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Abstract

The science of conservation has faced unprecedented challenges in terms of environmental damage and rapid global change in its 40-year history, and environmental problems are only increasing as greater demands are placed on limited natural resources. Conservation science has been adapting to keep pace with these changes. Here, we highlight contemporary and emerging trends and innovations in conservation science that we believe represent the most effective responses to biodiversity threats. We focus on specific areas where conservation science has had to adjust its approach to address emerging threats to biodiversity, including habitat destruction and degradation, climate change, declining populations, and invasive species. We also document changes in attitudes, norms, and practices among conservation scientists. A key component to success is engaging and maintaining public support for conservation, which can be facilitated through the use of technology. These recent trends in conservation and management are innovative and will assist in optimizing conservation strategies, increasing our leverage with the general public, and tackling our current environmental challenges. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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... Conservation biologists use research techniques from diverse empirical scientific fields to address conservation concerns for biodiversity, ecosystems, and human well-being (Kareiva and Marvier 2012, Wiederholt et al. 2015). For instance, studies of societal perspectives of, and interactions with, wildlife improve understanding and implementation of conservation actions and education (Pooley et al. 2014). ...
... DNA barcoding is frequently used to identify plants and animals that are illegally harvested and sold (Kim et al. 2014). The breadth and depth of this field is rapidly expanding as techniques and interest in conservation biology increase (Wiederholt et al. 2015). ...
... The results of this study are examined in light of possible conservation solutions, including translocations and construction of biodiversity corridors (Keddy 2009 Advances in the field of conservation biology, and specifically in the conservation of lichens, are encouraging. More and better scientific research is available to guide conservation actions and policies to increase their efficiency and efficacy (Wiederholt et al. 2015). Broader perspectives and approaches seek to involve local communities in conservation, benefitting both biodiversity and people (UNDP 2016). ...
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Conservation biology is a scientific discipline that draws on methods from diverse fields to address specific conservation concerns and inform conservation actions. This field is overwhelmingly focused on charismatic animals and vascular plants, often ignoring other diverse and ecologically important groups. This trend is slowly changing in some ways; for example, increasing number of fungal species are being added to the IUCN Red-List. However, a strong taxonomic bias still exists. Here I contribute four research chapters to further the conservation of lichens, one group of frequently overlooked organisms. I address specific conservation concerns in eastern North America using modern methods. The results of these studies provide insight into lichen conservation in each situation, implications for the broader ecosystems within the study regions, and advancement of methods for the study of lichen conservation and biology. The first research chapter (Chapter 2) is a population genomics study based on whole genome shotgun sequencing of Cetradonia linearis, an endangered, lichenized fungus. These data were used to 1) assemble and annotate a reference genome, 2) characterize the mating system, 3) test for isolation by distance (IBD) and isolation by environment (IBE), and 4) investigate the biogeographic history of the species. Approximately 70% of the genome (19.5 Mb) was assembled. Using this assembly, only a single mating type was located, suggesting the species could be unisexual. There was strong evidence for both low rates of recombination and for Isolation by Distance, but no evidence for Isolation by Environment. The hypothesis that C. linearis had a larger range during the last glacial maximum, especially in the southern portion of its current extent, was supported by Hindcast species distribution models and the spatial distribution of genetic diversity. Given the findings here, it is recommended that C. linearis remain protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red-List. The third chapter is an estimation of the impacts of climate change on high-elevation, endemic lichens in the southern Appalachians, a global diversity hotspot for many groups, including lichens. Extensive field surveys in the high elevations of the region were carried out to accurately document the current distributions of eight narrowly endemic species. These data were compared with herbarium records, and species distribution modeling was used to predict how much climatically suitable area will remain within, and north of, the current range of the target species at multiple time points and climate change scenarios. Fieldwork showed that target species ranged from extremely rare to locally abundant and models predicted average losses of suitable area within the current distribution of species ranging from 93.8 to 99.7%. The results indicate that climate change poses a significant threat to high-elevation lichens, and illustrates the application of current modeling techniques for rare, montane species. In the fourth chapter, a dataset of >13,000 occurrence records for lichens in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain (MACP) of eastern North America was used to model distributions of 193 species. The resulting models were used to quantify the amount of each species’ distribution that is occupied by unsuitable land use types, along with the potential area that will be lost to sea-level rise (SLR). These analyses showed that species have likely already lost an average of 32% of their distributional area to development and agriculture, and are predicted to lose an average of 12.4 and 33.7% of their distributional area with one foot (~0.3 m) and six feet (~1.8 m) of SLR, respectively. Functional and taxonomic groups were compared to identify specific effects of SLR. Species reproducing with symbiotic propagules were found to have significantly larger distributions than species that reproduce sexually with fungal spores alone, and the sexually reproducing species were predicted to lose greater distributional area to SLR. Cladonia species occupy significantly less area in the MACP than Parmotrema species and were predicted to lose more of their distributions to SLR. Patterns of total species diversity showed that the area with the highest diversity is the Dare Peninsula in North Carolina, which was also predicted to lose the most land area to SLR. The workflow established here is flexible and applicable to estimating SLR impacts worldwide and can provide essential insights for local conservation planning. The fifth chapter describes the results of three experiments conducted to test new and established methods for lichen transplantation. First, small fragments of Graphis sterlingiana, Hypotrachyna virginica, and Lepraria lanata were placed on medical gauze attached to each of the species’ most common substrate to test the feasibility of transplanting narrowly endemic species. Second, burlap, cheesecloth, medical gauze, and a plastic air filter were directly compared for their use as artificial transplant substrates with Lepraria finkii as the test lichen. Third, transplants of Usnea angulata were established to test its amenability to transplantation via hanging fragments on monofilament. The first two experiments were established on Roan Mountain, North Carolina and the third experiment at Highlands Biological Station, North Carolina. In the first two experiments medical gauze did not withstand local weather conditions and nearly all pieces fell from the trees within 6 months. The plastic air filter and burlap performed best as artificial substrates for transplants, with a 100% and 80% success rate, respectively. Cheesecloth remained attached to the trees, but only 20% of lichen fragments remained attached to the substrate after one year. In the third experiment U. angulata grew 3.5 ± 1.4 cm in 5 months, exceeding previously reported growth rates for this species. These results advance methods for conservation-focused lichen transplants, and expand established methods to a new region and new species.
