Global Demand for Natural Resources Eliminated More Than 100,000 Bornean Orangutans

We just published a new paper that indicates a massive decline of orangutans on Borneo. The paper was published in Current Biology.





Counting crocs from the sky

Here’s a link to a new paper led by Gokarna Thapa on counting crocs with a drone.

Here’s the abstract:

Technology is rapidly changing the methods in the field of wildlife monitoring. Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an example of a new technology that allows biologists to take to the air to monitor wildlife. Fixed Wing UAV was used to monitor critically endangered gharial population along 46 km of the Babai River in Bardia National Park. The UAV was flown at an altitude of 80 m along 12 pre-designed missions with a search effort of 2.72 hours of flight time acquired a total of 11,799 images covering an effective surface area of 8.2 km2 of river bank habitat. The images taken from the UAV could differentiate between gharial and muggers. A total count of 33 gharials and 31 muggers with observed density (per km2) of 4.64 and 4.0 for gharial and mugger respectively. Comparison of count data between one-time UAV and multiple conventional visual encounter rate surveys data showed no significant difference in the mean. Basking season and turbidity were important factors for monitoring crocodiles along the river bank habitat. Efficacy of monitoring crocodiles by UAV at the given altitude can be replicated in high priority areas with less operating cost and acquisition of high resolution data.


Phylogenetic classification of the world’s tropical forests

Ferry Slik led a new and exciting paper that just came out in PNAS. It is Open Access and can be downloaded here!

Here’s the Abstract:

Knowledge about the biogeographic affinities of the world’s tropical forests helps to better understand regional differences in forest structure, diversity, composition, and dynamics. Such understanding will enable anticipation of region-specific responses to global environmental change. Modern phylogenies, in combination with broad coverage of species inventory data, now allow for global biogeographic analyses that take species evolutionary distance into account. Here we present a classification of the world’s tropical forests based on their phylogenetic similarity. We identify five principal floristic regions and their floristic relationships: (i) Indo-Pacific, (ii) Subtropical, (iii) African, (iv) American, and (v) Dry forests. Our results do not support the traditional neo- versus paleotropical forest division but instead separate the combined American and African forests from their Indo-Pacific counterparts. We also find indications for the existence of a global dry forest region, with representatives in America, Africa, Madagascar, and India. Additionally, a northern-hemisphere Subtropical forest region was identified with representatives in Asia and America, providing support for a link between Asian and American northern-hemisphere forests.


New paper on practical aspects of using drones out

We just published a new paper on drones and its open access so can be downloaded from here.


Lightweight drones have emerged recently as a remote sensing survey tool of choice for ecologists, conservation practitioners and environmental scientists. In published work, there are plentiful details on the parameters and settings used for successful data capture, but in contrast there is a dearth of information describing the operational complexity of drone deployment. Information about the practices of flying in the field, whilst currently lacking, would be useful for others embarking on new drone-based investigations. As a group of drone-piloting scientists, we have operated lightweight drones for research in over 25 projects, in over 10 countries, and in polar, desert, coastal and tropical ecosystems, with many hundreds of hours of flying experience between us. The purpose of this paper was to document the lesser-reported methodological pitfalls of drone deployments so that other scientists can understand the spectrum of considerations that need to be accounted for prior to, and during drone survey flights. Herein, we describe the most common challenges encountered, alongside mitigation and remediation actions that increase the chances of safe and successful data capture. Challenges are grouped into the following categories: (i) pre-flight planning, (ii) flight operations, (iii) weather, (iv) redundancy, (v) data quality, (vi) batteries. We also discuss the importance of scientists undertaking ethical assessment of their drone practices, to identify and mitigate potential conflicts associated with drone use in particular areas. By sharing our experience, our intention is that the paper will assist those embarking on new drone deployments, increasing the efficacy of acquiring high-quality data from this new proximal aerial viewpoint.


New paper shows steep negative trend for Bornean orangutan

A recent paper led by Truly Santika shows that there has been a steep negative trend for the Bornean orangutan during the past decade. The paper is open access and can be downloaded here.

The Bornean orangutan is now a critically endangered species


A Bornean orangutan female and infant at the Tuanan research station