Habitat associations of bats in a working rangeland landscape.
ABSTRACT: Land-use change has resulted in rangeland loss and degradation globally. These changes include conversion of native grasslands for row-crop agriculture as well as degradation of remaining rangeland due to fragmentation and changing disturbance regimes. Understanding how these and other factors influence wildlife use of rangelands is important for conservation and management of wildlife populations. We investigated bat habitat associations in a working rangeland in southeastern North Dakota. We used Petterson d500x acoustic detectors to systematically sample bat activity across the study area on a 1-km point grid. We identified calls using Sonobat autoclassification software. We detected five species using this working rangeland, which included Lasionycteris noctivagans (2,722 detections), Lasiurus cinereus (2,055 detections), Eptesicus fuscus (749 detections), Lasiurus borealis (62 detections), and Myotis lucifugus (1 detection). We developed generalized linear mixed-effects models for the four most frequently detected species based on their ecology. The activity of three bat species increased with higher tree cover. While the scale of selection varied between the four species, all three investigated scales were explanatory for at least one bat species. The broad importance of trees to bats in rangelands may put their conservation needs at odds with those of obligate grassland species. Focusing rangeland bat conservation on areas that were treed prior to European settlement, such as riparian forests, can provide important areas for bat conservation while minimizing negative impacts on grassland species.
Project description:Habitat selection links individual behavior to population abundance and dynamics, so evaluation of habitat selection is necessary for conservation and management. Land management can potentially alter both the structure and composition of habitats, thus influencing habitat selection and population size. Livestock grazing is the dominant land use worldwide and, while overstocking has been linked to the decline of many wildlife species, properly managed grazing could improve habitat quality and maintain native rangeland habitats. We evaluated breeding season habitat selection of female sharp-tailed grouse, an indicator species for grassland ecosystems, in relation to grazing management and landscape features in eastern Montana and western North Dakota. At broad spatial scales, females selected for multiple landscape features, including grassland, but exhibited no selection for either landscape or management variables when selecting habitat at smaller spatial scales. Females selected for pastures managed with rest-rotation grazing when choosing a home range, but selection did not equate to improved fitness. Moreover, we observed strong individual variation in both home range size and third-order habitat selection. While the high variability among individuals makes specific management recommendations difficult, selection for grassland habitats at broad scales suggests that strategies that maintain intact native rangelands are important for the conservation of sharp-tailed grouse.
Project description:There is growing evidence of escalating wildlife losses worldwide. Extreme wildlife losses have recently been documented for large parts of Africa, including western, Central and Eastern Africa. Here, we report extreme declines in wildlife and contemporaneous increase in livestock numbers in Kenya rangelands between 1977 and 2016. Our analysis uses systematic aerial monitoring survey data collected in rangelands that collectively cover 88% of Kenya's land surface. Our results show that wildlife numbers declined on average by 68% between 1977 and 2016. The magnitude of decline varied among species but was most extreme (72-88%) and now severely threatens the population viability and persistence of warthog, lesser kudu, Thomson's gazelle, eland, oryx, topi, hartebeest, impala, Grevy's zebra and waterbuck in Kenya's rangelands. The declines were widespread and occurred in most of the 21 rangeland counties. Likewise to wildlife, cattle numbers decreased (25.2%) but numbers of sheep and goats (76.3%), camels (13.1%) and donkeys (6.7%) evidently increased in the same period. As a result, livestock biomass was 8.1 times greater than that of wildlife in 2011-2013 compared to 3.5 times in 1977-1980. Most of Kenya's wildlife (ca. 30%) occurred in Narok County alone. The proportion of the total "national" wildlife population found in each county increased between 1977 and 2016 substantially only in Taita Taveta and Laikipia but marginally in Garissa and Wajir counties, largely reflecting greater wildlife losses elsewhere. The declines raise very grave concerns about the future of wildlife, the effectiveness of wildlife conservation policies, strategies and practices in Kenya. Causes of the wildlife declines include exponential human population growth, increasing livestock numbers, declining rainfall and a striking rise in temperatures but the fundamental cause seems to be policy, institutional and market failures. Accordingly, we thoroughly evaluate wildlife conservation policy in Kenya. We suggest policy, institutional and management interventions likely to succeed in reducing the declines and restoring rangeland health, most notably through strengthening and investing in community and private wildlife conservancies in the rangelands.
Project description:Informed management of livestock on rangelands underpins both the livelihoods of communities that depend on livestock for sustenance, and the conservation of wildlife that often depend on livestock-dominated landscapes for habitat. Understanding spatial patterns of rangeland productivity is therefore crucial to designing global development strategies that balance social and environmental benefits. Here we introduce a new rangeland production model that dynamically links the Century ecosystem model with a basic ruminant diet selection and physiology model. With lightweight input data requirements that can be met with global sources, the model estimates the viability of broad livestock management decisions, and suggests possible implications of these management decisions for grazing wildlife. Using minimal field data, the new rangeland production model enables the reliable estimation of cattle stocking density; this is an important predictor of the viability of livestock production and forage available for grazing wildlife.
