On Thursday, Dr. Elizabeth Pienaar (University of Florida) discussed her lab’s research on Oribi conservation in Kwa-Zulu Natal during her talk, “Protecting the Endangered Oribi on Private Farmlands.”  Oribi are South Africa’s most threatened antelope species. They are grassland dependent, but as grasslands have been converted to other uses over time, oribi conservation has become increasingly dependent on the preservation of grasslands under private ownership. Currently, around 63% of remaining oribi populations live on private land. In addition to habitat loss, oribi have recently become the targets of taxi hunting—in which greyhounds are used to hunt wild game for sport and gambling.

Her research questions asked, (1) Why are farmers willing to protect oribi on their properties? (2) What do farmers perceive to be threats to oribi conservation? (2) What do farmers perceive to be threats to oribi conservation? (3) What understanding do farmers have of how their lands should be managed to benefit oribi? And (4) Which oribi conservation programs would farmers be willing to enroll in? Data was collected through in-person interviews and online surveys with present and past oribi owners and farmers. Out of people interviewed, around 74% had oribi on their property and 86% perceived oribi conservation to be very important. Some farmers cited an emotional attachment to oribi or the oribi’s stupidity/defenselessness as the cause, while others felt it was important to protect endangered species in general. Farmers were asked about wildlife ownership, illegal hunting and how they mitigated illegal hunting threats. Farmers were also asked about conservation programs and incentives.

On March 1st, the NRM Africa group met for the lecture, “Integrating Natural and Social Science to Improve Conservation and Fisheries Management on Lake Tanganyika,” by Dr. Catherine O’Reilly, Illinois State University. Dr. O’Reilly is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment at Illinois State University. Her research focuses on water quality, with an interest in human impacts and climate change. For over a decade, Dr. O’Reilly has been working on Lake Tanganyika, East Africa, which is a critical resource for the surrounding countries. She is currently involved in the CLEAT project, which aims to understand the relative importance of climate change and fishing pressure for fish yields and long-term sustainability. Dr. O’Reilly also is involved in the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) as well as in projects in Central Illinois that explore the extent to which changes in agriculture management can improve water quality. Dr. O’Reilly has a B.A. from Carleton College in environmental Studies and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Geosciences. As part of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. O’Reilly shares the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore and 2000 other scientists.

Dr. O’Reilly’s lecture focused on Lake Tanganyika fisheries and the impact of climate change on social practices. Lake Tanganyika is a tropical East African Rift Valley lake, with high freshwater biodiversity, high fish yields, high species endemism, and high human population growth in surrounding communities. Fisheries in this region are important economically and as a natural resource for local people. However climate change has already impacted Lake Tanganyika— in the past 100 years primary productivity has decreased by 30%, and over a 7-year period there has been a 15% decline in algal biomass. Fish populations are projected to decrease along with productivity, while water temperature is expected to increase.

Through the CLEAT project, Dr. O’Reilly and other researchers have found that the behavior and engagement of fishermen have shifted in response to climate-based changes to the lake. Gear changes have been adopted that center on technological developments, catches have become increasingly monopolized by juvenile fish, and use of community drying racks has decreased as fishermen struggle to avoid monitoring by authorities. Social networks and mobile technologies have become increasingly utilized as a way to catch and sell fish while remaining undetected by fisheries officers. Dr. O’Reilly hopes to continue to collect social and natural science data surrounding fisheries and Lake Tanganyika to better understand how climate change is impacting these systems.

 

CAS News Bulletin- Week of March 12, 2018

On February 1, Sam Ferreira (South Africa National Parks) lectured on “A Collage of Goliath Teachings; What Do Elephants and Rhinos Tell Us about Ourselves?” This presentation focused on the social and ecological factors of conservation at Kruger National Park, highlighting the management of elephants and rhinos. In the past, officials at Kruger utilized the idea that culling, or reducing wildlife populations, would allow for sustainable ecosystem management. However, tree populations in Kruger have been in decline since 1940, even during periods of elephant culling. Ferreira questions why these patterns occur, given traditional management practices.

He argues that the management of elephants has different impacts at different places and times, so management should be adaptive and rely on the needs of wildlife for water, food, safety, and comfort. He also notes that when management intensity is low and there is no culling, regulating population dynamics take place to maintain sustainable elephant populations for that ecosystem. Water holes make elephants use landscapes more intensely and at the same place between seasons; in addition, the clustering of water holes also impacts elephant distribution within parks. Cultivating a “Landscape of Fear,” regions that have unpredictable patterns of danger, can also change landscape use causing elephants to spend less time at certain areas.

Ferreira concluded his talk by discussing poaching as a management issue, highlighting the impact poaching has had on South African rhino management. Drivers of poaching can be divided into two categories: distant markets and local injustices. Although many strategies have been attempted to reduce demand for rhino horn—including fear, punishment, and reinforcement—interventions must be sustainable and integrated to be successful. Ferreira argues that there is a need to disrupt organized crime through supply chains and “middlemen” involved in elicit trade. At the local level, he believes that social injustices should be remedied to reduce the likelihood of local people turning to poaching. This can be done through providing jobs and creating skills to improve the local workforce.

