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Braunisch V.,University of Bern | Braunisch V.,Forest Research Institute of Baden Wuerttemberg FVA | Patthey P.,University of Bern | Arlettaz R.,University of Bern | Arlettaz R.,Swiss Ornithological Institute
Ecological Applications | Year: 2011

Outdoor winter recreation exerts an increasing pressure upon mountain ecosystems, with unpredictable, free-ranging activities (e.g., ski mountaineering, snowboarding, and snowshoeing) representing a major source of stress for wildlife. Mitigating anthropogenic disturbance requires the spatially explicit prediction of the interference between the activities of humans and wildlife. We applied spatial modeling to localize conflict zones between wintering Black Grouse (Tetrao tetrix), a declining species of Alpine timberline ecosystems, and two free-ranging winter sports (off-piste skiing [including snow-boarding] and snowshoeing). Track data (snow-sports and birds' traces) obtained from aerial photographs taken over a 585-km transect running along the timberline, implemented within a maximum entropy model, were used to predict the occurrence of snow sports and Black Grouse as a function of landscape characteristics. By modeling Black Grouse presence in the theoretical absence of free-ranging activities and ski infrastructure, we first estimated the amount of habitat reduction caused by these two factors. The models were then extrapolated to the altitudinal range occupied by Black Grouse, while the spatial extent and intensity of potential conflict were assessed by calculating the probability of human-wildlife co-occurrence. The two snow-sports showed different distribution patterns. Skiers' occurrence was mainly determined by ski-lift presence and a smooth terrain, while snowshoers' occurrence was linked to hiking or skiing routes and moderate slopes. Wintering Black Grouse avoided ski lifts and areas frequented by free-ranging snow sports. According to the models, Black Grouse have faced a substantial reduction of suitable wintering habitat along the timberline transect: 12% due to ski infrastructure and another 16% when adding free-ranging activities. Extrapolating the models over the whole study area results in an overall habitat loss due to ski infrastructure of 10%, while there was a .10% probability of human-wildlife encounters on 67% of the remaining area of suitable wintering habitat. Only 23% of the wintering habitat was thus free of anthropogenic disturbance. By identifying zones of potential conflict, while rating its relative intensity, our model provides a powerful tool to delineate and prioritize areas where wildlife winter refuges and visitor steering measures should be implemented. © 2011 by the Ecological Society of America.

Braunisch V.,University of Bern | Braunisch V.,Forest Research Institute of Baden Wuerttemberg FVA | Home R.,Research Institute of Organic Agriculture | Pellet J.,University of Bern | And 2 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2012

A wide gap between research and practice hinders the implementation of biodiversity conservation recommendations. As subjects studied by conservation scientists might bear little relevance for implementation, surveys have identified and framed research questions relevant to conservation in practice. No attempts to prioritize these questions have yet been published, although it would provide invaluable information for steering practice-oriented research. We surveyed Swiss conservation practitioners with the aim of identifying and prioritizing their needs in terms of useful scientific information. A first inductive survey of a selected subgroup generated a list of relevant research questions that were reformulated to be generalizable to all main Swiss ecosystems. The resulting compiled questionnaire was submitted through an online platform to all officially registered practitioners who were asked to rate the importance to their own field of expertise of each question, to nominate possibly omitted, subsidiary questions and to specify "hot topics" typically relevant to their field. Most respondents operated in several ecosystems, which facilitated the identification of general and ecosystem-related research priorities. Generally, questions related to economic, societal and stakeholder conflicts were found to be more important than conceptual questions. Questions concerning single-species were rated higher than ecosystem-related questions. Subsidiary questions and hot topics were subsumed and integrated into a final catalogue of research questions. By identifying and framing scientific questions of both general practical relevance and specific regional importance, this study provides a practice-oriented research agenda and a basis for developing conjoint activities with the intention to bridge the gap between conservation science and action. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

Cerbu G.A.,Forest Research Institute of Baden Wuerttemberg FVA | Swallow B.M.,University of Alberta | Thompson D.Y.,University of Alberta
Environmental Science and Policy | Year: 2011

