WCS 3-Sentence Science

Each year, WCS scientists author or co-author nearly 300 peer-reviewed studies and papers.  “WCS 3 Sentence Science” is a regular tip-sheet – in bite sized helpings – of some of this published work. 

Bats Pollinate World’s Smelliest Fruit
Credit: Sheherazade -- WCS Indonesia Program
1. The durian, knowns as the world’s smelliest fruit, is economically important for local livelihoods in Indonesia.
2. Researchers used camera traps to see how bats versus insects pollinated durian trees discovering that that bat pollination is worth approximately ~$ 117/ha/fruiting season.
3. By demonstrating an ecological link between bats and the local economy, this research provides an urgent message for Southeast Asian governments regarding the need to promote bat conservation in order to increase the production of durian grown under semi-wild conditions.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Contributions of bats to the local economy through durian pollination in Sulawesi, Indonesia"   from  Biotropica
WCS Co-Author(s):  Sheherazade (Lead) , Conservation Science Specialist, WCS Indonesia Program

Land Iguanas: Say Ahhhh
Credit: Paul Calle
1. Little information exists on their normal health parameter of the Galapagos’ land iguanas, Conolophus pallidus and Conolophus subcristatu.
2. Researchers recorded baseline health data of the two species, analyzing blood samples from 52 iguanas captured on three islands, while also measuring body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and body measurements.
3. The data reported will provide preliminary baseline values that may be useful in detecting changes in health status among Galápagos land iguanas affected by human threats, including climate change, or natural disturbances.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Health assessment of Conolophus subcristatus, Conolophus pallidus, and C. subcristatus X Amblyrhynchus cristatus hybrid (Galápagos land iguanas)"   from  PLOS ONE
WCS Co-Author(s):  Paul Calle , WCS Vice President for Health Programs and Chief Veterinarian Zoological Health Program ;  Karen Ingerman , Veterinary Technician Supervisor Zoological Health Program

Some Leopards Love the Mountains
Credit: WCS Afghanistan
1. Researchers studied population densities of Persian leopards (Panthera pardus saxicolor) in three montane national parks in northeastern Iran.
2. Thirty individuals were detected in Tandoureh National Park, the highest density than any other site in Iran, or indeed globally.
3. The results show the benefits of protecting even relatively small mountainous areas, which accommodated a high density of leopards and provided refugia in a landscape with substantial human activity.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A paradox of local abundance amidst regional rarity: The value of montane refugia for Persian leopard conservation"   from  Scientific Reports
WCS Co-Author(s):  Luke Hunter , Executive Director of WCS's Big Cats Program

Battling Against the Extinction of the Bengal Florican
Credit: WCS
1. Researchers measured progress in conservation of the Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis), a critically endangered grassland bird found from the Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia.
2. They used a variety of metrics to identify priority threats, from predation by dogs to powerlines, and then assessed conservation needs at all sites that support the bird, highlighting conservation achievements at Stoung-Chikreang Bengal Florican Conservation Area (BFCA), Manas National Park, Kaziranga National Park and other areas.
3. The researchers say that if priority threats can be adequately addressed, the extinction of Bengal Florican can be prevented.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A systematic expert-based assessment of progress and priorities for conservation of the Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis"   from  Conservation Science and Practice
WCS Co-Author(s):  Simon Mahood (Lead) , Senior Technical Advisor, WCS Cambodia

Fruit Bat Survival in Madagascar
Credit: Aristide Andrianarimisa WCS Madagascar
1. Researchers tagged 1,801 Malagasy fruit bats (Rousenus madagascariensis) to study the population size and apparent survival of individuals in relation to age and sex.
2. They found that for males, apparent survival is lower in adults compared to sub-adults; while for females the opposite is true, and that the overall survival rate in this population is strongly influenced by mortality and secondarily by dispersal.
3. Apparent survival of individuals has a positive impact on population growth but less than birth rate, thus showing that the health and sustainability of the population relies heavily on individual survival.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Population size and survival of the Malagasy fruit bat Rousettus madagascariensis (Pteropodidae) in Ankarana, northern Madagascar"   from  Acta Chiropterologica
WCS Co-Author(s):  Aristide Andrianarimisa , Research and Science Coordinator, WCS Madagascar

