block. In this paper, we analyse the spatial and temporal distribution of 328 archaeological sites that have been reliably radiocarbon dated. The results allow us to piece together changes in the relationships between human populations and the environments in which they lived. On this basis, we discuss interactions between humans, climate and vegetation during the past five millennia and the implications of the absence of people from the landscape over three centuries. We go on to discuss modern vegetation patterns and African forest conservation in the light of these events. © 2013 The Authors.

Maxwell S.M.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Maxwell S.M.,Marine Conservation Institute | Breed G.A.,University of California at Santa Cruz | Nickel B.A.,University of California at Santa Cruz | And 9 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Tractable conservation measures for long-lived species require the intersection between protection of biologically relevant life history stages and a socioeconomically feasible setting. To protect breeding adults, we require knowledge of animal movements, how movement relates to political boundaries, and our confidence in spatial analyses of movement. We used satellite tracking and a switching state-space model to determine the internesting movements of olive ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) (n = 18) in Central Africa during two breeding seasons (2007-08, 2008-09). These movements were analyzed in relation to current park boundaries and a proposed transboundary park between Gabon and the Republic of Congo, both created to reduce unintentional bycatch of sea turtles in marine fisheries. We additionally determined confidence intervals surrounding home range calculations. Turtles remained largely within a 30 km radius from the original nesting site before departing for distant foraging grounds. Only 44.6 percent of high-density areas were found within the current park but the proposed transboundary park would incorporate 97.6 percent of high-density areas. Though tagged individuals originated in Gabon, turtles were found in Congolese waters during greater than half of the internesting period (53.7 percent), highlighting the need for international cooperation and offering scientific support for a proposed transboundary park. This is the first comprehensive study on the internesting movements of solitary nesting olive ridley sea turtles, and it suggests the opportunity for tractable conservation measures for female nesting olive ridleys at this and other solitary nesting sites around the world. We draw from our results a framework for cost-effective protection of long-lived species using satellite telemetry as a primary tool. © 2011 Maxwell et al.

Anthony N.M.,University of New Orleans | Mickala P.,Universite des Sciences et Techniques de Masuku | Abernethy K.A.,University of Stirling | Atteke C.,Universite des Sciences et Techniques de Masuku | And 31 more authors.
Conservation Genetics Resources | Year: 2012

A five-day international workshop was recently convened at the Université des Sciences et Techniques de Masuku in Gabon to enhance international collaboration among Central African, US and European scientists, conservation professionals and policy makers. The overall aims of the workshop were to: (1) discuss emerging priorities in biodiversity and conservation genetics research across Central Africa, and (2) create new networking opportunities among workshop participants. Here we provide a brief overview of the meeting, outline the major recommendations that emerged from it, and provide information on new networking opportunities through the meeting web site. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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