Project description:Rangelands cover 40-50% of the Earth's terrestrial surface. While often characterized by limited, yet variable resource availability, rangelands are vital for humans, providing numerous ecosystem goods and services. In the conterminous United States (CONUS), the dominant component of rangeland conservation is a network of public rangelands, concentrated in the west. Public rangelands are interspersed with private and tribal rangelands resulting in a complex mosaic of land tenure and management priorities. We quantify ownership patterns of rangeland production at multiple scales across CONUS and find that both total production and average productivity of private rangelands is more than twice that of public and tribal rangelands. At finer scales, private rangelands are consistently more productive than their public counterparts. We also demonstrate an inverse relationship between public rangeland acreage and productivity. While conserving acreage is crucial to rangeland conservation, just as critical are broad-scale ecological patterns and processes that sustain ecosystem services. Across CONUS, ownership regimes capture distinct elements of these patterns and services, demonstrated through disparate production dynamics. As ownership determines the range of feasible conservation actions, and the technical and financial resources available to implement them, understanding ownership-production dynamics is critical for effective and sustained conservation of rangeland ecosystem services.
Project description:Grassland restoration is largely focused on creating plant communities that match reference conditions. However, these communities reflect only a subset of the biodiversity of grassland systems. We conducted a multi-trophic study to assess ecosystem recovery following energy development for oil and gas extraction in northern US Great Plains rangelands. We compared soil factors, plant species composition and cover, and nematode trophic structuring between reclaimed oil and gas well sites ("reclaims") that comprise a chronosequence of two-33 years since reclamation and adjacent, undeveloped rangeland at distances of 50 m and 150 m from reclaim edges. Soils and plant communities in reclaims did not match those on undeveloped rangeland even after 33 years. Reclaimed soils had higher salt concentrations and pH than undeveloped soils. Reclaims had lower overall plant cover, a greater proportion of exotic and ruderal plant cover and lower native plant species richness than undeveloped rangeland. However, nematode communities appear to have recovered following reclamation. Although total and omni-carnivorous nematode abundances differed between reclaimed well sites and undeveloped rangeland, community composition and structure did not. These findings suggest that current reclamation practices recover the functional composition of nematode communities, but not soil conditions or plant communities. Our results show that plant communities have failed to recover through reclamation: high soil salinity may create a persistent impediment to native plant growth and ecosystem recovery.
Project description:Hundreds of thousands of bats are killed annually by colliding with wind turbines in the U.S., yet little is known about factors causing variation in mortality across wind energy facilities. We conducted a quantitative synthesis of bat collision mortality with wind turbines by reviewing 218 North American studies representing 100 wind energy facilities. This data set, the largest compiled for bats to date, provides further support that collision mortality is greatest for migratory tree-roosting species (Hoary Bat [Lasiurus cinereus], Eastern Red Bat [Lasiurus borealis], Silver-haired Bat [Lasionycteris noctivagans]) and from July to October. Based on 40 U.S. studies meeting inclusion criteria and analyzed under a common statistical framework to account for methodological variation, we found support for an inverse relationship between bat mortality and percent grassland cover surrounding wind energy facilities. At a national scale, grassland cover may best reflect openness of the landscape, a factor generally associated with reduced bat activity and abundance that may also reduce turbine collisions. Further representative sampling of wind energy facilities is required to validate this broad pattern. Ecologically informed decisions regarding placement of wind energy facilities involves multiple considerations, including not only factors associated with bat mortality, but also factors associated with bird collision mortality, indirect habitat-related impacts to all species, and overall ecosystem impacts.
Project description:Biodiversity in rangelands is decreasing, due to intense utilization for livestock production and conversion of rangeland into cropland; yet the outlook of rangeland biodiversity has not been considered in view of future global demand for food. Here we assess the impact of future livestock production on the global rangelands area and their biodiversity. First we formalized existing knowledge about livestock grazing impacts on biodiversity, expressed in mean species abundance (MSA) of the original rangeland native species assemblages, through metaanalysis of peer-reviewed literature. MSA values, ranging from 1 in natural rangelands to 0.3 in man-made grasslands, were entered in the IMAGE-GLOBIO model. This model was used to assess the impact of change in food demand and livestock production on future rangeland biodiversity. The model revealed remarkable regional variation in impact on rangeland area and MSA between two agricultural production scenarios. The area of used rangelands slightly increases globally between 2000 and 2050 in the baseline scenario and reduces under a scenario of enhanced uptake of resource-efficient production technologies increasing production [high levels of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology (high-AKST)], particularly in Africa. Both scenarios suggest a global decrease in MSA for rangelands until 2050. The contribution of livestock grazing to MSA loss is, however, expected to diminish after 2030, in particular in Africa under the high-AKST scenario. Policies fostering agricultural intensification can reduce the overall pressure on rangeland biodiversity, but additional measures, addressing factors such as climate change and infrastructural development, are necessary to totally halt biodiversity loss.
