Tartu, Estonia
Tartu, Estonia

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Puechmaille S.J.,University College Dublin | Puechmaille S.J.,Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research | Wibbelt G.,Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research | Korn V.,Office for Faunistic and Landscape Ecology | And 25 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Background: The dramatic mass mortalities amongst hibernating bats in Northeastern America caused by "white nose-syndrome" (WNS) continue to threaten populations of different bat species. The cold-loving fungus, Geomyces destructans, is the most likely causative agent leading to extensive destruction of the skin, particularly the wing membranes. Recent investigations in Europe confirmed the presence of the fungus G. destructans without associated mass mortality in hibernating bats in six countries but its distribution remains poorly known. Methodology/Principal Findings: We collected data on the presence of bats with white fungal growth in 12 countries in Europe between 2003 and 2010 and conducted morphological and genetic analysis to confirm the identity of the fungus as Geomyces destructans. Our results demonstrate the presence of the fungus in eight countries spanning over 2000 km from West to East and provide compelling photographic evidence for its presence in another four countries including Romania, and Turkey. Furthermore, matching prevalence data of a hibernaculum monitored over two consecutive years with data from across Europe show that the temporal occurrence of the fungus, which first becomes visible around February, peaks in March but can still be seen in some torpid bats in May or June, is strikingly similar throughout Europe. Finally, we isolated and cultured G. destructans from a cave wall adjacent to a bat with fungal growth. Conclusions/Significance: G. destructans is widely found over large areas of the European continent without associated mass mortalities in bats, suggesting that the fungus is native to Europe. The characterisation of the temporal variation in G. destructans growth on bats provides reference data for studying the spatio-temporal dynamic of the fungus. Finally, the presence of G. destructans spores on cave walls suggests that hibernacula could act as passive vectors and/or reservoirs for G. destructans and therefore, might play an important role in the transmission process. © 2011 Puechmaille et al.

Raudsepp U.,Tallinn University of Technology | Uiboupin R.,Tallinn University of Technology | Bethers U.,University of Latvia | Aigars J.,Latvian Institute of Aquatic Ecology | And 7 more authors.
2010 IEEE/OES US/EU Baltic International Symposium, Baltic 2010 | Year: 2010

Wind is one of the main renewable energy resources. The planning of offshore wind farms is an ongoing process and the Gulf of Riga region is no exception. Accurate information on marine wind field with high spatial and temporal resolution is therefore needed. Rough ice conditions in the Gulf of Riga could impose a threat to the construction and operation of offshore wind parks. The Gulf of Riga is an important habitat area for marine mammals and birds. They could suffer the most from the operational activity of wind parks. People are afraid that their living standards may decrease. In several cases it remains uncertain how the planned wind parks contribute to the energy needs of adjacent counties. The project aims directly at producing policy-relevant and scientifically based information on wind energy fields, the most affected key natural species populations and social reactions of and economic benefits for the entire Gulf of Riga region. A decision-making tool based on spatial planning methods of the GIS environment will be developed to facilitate common planning for the exploitation of wind energy in the Gulf of Riga region. Dynamic maps of wind energy, ice conditions, migrating and wintering bird populations, and seals dating back to 2001 and having the projection to future climate will be produced. The indicators for spatial planning with regard to public attitude towards the development of wind parks and for the quantification of local plans concerning renewal energy consumption will be developed and integrated into the decision-making tool. The outputs of the project contribute to the elaboration of policy-relevant, environmental and socio-economic issues related to the exploitation of renewable energy. The project objectives are to provide the decision-makers and potential developers of wind parks in the Gulf of Riga with reliable marine wind information derived from high-resolution remote sensing data, coastal wind measurements and an ensemble of regional climate models. Wind fields will be complemented with the information on habitat areas for seals and wintering, migrating and breeding birds. Local people and authorities will be involved in the active process of the selection of suitable areas for wind parks through mapping their attitude and considering the requirements for the areas of renewable energy. The project partners are research institutes and funds for nature from Estonia and Latvia and the project period is from July 2010 until June 2012. This project is financed by the Estonia-Latvia Programme. Estonia-Latvia Programme is implemented according to the principles of the European Territorial Cooperation and it supports cross-border cooperation between Estonia and Latvia. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Republic of Estonia and the Republic of Latvia.

Dmitrieva L.,University of Leeds | Harkonen T.,Swedish Museum of Natural History | Baimukanov M.,Institute of Hydrobiology and Ecology | Bignert A.,Swedish Museum of Natural History | And 7 more authors.
Endangered Species Research | Year: 2015

Assessing species abundance and reproductive output is crucial for evaluations of population dynamics, conservation status and the development of management objectives. The Caspian seal Pusa caspica is a key predator in the Caspian Sea ecosystem and is listed as Endangered by the IUCN. Here we report on fixed-wing aerial strip transect surveys of the breeding population on the Caspian Sea winter ice field carried out in February, 2005-2012. Potential detection biases were estimated by applying a Petersen mark-recapture estimator to the counts from double photographic observations. We also tested for effects of weather conditions on count results, and for correlations between pup production and ice conditions and net primary productivity (npp). Fluctuations in pup production estimates were observed among years, ranging from 8200 pups (95% CI: 7130-9342) in 2010 to 34 000 (95% CI: 31 275-36 814) in 2005. Total adults on the ice ranged from 14 500 in 2010 to 66 300 in 2012. We did not detect significant associations between pup production and either ice summary data (ice season length and ice area) or npp. The observed inter-year variation may be partly due to underlying biological drivers influencing the fecundity of the population, although measurement errors arising from observation bias, plus variation in survey timing and weather conditions may also have contributed. Identifying the potential drivers of Caspian seal population dynamics will require extending both the survey time series and the quality of supporting data. However, inter-year fluctuations should still cause concern that the population may be vulnerable to environmental variability and ecosystem dynamics.

We quantified the effects of anthropogenic disturbances on the structure and biodiversity of boreal forests on acidic soils and created a statistically supported rational set of indicators to monitor the stand "naturalness". For that, we surveyed various traits of tree layer, understory, herb layer, forest floor and several widely accepted biodiversity epiphytic indicators in 252 old-aged boreal stands in Estonia, mostly dominated by Scots pine or Norway spruce. Multifactorial general linear model analyses showed that many forest characteristics and potential indicators were confounded by the gradient of soil productivity (reflected by the forest site type), local biogeographic gradients and also by stand age. Considering confounding effects, boreal forests in a near-natural state have more large-diameter trees (diameter at breast height >40 cm) and larger variety of diameter classes, higher proportion of spruce or deciduous trees, a larger amount of coarse woody debris in various stages, a more closed tree canopy and denser understory than managed mature forests. By increasing light availability above the field layer, forest management indirectly increases the coverage of herbs and lichens on the forest floor but reduces the alpha- and beta-diversity of herbs and the proportion of graminoids. Human disturbances reduce the relative incidence of many commonly accepted biodiversity indicators such as indicator lichens, woodpeckers, wooddwelling insects or fungi on trees. The test for the predictive power of characteristics reacting on disturbance revealed that only a fraction of them appeared to be included in a diagnostic easy-to-apply set of indicators to assess the nature quality of boreal forest: the amount of dead wood, the proportion of deciduous trees, the presence of specially shaped trees and woodpeckers and, as an indicator of disturbances, the forest herb Melampyrum pratensis. Many of these indicators have already been implemented in practice. © 2010 Società Botanica Italiana.

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