Landscape Ecology and Primatology project (LEAP)

I have the pleasure to write that I am collaborating with Amanda Korstjens and Ross Hill from Bournemouth University in LEAP. This project brings together a team of landscape ecologists, primatologists, biogeographers, and specialists in remote sensing, carbon stock assessment and forest inventory. More information on the brand new website:

New paper on tree diversity in tropics

Ferry Slik led a large scale comparison to estimate tree diversity in the tropics and the paper is now out in PNAS.

The high species richness of tropical forests has long been recognized, yet there remains substantial uncertainty regarding the actual number of tropical tree species. Using a pantropical tree inventory database from closed canopy forests, consisting of 657,630 trees belonging to 11,371 species, we use a fitted value of Fisher’s alpha and an approximate pantropical stem total to estimate the minimum number of tropical forest tree species to fall between ∼40,000 and ∼53,000, i.e., at the high end of previous estimates. Contrary to common assumption, the Indo-Pacific region was found to be as species-rich as the Neotropics, with both regions having a minimum of ∼19,000–25,000 tree species. Continental Africa is relatively depauperate with a minimum of ∼4,500–6,000 tree species. Very few species are shared among the African, American, and the Indo-Pacific regions. We provide a methodological framework for estimating species richness in trees that may help refine species richness estimates of tree-dependent taxa.


New paper about conservation on Borneo in Nature Communications

An exciting new paper led by Rebecca Runting was just published in Nature Communications. It is open access.

Balancing economic development with international commitments to protect biodiversity is a global challenge. Achieving this balance requires an understanding of the possible consequences of alternative future scenarios for a range of stakeholders. We employ an integrated economic and environmental planning approach to evaluate four alternative futures for the mega-diverse island of Borneo. We show what could be achieved if the three national jurisdictions of Borneo coordinate efforts to achieve their public policy targets and allow a partial reallocation of planned land uses. We reveal the potential for Borneo to simultaneously retain ~50% of its land as forests, protect adequate habitat for the Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis), and achieve an opportunity cost saving of over US$43 billion. Such coordination would depend on enhanced information sharing and reforms to land-use planning, which could be supported by the increasingly international nature of economies and conservation efforts.

New paper on orangutan alarm calls

Bart de Boer from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels led a new study on orangutan alarm calls that was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.


Orangutans produce alarm calls called kiss-squeaks, which they sometimes modify by putting a hand in front of their mouth. Through theoretical models and observational evidence, we show that using the hand when making a kiss-squeak alters the acoustics of the production in such a way that more formants per kilohertz are produced. Our theoretical models suggest that cylindrical wave propagation is created with the use of the hand and face as they act as a cylindrical extension of the lips. The use of cylindrical wave propagation in animal calls appears to be extremely rare, but is an effective way to lengthen the acoustic system; it causes the number of resonances per kilohertz to increase. This increase is associated with larger animals, and thus using the hand in kiss-squeak production may be effective in exaggerating the size of the producer. Using the hand appears to be a culturally learned behavior, and therefore orangutans may be able to associate the acoustic effect of using the hand with potentially more effective deterrence of predators.

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