Determining statistical patterns irrespective of interacting agents (i.e. macroecology) is useful to explore the mechanisms driving population fluctuations and extinctions in natural food webs. Here, we tested four predictions of a neutral model on the distribution of community fluctuations (CF) and the distributions of persistence times (APT). Novel predictions for the food web were generated by combining (1) body size-density scaling, (2) Taylor's law and (3) low efficiency of trophic transference. Predictions were evaluated on an exceptional data set of plankton with 15 years of weekly samples encompassing c. 250 planktonic species from three trophic levels, sampled in the western English Channel. Highly symmetric non-Gaussian distributions of CF support zero-sum dynamics. Variability in CF decreased while a change from an exponential to a power law distribution of APT from basal to upper trophic positions was detected. Results suggest a predictable but profound effect of trophic position on fluctuations and extinction in natural communities.
Over half of globally threatened animal species have experienced rapid geographic range loss. Identifying the parts of species' distributions most vulnerable to local extinction would benefit conservation planning. However, previous studies give little consensus on whether ranges decline to the core or edge. We built on previous work by using empirical data to examine the position of recent local extinctions within species' geographic ranges, address range position as a continuum, and explore the influence of environmental factors. We aggregated point-locality data for 125 Galliform species from across the Palearctic and Indo-Malaya into equal-area half-degree grid cells and used a multispecies dynamic Bayesian occupancy model to estimate rates of local extinctions. Our model provides a novel approach to identify loss of populations from within species ranges. We investigated the relationship between extinction rates and distance from range edge by examining whether patterns were consistent across biogeographic realm and different categories of land use. In the Palearctic, local extinctions occurred closer to the range edge than range core in both unconverted and human-dominated landscapes. In Indo-Malaya, no pattern was found for unconverted landscapes, but in human-dominated landscapes extinctions tended to occur closer to the core than the edge. Our results suggest that local and regional factors override general spatial patterns of recent local extinction within species' ranges and highlight the difficulty of predicting the parts of a species' distribution most vulnerable to threat.
A total of 1951 species of freshwater and marine fishes belonging to 704 genera and 186 families are recorded in Malaysia. Almost half (48%) are currently threatened to some degree, while nearly one third (27%) mostly from the marine and coral habitats require urgent scientific studies to evaluate their status. Freshwater habitats encompass the highest percentage of threatened fish species (87%) followed by estuarine habitats (66%). Of the 32 species of highly threatened (HT) species, 16 are freshwater and 16 are largely marine-euryhaline species. Fish extinctions in Malaysia are confined to two freshwater species, but both freshwater and marine species are being increasingly threatened by largely habitat loss or modification (76%), overfishing (27%) and by-catch (23%). The most important threat to freshwater fishes is habitat modification and overfishing, while 35 species are threatened due to their endemism. Brackish-water, euryhaline and marine fishes are threatened mainly by overfishing, by-catch and habitat modification. Sedimentation (pollution) additionally threatens coral-reef fishes. The study provides recommendations to governments, fish managers, scientists and stakeholders to address the increasing and unabated extinction risks faced by the Malaysian fish fauna.
The world's governments have committed to preventing the extinction of threatened species and improving their conservation status by 2020. However, biodiversity is not evenly distributed across space, and neither are the drivers of its decline, and so different regions face very different challenges. Here, we quantify the contribution of regions and countries towards recent global trends in vertebrate conservation status (as measured by the Red List Index), to guide action towards the 2020 target. We found that>50% of the global deterioration in the conservation status of birds, mammals and amphibians is concentrated in <1% of the surface area, 39/1098 ecoregions (4%) and eight/195 countries (4%) - Australia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and the United States. These countries hold a third of global diversity in these vertebrate groups, partially explaining why they concentrate most of the losses. Yet, other megadiverse countries - most notably Brazil (responsible for 10% of species but just 1% of deterioration), plus India and Madagascar - performed better in conserving their share of global vertebrate diversity. Very few countries, mostly island nations (e.g. Cook Islands, Fiji, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Tonga), have achieved net improvements. Per capita wealth does not explain these patterns, with two of the richest countries - United States and Australia - fairing conspicuously poorly. Different countries were affected by different combinations of threats. Reducing global rates of biodiversity loss will require investment in the regions and countries with the highest responsibility for the world's biodiversity, focusing on conserving those species and areas most in peril and on reducing the drivers with the highest impacts.
