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Brinkert A.,University of Munster | Holzel N.,University of Munster | Sidorova T.V.,Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan ACBK | Kamp J.,University of Munster
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2015

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, 12 million ha of cropland were abandoned in the steppe zone of Kazakhstan. At the same time livestock numbers crashed, leaving large areas of steppe without any grazing. We aimed to investigate, to which degree spontaneous succession on former cropland leads to the restoration of native steppe vegetation, and how this process is influenced by changing grazing patterns. We recorded biomass and vegetation characteristics as well as local soil and landscape variables in 151 quadrats of 100 m2, covering 89 plots on former cropland abandoned in the early 1990s and 62 reference plots of near-natural steppe grassland that was never ploughed. About half of the plots of each category were located in a remote region where grazing has been absent for ca. 20 years, whereas the other half was located in a region with moderate livestock grazing. While there were no differences in the diversity, structure and plant life form composition of currently grazed and un-grazed near-natural steppe grasslands, corresponding successional plots on abandoned arable land exhibited significant differences. Grazed plots on former fields showed higher species richness and a higher cover of dwarf shrubs (mostly Artemisia spec.), ruderals and perennial herbs. At the same time, immigration of typical steppe species was much more successful. Contrary, in the absence of any grazing we found species-poor swards dominated by Stipa lessingiana and Leymus ramosus exhibiting an increasing frequency of wildfires due to litter accumulation. After 15–20 years, secondary steppe grasslands still differed substantially from their near-natural references. Our results suggest that grazing is mandatory to fully restore the original near-natural steppe vegetation and the underlying processes of pyric herbivory. © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

Kamp J.,University of Munster | Koshkin M.A.,University of East Anglia | Bragina T.M.,Kostanay State University | Katzner T.E.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 7 more authors.
Biodiversity and Conservation | Year: 2016

Temperate grasslands have suffered disproportionally from conversion to cropland, degradation and fragmentation. A large proportion of the world’s remaining near-natural grassland is situated in Kazakhstan. We aimed to assess current and emerging threats to steppe and semi-desert biodiversity in Kazakhstan and evaluate conservation research priorities. We conducted a horizon-scanning exercise among conservationists from academia and practice. We first compiled a list of 45 potential threats. These were then ranked by the survey participants according to their perceived severity, the need for research on them, and their novelty. The highest-ranked threats were related to changes in land use (leading to habitat loss and deterioration), direct persecution of wildlife, and rapid infrastructure development due to economic and population growth. Research needs were identified largely in the same areas, and the mean scores of threat severity and research need were highly correlated. Novel threats comprised habitat loss by photovoltaic and wind power stations, climate change and changes in agriculture such as the introduction of biofuels. However, novelty was not correlated with threat severity or research priority, suggesting that the most severe threats are the established ones. Important goals towards more effective steppe and semi-desert conservation in Kazakhstan include more cross-sector collaboration (e.g. by involving stakeholders in conservation and agriculture), greater allocation of funds to under-staffed areas (e.g. protected area management), better representativeness and complementarity in the protected area system and enhanced data collection for wildlife monitoring and threat assessments (including the use of citizen-science databases). © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

Sheldon R.D.,RSPB | Kamp J.,RSPB | Kamp J.,University of Munster | Koshkin M.A.,Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan ACBK | And 9 more authors.
Journal of Ornithology | Year: 2013

We assessed demographic rates and numbers of the globally threatened Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius in central Kazakhstan from 2005 to 2012 to identify drivers of recent declines. Annual fecundity, estimated from a sample of over 1,000 nest histories, was highly variable. Nest survival was higher closer to human settlements, despite higher trampling rates, and when there were more neighbouring nests, but distance to settlements and colony density both varied systematically between years. Both overall nest survival and annual adult survival were on average lower than those estimated for congeneric species elsewhere, although daily chick survival was high. Breeding site fidelity and natal philopatry were low and colonies fluctuated greatly in size between years, making estimation of population trends and survival difficult. Estimates of productivity and survival suggest that the population is in slight to severe decline, with a mean annual estimate of population growth rate (λ) of 0. 81 (95 % CL 0. 64-0. 98). This is reflected in changes in the number of nests found in our core study area, which after 5 years of relative stability declined rapidly after 2010. Of the three demographic rates, adult survival had the greatest influence on λ and only adult survival reached levels necessary for λ to achieve an annual mean of 1 in the absence of a change in any other rate, though only in 1 year. Our results suggest that low adult survival, perhaps resulting from known hunting pressure along the migration routes, is the most critical demographic rate and offers the most tractable conservation solution. © 2012 Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V.

Nowak C.,Senckenberg Research Institutes and Natural History Museums | Nowak C.,Biodiversity and Climate Research Center | Zuther S.,Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan ACBK | Leontyev S.V.,Association for the Conservation of Biodiversity of Kazakhstan ACBK | And 2 more authors.
Conservation Genetics Resources | Year: 2014

We developed 17 variable microsatellite markers for the threatened Saiga antelope. Using one Illumina Miseq lane resulted in 105,948 unique fragments containing a microsatellite motif. Eighty-one ordered primer pairs resulted in 26 analyzable fragments, of which 17 markers showed variability in at least one population from Kazakhstan. Number of alleles ranged from 2 to 11 and values of heterozygosity varied from 0.08 to 0.91 (HO) and 0.08 to 0.88 (HE). The markers are currently used to delineate conservation units and to help understanding annual migration dynamics in this species. © 2013, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.

Linnell J.D.C.,Norwegian Institute for Nature Research | Trouwborst A.,University of Tilburg | Boitani L.,University of Rome La Sapienza | Kaczensky P.,University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna | And 14 more authors.
PLoS Biology | Year: 2016

The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe has seen many countries rush to construct border security fencing to divert or control the flow of people. This follows a trend of border fence construction across Eurasia during the post-9/11 era. This development has gone largely unnoticed by conservation biologists during an era in which, ironically, transboundary cooperation has emerged as a conservation paradigm. These fences represent a major threat to wildlife because they can cause mortality, obstruct access to seasonally important resources, and reduce effective population size. We summarise the extent of the issue and propose concrete mitigation measures. © 2016 Linnell et al.

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