CAS News Bulletin- Week of February 5, 2018

Dr. Pedro Sanchez lectured on “Soil Management in Africa” at the latest Natural Resource Management in Africa Working Group meeting on September 14, 2017. Dr. Sanchez is a research professor in the Soil and Water Sciences Department at University of Florida, focusing specifically on tropical soils throughout his career. His research on soil management has allowed him to collaborate on projects attempting to reduce world hunger—including working with the Millennium Villages project, Millennium Development Goals, and the African Green Revolution. His lecture broadly discussed soil management in Africa and how this can impact agricultural productivity. Most soils in Africa are alfisols. There is a misconception that African soils are rendered infertile due to high erodibility or chemical and mineral imbalances, however Dr. Sanchez notes that even naturally infertile soils can be managed to be fertile.

In 2004, the UN Millennium Project announced the need to improve soil in Africa for increased food security. Dr. Sanchez worked through this project on the Hunger Task Force to achieve these goals. Since the establishment of the Hunger Task Force in 2004, there has been better governance, private sector involvement in soil management, the creation of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and greater collaboration between science and policy. One of the goals of the project was to increase cereal production in Africa from 1 ton/ha to eventually reach 10 ton/ha similar to the levels of cereal production seen in the U.S. To accomplish this goal, Dr. Sanchez argues that there should be improvements to seed and fertilizers used in African agriculture. However, he notes that this is a “two leg job” and only improving seed or fertilizers will not achieve positive results.

In his lecture, Dr. Sanchez said variability in soil quality is higher within small farms; often soils closer to households are more fertile than soil in fields farther from the home. This kind of knowledge can inform farmers on how they will fertilize their land more effectively. Dr. Sanchez is attempting to address this problem through the creation of SoilDoc, a lab in a box that allows farmers to analyze soil in the field. Although SoilDoc is still in development, Dr. Sanchez hopes that data collected from this project will be able to be sent to a cloud-based system to inform planners of soil trends in small-scale African farms. Other trends that Dr. Sanchez believes will improve food security in Africa include the establishment of private extension services, the spread of agrodealers, increased use of cereal banks, a focus on high value products, and the participation of youth in agricultural business ventures.

CAS News Bulletin- Week of September 18, 2017

On Thursday August 24, Dr. Nyeema Harris gave a NRM in Africa presentation titled, “Socio-ecological Implications of Dynamics in the Conservation Estate.” Dr. Harris is an Assistant Professor at University of Michigan. Her talk touched on the two projects her lab, the Applied Wildlife Ecology Lab (AWE) at University of Michigan, is currently conducting in West Africa. The first project is based in Ghana, and focuses on protected areas located in regions reliant on agriculture, which has resulted in land conversion. This project attempts to address whether distinct small mammal communities are affected by land use inside and outside of protected areas or within their ecoregion. Research for this project is being conducted in Ankasa Conservation Area, Digya National Park, and Mole National Park in Ghana.


Her second project, titled the P4 Project, studies how Africa’s top predator (lions) interacts with their prey, parasites, and people in the WAP complex in West Africa. Multiple research teams working in Niger, Burkina Faso, and Benin conduct research for this project. The P4 Project aims to use camera traps to learn more about lions through capturing the activities of humans, wildlife, and domestic animals within the WAP complex. Since West African lion populations are experiencing population declines due to persecution, depletion of prey, and disease—Dr. Harris’s research attempts to better understand the threats faced by West African lion populations to meet conservation goals. Her lecture had multiple take-home messages: Protected areas coverage is not enough or likely to be sustainable in the future, there should be inclusive definitions of protected areas, the effectiveness of protected areas is based on conservation outcomes, the importance of attribution for forest cover changes should be recognized, and there should be guidance and engagement in protected area degazettement.

CAS News Bulletin: Week of September 1st, 2017

On Thursday October 27th, Sadie Ryan gave a NRM in Africa talk titled, “Implications of Climate Change for Zoonotic Disease Risk in Africa.” Dr. Sadie Ryan is Assistant Professor of Medical Geography in the Geography Department, as well as the Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI), at the University of Florida. The talk focused on Ryan’s research on buffalo and natural resource management in Kruger National Park and Klaserie Nature Reserve, in South Africa, over the past 16 years.
Dr. Ryan’s research is multi-faceted, having completed comprehensive research on a number of factors affecting buffalo in southern Africa. The overall theme, however, is the study of phenological synchrony (in lay person’s terms: the ways in which a species matches the timing of their functions with other species and/or their environment) of buffalo and their environments, and how climate change threatens to disrupt that. Ryan primarily presented on projects using massive datasets which analyze buffalo in terms of home range, habitat selection, and birth timing/breeding phenology.
In the sub-tropical yet very seasonal landscapes of these parks, tracking where the buffalo travel (their ranges) is important for specifying animals’ needs and whether different herds’ ranges are distinct from one another (which is itself important for measuring disease transaction vulnerabilities). Similarly, tracking animals’ levels of fecal phosphorous and fecal nitrogen provides information about their grazing habits and whether or not the landscape in the parks are able to fully support the buffalos’ dietary needs. As Ryan found out, the metabolic minimum for the buffalo was not met 100% of the time within the parks. Further, in studying buffalos’ birth timing, via a database of 786 recorded births over 8 years, Ryan’s research suggests that pregnant buffalo may generally be very resource constrained and are timing births according to resource availability, and particularly the green-up season. As climate change threatens to affect a number of these resources and processes, the basic biological functions and well-beings of these animals are likely to be significantly affected.