... Degradation and destruction of natural forest ecosystems are primary causes of biodiversity loss, thus compromising not only species composition but also ecosystem function (Chen et al. 2016;Holyoak and Heath 2016;Pogson 2015;Tylianakis et al. 2008). In East Asia, many natural forests were destroyed by local residents due to economic development (Foley et al. 2005;Haddad et al. 2015;Wiederholt et al. 2015), thus affecting the pattern of plant-animal interactions in remnant fragmented forests (Cordeiro and Howe 2003;Markl et al. 2012;Tylianakis et al. 2008). ...
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Biologists are nearly unanimous in their belief that humanity is in the process of extirpating a significant portion of the earth's spe­ cies. The ways in which we are doing so reflect the magnitude and scale of human enterprise. Everything from highway construction to cattle ranch­ ing to leaky bait buckets has been implicated in the demise or endan­ germent of particular species. Ac­ cording to Wilson (1992), most of these activities fall into four major categories, which he terms "the mind­ less horsemen of the environmental apocalypse": overexploitation, habi­ tat destruction, the introduction of non-native (alien) species, and the spread of diseases carried by alien species. To these categories may be added a fifth, pollution, although it can also be considered a form of habitat destruction. Surprisingly, there have been reIa­ tively few analyses of the extent to which each of these factors-much less the more specific deeds encomDavid S. Wilcove is a senior ecologist at the Environmental Defense Fund, Wash­ ington, DC 20009. David Rothstein re­ ceived his J.D. in 1997 from Northeastern
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Intensified exploitation of natural populations and habitats has led to increased mortality rates and decreased abundances of many species. There is a growing concern that this might cause critical abundance thresholds of species to be crossed, with extinction cascades and state shifts in ecosystems as a consequence. When increased mortality rate and decreased abundance of a given species lead to extinction of other species, this species can be characterized as functionally extinct even though it still exists. Although such functional extinctions have been observed in some ecosystems, their frequency is largely unknown. Here we use a new modelling approach to explore the frequency and pattern of functional extinctions in ecological networks. Specifically, we analytically derive critical abundance thresholds of species by increasing their mortality rates until an extinction occurs in the network. Applying this approach on natural and theoretical food webs, we show that the species most likely to go extinct first is not the one whose mortality rate is increased but instead another species. Indeed, up to 80% of all first extinctions are of another species, suggesting that a species' ecological functionality is often lost before its own existence is threatened. Furthermore, we find that large-bodied species at the top of the food chains can only be exposed to small increases in mortality rate and small decreases in abundance before going functionally extinct compared to small-bodied species lower in the food chains. These results illustrate the potential importance of functional extinctions in ecological networks and lend strong support to arguments advocating a more community-oriented approach in conservation biology, with target levels for populations based on ecological functionality rather than on mere persistence.
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The major challenge to stewardship of protected areas is to decide where, when, and how to intervene in physical and biological processes, to conserve what we value in these places. To make such decisions, planners and managers must articulate more clearly the purposes of parks, what is valued, and what needs to be sustained. A key aim for conservation today is the maintenance and restoration of biodiversity, but a broader range of values are also likely to be considered important, including ecological integrity, resilience, historical fidelity (ie the ecosystem appears and functions much as it did in the past), and autonomy of nature. Until recently, the concept of “naturalness” was the guiding principle when making conservation-related decisions in park and wilderness ecosystems. However, this concept is multifaceted and often means different things to different people, including notions of historical fidelity and autonomy from human influence. Achieving the goal of nature conservation intended for such areas requires a clear articulation of management objectives, which must be geared to the realities of the rapid environmental changes currently underway. We advocate a pluralistic approach that incorporates a suite of guiding principles, including historical fidelity, autonomy of nature, ecological integrity, and resilience, as well as managing with humility. The relative importance of these guiding principles will vary, depending on management goals and ecological conditions.
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Protected areas are key conservation tools for biodiversity management, but they are failing to protect species from current climate change. Focusing on protected areas representing montane, arid, coastal, and marine ecosystems, we provide examples of climate change—induced range dynamics, including species' moving out of protected areas, disease range expansions, severe population declines, and even extinctions. Climate change thus presents an immense challenge to protected areas but also an unparalleled opportunity to shift from managing for static, historical community composition toward managing for dynamic, novel assemblages, thus complementing the traditional individual-species approach with an ecosystem-services approach. In addition, protected areas are well positioned to lead the way in climate change mitigation. Protected area managers can start achieving these goals by strengthening their commitments in climate change research, community outreach, and sustainability.