Mechanisms that support reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD/REDD+) have potential to counteract a large share of global greenhouse gas emissions if implemented effectively across the tropics. In 2007 the conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change called upon parties and international organizations to promote REDD through investments in capacity building and demonstration activities. This prompted many new actors to become involved in REDD activities at a variety of locations and scales. A global survey of REDD activities was undertaken in 2009 to enable better understanding of the intensity and geographic distribution of these activities. Existing compilations, literature review, web-based sources, face-to-face and telephone interviews, and e-mail questionnaires were used to compile data for the inventory. Inter alia, data were collected on the location of activities and official and unofficial factors influencing location choices. Inventory data were combined with secondary data to estimate a statistical count model (Poisson) of factors affecting the number of REDD activities undertaken in the 64 developing countries that experienced significant emissions from deforestation. The results show that there were at least 79 REDD readiness activities and 100 REDD demonstration activities as of October 2009. Of these, the largest shares of REDD readiness and demonstration activities were implemented in Indonesia (7 and 15 respectively) and Brazil (4 and 13 respectively), countries widely agreed to have the greatest potential for reducing forest-based emissions. The statistical results found no national characteristic to have a statistically-significant effect on the number of REDD readiness activities, but five national characteristics to have significant effects on the number of REDD demonstration projects. Baseline CO2 emissions, forest carbon stock, number of threatened species, quality of governance, and region all had significant effects. The results reveal the importance of biodiversity and good governance, and the relative unimportance of human need and opportunity cost of land. The results also reveal a bias against Africa and toward Latin America. Unless this pattern is countered, REDD and REDD+ may have geographic biases that undermine its broad political support. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Rutishauser M.D.,University of Bern | Bontadina F.,University of Bern | Bontadina F.,Urban Ecology and Wildlife Research | Bontadina F.,Swiss Federal Institute of forest | And 5 more authors.
Diversity and Distributions | Year: 2012

Aim: The discovery of cryptic species poses new challenges for species conservation. Species distributions and conservation status have to be re-evaluated, and the ecological requirements within the species complex have to be re-assessed to recommend adequate conservation guidelines. The recent discovery in Central Europe of the cryptic bat species Plecotus macrobullaris (Kuzjakin 1965) calls for a new appraisal of all three Plecotus species in that area. Location: Switzerland. Methods: Using mostly DNA-identified records, we investigated the environmental niches (ecological niche factor analysis) of the three long-eared bat species at the landscape scale and modelled their potential distributions. Discriminant analysis was used for interspecific niche comparisons. Results: The occurrence of all three species was best explained by proximity to rural settlements and warm summer temperature. Plecotus auritus (Linnaeus, 1758) was positively associated with transition zones from forests to other habitats within heterogeneous landscapes; Plecotus austriacus (J. Fischer, 1829) was more frequently found in orchards and vineyards. Plecotus macrobullaris was linked mostly with deciduous forests. P. auritus had the broadest niche, with occurrence predicted in most forested regions throughout Switzerland. The slightly narrower niche of P. macrobullaris mainly encompassed areas in the Central and Southern Alps. P. austriacus showed a very narrow niche and was predicted mainly in the lowlands, with its habitat requirements overlapping those of P. macrobullaris. Although a range overlap was predicted between P. austriacus and P. macrobullaris, current observations suggest a mostly parapatric distribution in Switzerland. Main conclusions: The projected distributions confirm previous knowledge for P. auritus, but shed new light on the other two species. In contrast to the newly discovered P. macrobullaris, which is actually widespread in the Southern Alps of Switzerland, P. austriacus is restricted to warmer cultivated lowlands and thus may have suffered from recent major land use changes. We suggest reclassifying P. austriacus to a higher conservation status. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Braunisch V.,Forest Research Institute of Baden Wuerttemberg FVA | Braunisch V.,University of Bern | Segelbacher G.,Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg | Hirzel A.H.,University of Lausanne
Molecular Ecology | Year: 2010

Functional connectivity between spatially disjoint habitat patches is a key factor for the persistence of species in fragmented landscapes. Modelling landscape connectivity to identify potential dispersal corridors requires information about those landscape features affecting dispersal. Here we present a new approach using spatial and genetic data of a highly fragmented population of capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) in the Black Forest, Germany, to investigate effects of landscape structure on gene flow and to parameterize a spatially explicit corridor model for conservation purposes. Mantel tests and multiple regressions on distance matrices were employed to detect and quantify the effect of different landscape features on relatedness among individuals, while controlling for the effect of geographic distance. We extrapolated the results to an area-wide landscape permeability map and developed a new corridor model that incorporates stochasticity in simulating animal movement. The model was evaluated using both a partition of the data previously set apart and independent observation data of dispersing birds. Most land cover variables (such as coniferous forest, forest edges, agricultural land, roads, settlements) and one topographic variable (topographic exposure) were significantly correlated with gene flow. Although inter-individual relatedness inherently varies greatly and the variance explained by geographic distance and landscape structure was low, the permeability map and the corridor model significantly explained relatedness in the validation data and the spatial distribution of dispersing birds. Thus, landscape structure measurably affected within-population gene flow in the study area. By converting these effects into spatially explicit information our model enables localizing priority areas for the preservation or restoration of metapopulation connectivity. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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