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Environment, Ecology & Earth's biodiversity

United Kingdom Sully Offline
Ecology & Rewilding

I had wondered for a while why equatorial africa had both forest and savannah biomes. This interesting paper sheds some light on why that is.

Floristic evidence for alternative biome states in tropical Africa


The idea that tropical forest and savanna are alternative states is crucial to how we manage these biomes and predict their future under global change. Large-scale empirical evidence for alternative stable states is limited, however, and comes mostly from the multimodal distribution of structural aspects of vegetation. These approaches have been criticized, as structure alone cannot separate out wetter savannas from drier forests for example, and there are also technical challenges to mapping vegetation structure in unbiased ways. Here, we develop an alternative approach to delimit the climatic envelope of the two biomes in Africa using tree species lists gathered for a large number of forest and savanna sites distributed across the continent. Our analyses confirm extensive climatic overlap of forest and savanna, supporting the alternative stable states hypothesis for Africa, and this result is corroborated by paleoecological evidence. Further, we find the two biomes to have highly divergent tree species compositions and to represent alternative compositional states. This allowed us to classify tree species as forest vs. savanna specialists, with some generalist species that span both biomes. In conjunction with georeferenced herbarium records, we mapped the forest and savanna distributions across Africa and quantified their environmental limits, which are primarily related to precipitation and seasonality, with a secondary contribution of fire. These results are important for the ongoing efforts to restore African ecosystems, which depend on accurate biome maps to set appropriate targets for the restored states but also provide empirical evidence for broad-scale bistability.
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United Kingdom Sully Offline
Ecology & Rewilding

What factors increase the vulnerability of native birds to the impacts of alien birds?


Biodiversity impacts caused by alien species can be severe, including those caused by alien birds. In order to protect native birds, we aimed to identify factors that influence their vulnerability to the impacts of alien birds. We first reviewed the literature to identify native bird species sustaining such impacts. We then assigned impact severity scores to each native bird species, depending on the severity of the impacts sustained, and performed two types of analyses. First, we used contingency table tests to examine the distribution of impacts across their severity, type and location, and across native bird orders. Second, we used mixed-effects models to test factors hypothesised to influence the vulnerability of native birds to the impacts of alien birds.
Ground-nesting shorebirds and seabirds were more prone to impacts through predation, while cavity-nesting woodpeckers and parrots were more prone to impacts through competition. Native bird species were more vulnerable when they occupied islands, warm regions, regions with climatic conditions similar to those in the native range of the invading alien species, and when they were physically smaller than the invading alien species. To a lesser extent, they were also vulnerable when they shared habitat preferences with the invading alien species.
By considering the number and type of native bird species affected by alien birds, we demonstrate predation impacts to be more widespread than previously indicated, but also that damaging predation impacts may be underreported. We identify vulnerable orders of native birds, which may require conservation interventions; characteristics of native birds that increase their vulnerability, which may be used to inform risk assessments; and regions where native birds are most vulnerable, which may direct management interventions. The impacts sustained by native birds may be going unnoticed in many regions of the world: there is a clear need to identify and manage them.

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