There are few empirical data, particularly collected simultaneously from multiple sites, on extinctions resulting from human-driven land-use change. Southeast Asia has the highest deforestation rate in the world, but the resulting losses of biological diversity remain poorly documented. Between November 2006 and March 2008, we conducted bird surveys on six landbridge islands in Malaysia and Indonesia. These islands were surveyed previously for birds in the early 1900 s, when they were extensively forested. Our bird inventories of the islands were nearly complete, as indicated by sampling saturation curves and nonparametric true richness estimators. From zero (Pulau Malawali and Pulau Mantanani) to 15 (Pulau Bintan) diurnal resident landbird species were apparently extirpated since the early 1900 s. Adding comparable but published extinction data from Singapore to our regression analyses, we found there were proportionally fewer forest bird extinctions in areas with greater remaining forest cover. Nevertheless, the statistical evidence to support this relationship was weak, owing to our unavoidably small sample size. Bird species that are restricted to the Indomalayan region, lay few eggs, are heavier, and occupy a narrower habitat breadth, were most vulnerable to extinction on Pulau Bintan. This was the only island where sufficient data existed to analyze the correlates of extinction. Forest preservation and restoration are needed on these islands to conserve the remaining forest avifauna. Our study of landbridge islands indicates that deforestation may increasingly threaten Southeast Asian biodiversity.
Habitat destruction and overhunting are two major drivers of mammal population declines and extinctions in tropical forests. The construction of roads can be a catalyst for these two threats. In Southeast Asia, the impacts of roads on mammals have not been well-documented at a regional scale. Before evidence-based conservation strategies can be developed to minimize the threat of roads to endangered mammals within this region, we first need to locate where and how roads are contributing to the conversion of their habitats and illegal hunting in each country. We interviewed 36 experts involved in mammal research from seven Southeast Asian countries to identify roads that are contributing the most, in their opinion, to habitat conversion and illegal hunting. Our experts highlighted 16 existing and eight planned roads - these potentially threaten 21% of the 117 endangered terrestrial mammals in those countries. Apart from gathering qualitative evidence from the literature to assess their claims, we demonstrate how species-distribution models, satellite imagery and animal-sign surveys can be used to provide quantitative evidence of roads causing impacts by (1) cutting through habitats where endangered mammals are likely to occur, (2) intensifying forest conversion, and (3) contributing to illegal hunting and wildlife trade. To our knowledge, ours is the first study to identify specific roads threatening endangered mammals in Southeast Asia. Further through highlighting the impacts of roads, we propose 10 measures to limit road impacts in the region.
Several slow loris (Nycticebus) sightings have occurred on the island of Pulau Tioman, Peninsular Malaysia, from 2011 to 2018. Records discussed here represent the first confirmed sightings and photographic evidence of Nycticebus on Tioman since its discovery in 1915, refuting presumptions that the Tioman slow loris is extinct. Although originally considered a subspecies of the Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang), several morphological characteristics apparent in all observed individuals, including the white interocular stripe, rufous colouration and pale dorsal stripe, are similar to the Philippine slow loris (Nycticebus menagensis). Further, the broad snout and ears may be unique to this population and suggest that the population may be distinct. I, therefore, recommend that future studies consider the taxonomic status of remote and isolated Nycticebus populations given the possibility that they may represent distinct and unrecognised taxa.
Large areas of tropical forest now exist as remnants scattered across agricultural landscapes, and so understanding the impacts of forest fragmentation is important for biodiversity conservation. We examined species richness and nestedness among tropical forest remnants in birds (meta-analysis of published studies) and insects (field data for fruit-feeding Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and ants). Species-area relationships were evident in all four taxa, and avian and insect assemblages in remnants typically were nested subsets of those in larger areas. Avian carnivores and nectarivores and predatory ants were more nested than other guilds, implying that the sequential loss of species was more predictable in these groups, and that fragmentation alters the trophic organization of communities. For butterflies, the ordering of fragments to achieve maximum nestedness was by fragment area, suggesting that differences among fragments were driven mainly by extinction. In contrast for moths, maximum nestedness was achieved by ordering species by wing length; species with longer wings (implying better dispersal) were more likely to occur at all sites, including low diversity sites, suggesting that differences among fragments were driven more strongly by colonization. Although all four taxa exhibited high levels of nestedness, patterns of species turnover were also idiosyncratic, and thus even species-poor sites contributed to landscape-scale biodiversity, particularly for insects.
The flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) is one of the world's least known, highly threatened felids with a distribution restricted to tropical lowland rainforests in Peninsular Thailand/Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra. Throughout its geographic range large-scale anthropogenic transformation processes, including the pollution of fresh-water river systems and landscape fragmentation, raise concerns regarding its conservation status. Despite an increasing number of camera-trapping field surveys for carnivores in South-East Asia during the past two decades, few of these studies recorded the flat-headed cat.