Big Cats, Little Cats, and Gold Mining in a Myanmar Protected Area
Credit: WCS Myanmar Program
1. Researchers deployed camera traps in Myanmar’s Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary to survey for clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosi), tiger (Panthera tigris), leopard (Panthera pardus), marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata), golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), and leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis).
2. While all cats were detected, results indicated that human activities, in particular gold mining, are affecting felid populations.
3. Authors note the importance of Htamanthi within Myanmar’s Northern Forest Complex and highlight the Yawbawmee corridor as a candidate for protection.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Population density estimates and conservation concern for clouded leopards Neofelis nebulosa, marbled cats Pardofelis marmorata and tigers Panthera tigris in Htamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary, Sagaing, Myanmar"   from  Oryx
WCS Co-Author(s):  Hla Naing (Lead) , Landscape Coordinator, WCS Myanmar ;  Saw Htun , Country Program Director, WCS Myanmar

A Baseline for Sumatran elephants
Credit: Paul Hilton for WCS
1. Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) are now critically endangered due to habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, poaching and human elephant conflict (HEC).
2. Researchers conducted baseline research on Sumatran elephants in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (BBSNP) to determine sex, age, and distribution.
3. The results revealed that 30.8 percent were sub-adult males, 21.2 percent were sub-adult females, 13.5 percent were adult females, 9.6 percent were adult males and 5.8 percent were juvenile males, with 19.2 percent sex of the samples unconfirmed.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Determinaton of sex, age, and spatial distribution of Sumatran elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus) in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park"   from  AIP Conference Proceedings
WCS Co-Author(s):  Valentine Kheng , Technical Support for Country Director, WCS Indonesia Program

Burmese Star Tortoises Get a Clean Bill of Health
Credit: WCS/TSA
1. The once abundant Burmese star tortoise (Geochelone platynota) was functionally extirpated from Myanmar largely due to exploitation for wildlife trade markets, but saved through ex situ captive assurance colonies where approximately 14,000 individuals have been raised between 2004 and 2018.
2. Researchers performed health assessments on 539 tortoises prior to their reintroduction to screen for the presence of Mycoplasma spp., ranavirus, herpesvirus, and the intranuclear coccidian parasite of Testudines.
3. Such health assessments are important to generate baseline information about potential circulating organisms or pathogens, and ensure the success of repatriation projects by both assuring that potential pathogens associated with disease are not inadvertently introduced into the wild, and that individuals slated for release are healthy enough to weather the rigors of reintroduction.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Health screening of Burmese star tortoises (Geochelone platynota) prior to introduction to the wild"   from  Chelonian Conservation and Biology
WCS Co-Author(s):  Bonnie Raphael (Lead) , WCS Zoological Health Program ;  Steve Platt, Tracie Seimon, Brian Horne , WCS Myanmar Program; WCS Zoological Health Program; WCS Turtle Conservation Program

Tapir Bathtubs are Drying Up
Credit: Jose Moreira
1. Researchers documented the relationship between the Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii) and long-term viability of ponds in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (CBR) – the largest protected tropical forest in Mexico.
2. A decreasing trend in water availability from these ponds was detected from 2008 to 2018, and researchers’ objective was to document population of tapirs during these 11 years, revealing any relationship to the pattern of water availability.
3. Using the technique of camera-trapping, results showed that although the population remained relatively stable, the index of relative abundance indicated a slight decrease in population that in some sites seemed at least superficially associated with decreasing water availability.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Tapir population patterns under the disappearance of free-standing water"   from  Therya
WCS Co-Author(s):  Jose Moreira , Research Associate, WCS Latin America and Caribbean Program