On Thursday October 13th, Annie Loggins (above) and Rich Stanton (below) presented at a NRM Roundtable held in Grinter 471.

At the roundtable, research was generally presented on the effects of climate change and resource management policies within national parks on animal life and community structure. Loggins (MS, SNRE) works on rodent communities in southern Africa, particularly comparing the effects of a high versus low density elephant population on small rodents in Kruger National Park, South Africa, to the Hlane National Park, and Mbuluzi and Mlawula Reserves in Swaziland. In essence, as elephants cause tree damage and knock over vegetation, Loggins argues for the need to get a better handle of the effects of these occurrences for a number of indigenous small mammals. She sets up an experimental design testing for how ‘safe’ different types of small mammals feel, in terms of their willingness to access food, in different degrees of shrub gradients. Overall, Loggins’ results point to a greater perceived risk by most small mammal species in less dense shrub environments.

Stanton’s (PhD, SNRE) research also analyses the effect of shrub cover and risk of environment on animal populations, but particularly as they affect vertebrates and especially bird community structures. Stanton measures the changes in detectability and occurrence of both non-predatory and predatory birds, as well as their breeding habits. Species interaction is also a major component of his work, and he analyzes the degree to which predatory birds in encroached savannah are determining bird community structure. His preliminary findings from the field suggest that there are less nests in the treatment as opposed to control plots, so both occurrence and breeding habits of birds may be affected by global change.

CAS News Bulletin: Week of October 17th, 2016

On Thursday October 6th, Nick Dowhaniuk gave a NRM in Africa presentation titled “Industrial Oil Development, Human Population Growth, and Post-Conflict Regrowth in Conservation Landscapes.” Dowhaniuk is new to UF, pursuing a joint PhD in Medical Geography and Master of Health Science (MHS) in Environmental and Global Health: One Health. On Thursday he presented on research conducted for his M.A. degree in Natural Resources: Environmental Conservation from the University of New Hampshire.

In particular, Dowhaniuk investigates the relationship between the mineral extraction industry and protected landscapes in Uganda. Globally, there is a great deal of overlap between industrial oil and mineral development and protected areas. Dowhaniuk’s research focuses on the Albertine Rift Biodiversity Hotspot which faces the juxtaposition of high human population density, conflict, and biodiversity. Recently, commercially viable oil reserves were discovered in the Murchison Falls Conservation Area (MFCA) in 2006. There is also a history of conflict in the MFCA landscape, stemming from the 1986-2006 civil war in Uganda, which greatly changed the human settlement landscape. Using data measuring historical rural population density change, Landsat data to measure landscape level change, and interviews with residents of villages within 5 kilometers from the MFCA boundary, Dowhaniuk finds that districts impacted by the oil industry are facing unique challenges and social changes as compared to non-oil impacted districts, including population growth, significant changes in land cover classifications, and the influence of road development on land cover conversion.

Finally, Dowhaniuk’s research was recently featured in an August 2016 National Geographic article, “20 Under 30: The Next Generation of National Park Leaders”.

CAS News Bulletin: Week of October 10th, 2016

On Thursday September 15thLaurence Kruger gave a Natural Resource Management (NRM) talk titled “Elephant Impacts on the Demography of Rare Tree Species in Kruger Park.” Dr. Kruger is a Professor within the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS)- South Africa, a nonprofit consortium of over 50 universities and research institutions around the globe. The talk introduced the experiential education provided by the OTS program and presented research on the increased vulnerabilities of trees exposed to bark stripping by elephants and holes drilled by bore hole beetles.

Globally, there is a serious decline in large old trees and this decline is of particular concern in the savannah areas of sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, there have also been sharp declines in elephant populations in Africa, largely due to poaching. But the ways in which the remaining elephant populations have been managed, including their enclosure within fenced-in national parks, directly effects rare tree populations. Elephants have varied eating patterns, grazing and seeds during the summer months, and transitioning to leaves then branches and then the stripping of bark during the dry season. As elephants are limited to specific land areas within national parks, their impact on trees is more concentrated than would otherwise naturally occur. When trees are stripped of their bark they become vulnerable to pathogens and fires. Finally, as trees die there are significant trickle down effects for plant communities and resident faunal communities.

 

CAS News Bulletin: Week of September 19th, 2016