Tropical mountains are hot spots of biodiversity and endemism, but the evolutionary origins of their unique biotas are poorly understood. In varying degrees, local and regional extinction, long-distance colonization, and local recruitment may all contribute to the exceptional character of these communities. Also, it is debated whether mountain endemics mostly originate from local lowland taxa, or from lineages that reach the mountain by long-range dispersal from cool localities elsewhere. Here we investigate the evolutionary routes to endemism by sampling an entire tropical mountain biota on the 4,095-metre-high Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, East Malaysia. We discover that most of its unique biodiversity is younger than the mountain itself (6 million years), and comprises a mix of immigrant pre-adapted lineages and descendants from local lowland ancestors, although substantial shifts from lower to higher vegetation zones in this latter group were rare. These insights could improve forecasts of the likelihood of extinction and 'evolutionary rescue' in montane biodiversity hot spots under climate change scenarios.
Cambay amber originates from the warmest period of the Eocene, which is also well known for the appearance of early angiosperm-dominated megathermal forests. The humid climate of these forests may have triggered the evolution of epiphytic lineages of bryophytes; however, early Eocene fossils of bryophytes are rare. Here, we present evidence for lejeuneoid liverworts and pleurocarpous mosses in Cambay amber. The preserved morphology of the moss fossil is inconclusive for a detailed taxonomic treatment. The liverwort fossil is, however, distinctive; its zig-zagged stems, suberect complicate-bilobed leaves, large leaf lobules, and small, deeply bifid underleaves suggest a member of Lejeuneaceae subtribe Lejeuneinae (Harpalejeunea, Lejeunea, Microlejeunea). We tested alternative classification possibilities by conducting divergence time estimates based on DNA sequence variation of Lejeuneinae using the age of the fossil for corresponding age constraints. Consideration of the fossil as a stem group member of Microlejeunea or Lejeunea resulted in an Eocene to Late Cretaceous age of the Lejeuneinae crown group. This reconstruction is in good accordance with published divergence time estimates generated without the newly presented fossil evidence. Balancing available evidence, we describe the liverwort fossil as the extinct species Microlejeunea nyiahae, representing the oldest crown group fossil of Lejeuneaceae.
Malayan box turtle (Cuora amboinensis) has been a wildlife-protected vulnerable turtle species in Malaysia since 2005. However, because of its purported usage in traditional medicine, tonic foods and feeds, clandestine black market trade is rampant. Several polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for the taxonomic detection and classification of turtle species have been proposed. These assays are based on long-length target amplicons which are assumed to break down under compromised states and, hence, might not be suitable for the forensic tracing and tracking of turtle trafficking. For the first time this paper develops a very short-amplicon-length PCR assay (120 bp) for the detection of Malayan box turtle meat in raw, processed and mixed matrices, and experimental evidence is produced that such an assay is not only more stable and reliable but also more sensitive than those previously published. We checked the assay specificity against 20 different species and no cross-species detection was observed. The possibility of any false-negative detection was eliminated by a universal endogenous control for eukaryotes. The assay detection limit was 0.0001 ng of box turtle DNA from pure meat and 0.01% turtle meat in binary and ternary admixtures and commercial meatballs. Superior target stability and sensitivity under extreme treatments of boiling, autoclaving and microwave cooking suggested that this newly developed assay would be suitable for any forensic and/or archaeological identification of Malayan box turtle species, even in severely degraded specimens. Further, in silico studies indicated that the assay has the potential to be used as a universal probe for the detection of nine Cuora species, all of which are critically endangered.
Habitat degradation and hunting have caused the widespread loss of larger vertebrate species (defaunation) from tropical biodiversity hotspots. However, these defaunation drivers impact vertebrate biodiversity in different ways and, therefore, require different conservation interventions. We conducted landscape-scale camera-trap surveys across six study sites in Southeast Asia to assess how moderate degradation and intensive, indiscriminate hunting differentially impact tropical terrestrial mammals and birds. We found that functional extinction rates were higher in hunted compared to degraded sites. Species found in both sites had lower occupancies in the hunted sites. Canopy closure was the main predictor of occurrence in the degraded sites, while village density primarily influenced occurrence in the hunted sites. Our findings suggest that intensive, indiscriminate hunting may be a more immediate threat than moderate habitat degradation for tropical faunal communities, and that conservation stakeholders should focus as much on overhunting as on habitat conservation to address the defaunation crisis.