Satellite Data helps Predict U.S. Wintering Bird Abundance:
Credit: Paul Elsen/WCS
1. Researchers used temperature data directly from satellites to develop two new metrics of the thermal environment: relative temperature (related to spatial temperature gradients) and thermal heterogeneity (related to the spatial patterning of temperature).
2. The variables were then used to predict patterns of winter bird richness across the conterminous U.S., and the authors hypothesized that the thermal metrics would be particularly important for predicting species that are sensitive to temperature.
3. The authors found that their thermal metrics could predict winter bird richness patterns and that these metrics were more important for thermally sensitive species, which suggests that they have promise in guiding conservation planning.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Landsat 8 TIRS-derived relative temperature and thermal heterogeneity predict winter bird species richness patterns across the conterminous United States"   from   Remote Sensing of Environment
WCS Co-Author(s):  Paul Elsen (Lead) , WCS Conservation Science and Solutions

Protecting dead parrots to conserve the living
Credit: Nathan Whitmore/WCS
1. The red feathers of Pesquet’s Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus) are highly sought after for use in the ceremonial headdresses of the highland cultures of Papuan New Guinea, however, it is unclear whether the harvest for headdresses represents a serious threat to the species’ survival.
2. Using a combination of surveying techniques and mathematical methods the researchers revealed around 8 percent of the estimated wild population of Pesquet’s Parrots would likely be harvested annually just for Kerowagi district alone.
3. Given that a greater number of Pesquet’s Parrot exist in headdresses than are alive in the wild, the researchers suggest that the most practical and cost effective intervention would be to focus on prolonging the lifespan of existing headdresses rather than attempting to protect the species from hunting in remote areas of forest.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "More dead than alive: harvest for ceremonial headdresses threatens Pesquet’s Parrot in Papua New Guinea"   from  Emu - Austral Ornithology
WCS Co-Author(s):  Grace Nugi (Lead) , WCS Papua New Guinea program ;  Nathan Whitmore , WCS Papua New Guinea program

Energy Development Reveals “Blind Spots” in Amazon Conservation
Credit: WCS Peru
1. Prevailing approaches to Amazonian ecosystem conservation focus on terrestrial protected areas and Indigenous territories but do not offer sufficient insurance against the risks associated with energy development such as hydroelectric dams and increased oil and gas exploration.
2. Researchers explored three related areas of concern: the exclusion of subsurface rights on Indigenous lands; the absence of frameworks for freshwater ecosystem conservation; and downgrading, downsizing, degazettement (loss of protection), and reclassification of protected areas.
3. Authors consider these issues from the perspectives of multiple countries across the Amazon Basin, link them directly to energy development, and offer suggestions for addressing the challenges of energy development for Amazon ecosystem conservation through existing policies, new approaches, and international collaboration.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Energy development reveals blind spots for ecosystem conservation in the Amazon Basin"   from  Frontiers in Ecology
WCS Co-Author(s):  Mariana Montoya , Country Director, WCS Peru

Tracking the Needs of Nomads
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Using GPS collars, researchers tracked 40 individuals of four ungulate species (Mongolian gazelle, goitered gazelle, saiga antelope, and Asiatic wild ass) in the Gobi‐Steppe Ecosystem to better understand their habitat needs in Mongolia's Gobi‐Steppe Ecosystem.
2. Results showed that ungulates in the resource‐rich steppe tended to move long distances with few revisits (forage‐driven nomadism), while ungulates in the resource‐poor desert tended to move shorter distances with more revisits (water‐driven nomadism).
3. The results have important implications for conservation strategies; forage‐driven nomads primarily require a high degree of landscape‐level permeability, and water‐driven nomads additionally require the protection of ephemeral water bodies and actions to maintain the functional connectivity between them.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Variability in nomadism: Environmental gradients modulate the movement behaviors of dryland ungulates"   from  Ecosphere
WCS Co-Author(s):  Buuveibaatar Bayarbaatar , Lead for Conservation Science, WCS mongolia ;  Enkhtuvshin Shiilegdamba, Kirk Olson, Christian Walzer , Country Director WCS Mongolia, Science Adviser: OT Core Biodiversity Monitoring Program, Mongolia, Executive Director, Wildlife Health Program