Project description:Plants are important components of any rangeland. However, the importance of desert rangeland plant diversity has often been underestimated. It has been argued that desert rangelands of Tunisia in good ecological condition provide more services than those in poor ecological condition. This is because rangelands in good condition support a more diverse mixture of vegetation with many benefits, such as forage for livestock and medicinal plants. Nearly one-quarter of Tunisia, covering about 5.5 million hectares, are rangelands, of which 87% are located in the arid and desert areas (45% and 42%, respectively). Here, we provide a brief review of the floristic richness of desert rangelands of Tunisia. Approximately 135 species are specific to desert rangelands. The predominant families are Asteraceae, Poaceae, Brassicaceae, Chenopodiaceae, and Fabaceae. These represent approximately 50% of Tunisian desert flora.
Project description:Tanzania is one of the African countries endowed with diverse rangeland's biological resources hosting 6 out of 25 globally known biodiversity hotspots. Despite, government efforts on biodiversity conservation, the pressures on rangelands' biodiversity utilization are growing in line with increasing human population. With little recognition of contribution of local knowledge in biodiversity conservation, the current paper reviewed the potential of available indigenous knowledge in Tanzania and challenges limiting adoption of this vital knowledge on rangeland's biodiversity conservation. This review established that, the country has rich indigenous knowledge potential for rangeland management and biodiversity conservation. Traditional enclosures and pastoral mobility are among the important indigenous practices used for rehabilitation of degraded rangelands and conservation of fragile ecosystems. The coexistence of local communities with complex ecosystems offers them excellent experiences on rangelands' biodiversity conservation. However, increasingly loss of rangelands' biodiversity in the country is attributed to ignoring the contribution of local communities which are rich in indigenous knowledge and skills on rangelands management. Among of the challenges hindering the adoption and involvement of indigenous knowledge to conservation are; scientific bias toward pastoral communities, loss of local expertise, poor knowledge inheritance systems, poverty, conflicts and emergence of pandemic diseases. For effective and sustainable utilisation of indigenous knowledge, the following are recommended; fully engagement of local communities in conservation process, empowering local communities to reduce poverty and conflicts, mainstreaming the indigenous knowledge to conservation education, emphasising on livelihoods diversification to reduce reliance on biological resources and promoting studies to document existing indigenous knowledge.
Project description:Abstract Facilitating coexistence between people and wildlife is a major conservation challenge in East Africa. Some conservation models aim to balance the needs of people and wildlife, but the effectiveness of these models is rarely assessed. Using a case?study approach, we assessed the ecological performance of a pastoral area in northern Tanzania (Manyara Ranch) and established a long?term wildlife population monitoring program (carried out intermittently from 2003 to 2008 and regularly from 2011 to 2019) embedded in a distance sampling framework. By comparing density estimates of the road transect?based long?term monitoring to estimates derived from systematically distributed transects, we found that the bias associated with nonrandom placement of transects was nonsignificant. Overall, cattle and sheep and goat reached the greatest densities and several wildlife species occurred at densities similar (zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, Kirk's dik?dik) or possibly even greater (giraffe, eland, lesser kudu, Grant's gazelle, Thomson's gazelle) than in adjacent national parks in the same ecosystem. Generalized linear mixed models suggested that most wildlife species (8 out of 14) reached greatest densities during the dry season, that wildlife population densities either remained constant or increased over the 17?year period, and that herbivorous livestock species remained constant, while domestic dog population decreased over time. Cross?species correlations did not provide evidence for interference competition between grazing or mixed livestock species and wildlife species but indicate possible negative relationships between domestic dog and warthog populations. Overall, wildlife and livestock populations in Manyara Ranch appear to coexist over the 17?year span. Most likely, this is facilitated by existing connectivity to adjacent protected areas, effective anti?poaching efforts, spatio?temporal grazing restrictions, favorable environmental conditions of the ranch, and spatial heterogeneity of surface water and habitats. This long?term case study illustrates the potential of rangelands to simultaneously support wildlife conservation and human livelihood goals if livestock grazing is restricted in space, time, and numbers. To provide evidence for livestock–wildlife coexistence, we present data on long?term (intermittently from 2003 to 2008 and regularly from 2011 to 2019) monitoring and population dynamics of livestock and wildlife species in a managed pastoral area in northern Tanzania. Our results show constant livestock population trajectories and constant to increasing wildlife population trends. This case study illustrates the potential of rangelands to simultaneously support wildlife conservation and human livelihood goals if livestock grazing is managed sustainably.