Zoos, Aquariums, and STEM
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Researchers conducted a qualitative study using interactive workshops to understand the public’s perceptions of zoos and aquariums (Z/As) for their potential to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning.
2. The primary STEM discipline they encountered was science as it related to animals, even though the opportunities were not explicit, but they also recognized that these settings offer the potential for learning about technology, engineering, and math through staff facilitation.
3. Implications for STEM learning in informal settings are discussed for its potential to engage the public in STEM outside of the formal education context.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Multi-site case studies about zoo and aquarium visitors’ perceptions of the STEM learning ecology"   from  Visitor Studies
WCS Co-Author(s):  Shelley Rank , Research and Evaluation Associate Bronx Zoo Education

Social Relations and River Flows
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. The newly revised Brisbane Declaration and Global Action Agenda on Environmental Flows (2018) represents a new phase in environmental flow science and an opportunity to better consider the co-constitution of river flows, ecosystems, and society, and to more explicitly incorporate these relationships into river management.
2. Researchers synthesized understanding of relationships between people and rivers as conceived under the renewed definition of environmental flows, and present case studies from Honduras, India, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
3. The researchers call for scientists and water managers to recognize the diversity of ways of knowing, relating to, and utilizing rivers, and to place this recognition at the center of future environmental flow assessments.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Understanding rivers and their social relations: A critical step to advance environmental water management"   from  Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews-Water
WCS Co-Author(s):  Mariana Montoya , Country Director, WCS Peru

Greenlighting the Green List
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. The proposal of a ‘Green List of Species’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) measures recovery against historical baselines; in particular, the method requires estimates of species range and abundance in previous centuries.
2. Researchers present the case for why setting species recovery against a historical baseline is necessary to produce ambitious conservation targets, and they highlight examples from palaeoecology and historical ecology where fossil and archival data have been used to establish historical species baselines.
3. The researchers introduce a Conservation Archive (https://conservationarchive.shinyapps.io/ConservationArchive/), a database of resources that can be used to infer baseline species conditions, and invite contributions to this database.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Using historical and palaeoecological data to inform ambitious species recovery targets"   from  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
WCS Co-Author(s):  Elizabeth Bennett , Vice President, Species

New Tool will Measure Forest Quality over Quantity
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. A research team introduces two data products: the Forest Structural Condition Index (SCI) and the Forest Structural Integrity Index (FSII) to meet this need for measuring forest quality for biodiversity and ecosystem services the humid tropics.
2. The SCI integrates canopy height, tree cover, and time-since-disturbance to distinguish short, open-canopy, or recently deforested stands from tall, closed-canopy, older stands typical of primary forest; while FSII overlays a global index of human pressure on SCI to identify structurally complex forests with low human pressure – likely the most valuable for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.
3. These products represent an important step in maturation from conservation focus on forest extent to forest stands that should be considered “best of the last” in international policy settings.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Global humid tropics forest structural condition and forest structural integrity maps"   from  Scientific Data
WCS Co-Author(s):  James Watson , Director, Science and Research Initiative

Can an Intact Forest be Certified?
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Researchers explore challenges for incorporating intact forests – natural and often extensive forests free from apparent degradation – into certification processes, and of maintaining intact forests within forest management units.
2. Authors say it will require a re-evaluation of the way intactness is treated within current certification standards, and the requirements for forestry within intact forests might be necessary to create a form of compensation to overcome the foregone costs of intact forest preservation.
3. Eventually, intact forest conservation and socially and economically viable forest management can only be reconciled on the landscape scale.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "The dilemma of maintaining intact forest through certification"   from  Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
WCS Co-Author(s):  Timothy Rayden , Sustainable Landscapes Unit, WCS Conservation Science and Solutions

Better Conservation through Technology
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Authors contend that unleashing the power of technology for conservation requires an internationally coordinated strategy that connects the conservation community and policy-makers with technologists.
2. Researchers argue an international conservation technology entity could (1) provide vision and leadership, (2) coordinate and deliver key services necessary to ensure translation from innovation to effective deployment and use of technology for on-the-ground conservation across the planet, and (3) help integrate innovation into biodiversity conservation policy from local to global scales, providing tools to monitor outcomes of conservation action and progress towards national and international biodiversity targets.
3. This proposed entity could take the shape of an international alliance of conservation institutions or a formal intergovernmental institution that would help society achieve biodiversity conservation goals.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A call for international leadership and coordination to realize the potential of conservation technology"   from  Bioscience
WCS Co-Author(s):  James Watson , Director, Science and Research Initiative

Knowledge Gaps and Global Sustainability Goals
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. To guide research that better informs policy and practice, researchers systematically synthesized knowledge gaps from recent assessments of four regions of the globe and three key themes by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
2. They found that global sustainability goals cannot be achieved without: 1.) improved knowledge on feedbacks between social and ecological systems 2.) effectiveness of governance systems and the influence of institutions on the social distribution of ecosystem services 3.) understanding the role of indigenous and local knowledge in sustaining nature’s benefits to people.
3. The findings contribute to a policy-relevant and solution-oriented agenda for global, long-term social-ecological research.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Key knowledge gaps to achieve global sustainability goals"   from  Nature Sustainability
WCS Co-Author(s):  Ciara Raudsepp-Hearne , Canada KBA Coordinator, WCS Canada

A Manifesto for Predictive Conservation
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. If efforts to tackle biodiversity loss and its impact on human wellbeing are to be successful, conservation must learn from other fields, such as military studies, public health and finance, which use predictive methods to foresee shocks and pre-empt their impacts in the face of uncertainty.
2. Researchers critically assess how predictive approaches can transform the way conservation scientists and practitioners plan for and implement social and behavioral change among people living with wildlife.
3. This manifesto for predictive conservation recognizes that social-ecological systems are dynamic, uncertain and complex, and calls on conservationists to embrace the forward-thinking approach which effective conservation requires.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "A manifesto for predictive conservation"   from  Biological Conservation
WCS Co-Author(s):  James Watson , Director, Science and Research Initiative

Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. A controversy at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress on the topic of closing domestic ivory markets (the 007, or so-called James Bond, motion) has given rise to a debate on IUCN's value proposition.
2. A cross-section of authors who are engaged in IUCN but not employed by the organization, and with diverse perspectives and opinions, here argue for the importance of safeguarding and strengthening the unique technical and convening roles of IUCN, providing examples of what has and has not worked.
3. Recommendations for protecting and enhancing IUCN's contribution to global conservation debates and policy formulation are given.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "IUCN's encounter with 007: Safeguarding consensus for conservation"   from  Oryx
WCS Co-Author(s):  Elizabeth Bennett , Vice President, Species ;  John Robinson , Executive Vice President for Conservation and Science

A Bigger Umbrella for Wildlife
Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/WCS
1. Researchers developed a problem‐based method for prioritizing conservation actions for “umbrella species” – wildlife whose distributions overlap with many other flora and fauna – that maximizes the total number of flora and fauna benefiting from management, while considering threats, actions, and costs.
2. They tested it by assessing the performance of the Australian Federal Government's umbrella prioritization list, and found that the number of species benefitting could be increased from 6 percent to 46 percent for the same budget of AUD550m/year if more suitable umbrella species were chosen.
3. Authors argue that nations around the world can markedly improve the selection of prioritized umbrella species for conservation action by taking advantage of this transparent, quantitative, and objective prioritization approach.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Use of surrogate species to cost‐effectively prioritize conservation actions"   from  Conservation Biology
WCS Co-Author(s):  James Watson , Director, Science and Research Initiative

For Certain Himalayan Birds, It’s Getting (too) Hot, Hot, Hot
Credit: Paul Elsen
1. Researchers studied how bird communities are responding to agricultural expansion in the Himalayan mountain range, which exhibits a strong east-west gradient in annual temperature variation.
2. They surveyed bird communities at opposite ends of that gradient, and tested whether species’ thermal sensitivity influenced their response to the replacement of forest with agriculture.
3. They found that thermal specialists are more vulnerable to forest loss than species with greater thermal tolerances indicating that species’ responses to global change may differ predictably along gradients even within a single region or biodiversity hotspot, and such variation must be addressed in conservation planning.
WCS Media Contact:  Stephen Sautner, 7182203682, ssautner@wcs.org

Study and Journal:  "Annual temperature variation influences the vulnerability of montane bird communities to land‐use change"   from  Ecography
WCS Co-Author(s):  Paul Elsen , Climate Adaptation Scientist


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