AboutZoos, Since 2008


Guid­ance for con­ser­va­tion in Cen­tral Africa with roadmap for using evo­lu­tion­ary research and education

pub­lished 08 Feb­ru­ary 2015 | mod­i­fied 08 Feb­ru­ary 2015

Researchers from Africa, North Amer­ica and Europe have pub­lished a road map on how future evo­lu­tion­ary research and edu­ca­tion efforts in Cen­tral African forests can guide con­ser­va­tion strate­gies and actions.

A newly pub­lished arti­cle authored by sci­en­tists from the Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy of Masuku (USTM), The Uni­ver­sity of New Orleans, the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Soci­ety, and other groups out­lines a series of sci­en­tific and edu­ca­tion pri­or­i­ties for the region. The review, pub­lished in the Jan­u­ary issue of the jour­nal Biotrop­ica,is the result of a 2011 inter­na­tional work­shop held at USTM in Gabon to explore a num­ber of ques­tions on the con­ser­va­tion chal­lenges faced by the region.

The forests of cen­tral Africa are one of the most impor­tant global cen­ters of trop­i­cal bio­di­ver­sity but face increas­ing pres­sure from log­ging, min­ing, agri­cul­tural devel­op­ment and pro­jected cli­mate change. Among the ques­tions addressed by the authors of the study are: where are the great­est gaps in our under­stand­ing of the bio­di­ver­sity in these forests? What dri­ves pat­terns of species diver­sity across the region? Can we make pre­dic­tions about species’ capac­ity to react to present and future envi­ron­men­tal changes?

Novel meth­ods to sequence the entire genome of organ­isms are also open­ing new doors in bio­di­ver­sity research, enabling researchers to study genetic adap­ta­tion in ways that were never pos­si­ble before.
Dr. Nicola Anthony, lead author, Uni­ver­sity of New Orleans »

Although rarely placed at the fore­front of con­ser­va­tion, pre­serv­ing the nat­ural processes that give rise to evo­lu­tion­ary change is a fun­da­men­tal strat­egy for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion,” said Anthony.

Rec­om­men­da­tions from this meet­ing came out of six major work­ing group doc­u­ments that examined:

What bio­di­ver­sity exists and how sci­en­tists can best doc­u­ment it?

What causes evo­lu­tion­ary diver­si­fi­ca­tion?

How do researchers mon­i­tor envi­ron­men­tal change and why is this impor­tant?

How can evo­lu­tion­ary tools be used to under­stand com­mu­nity and ecosystem-​level processes?

What do sci­en­tists know of evo­lu­tion­ary epi­demi­ol­ogy?

What are the needs and pri­or­i­ties for higher edu­ca­tion in the region?

Sev­eral major wide-​ranging pri­or­i­ties were clear. First, more efforts are needed to sur­vey and sam­ple areas that have tra­di­tion­ally received lit­tle atten­tion, espe­cially in the inte­rior of the Congo basin. Efforts are also needed to build larger, more com­par­a­tive datasets and boost exper­tise in tax­o­nomic groups that remain poorly understood.

Sec­ondly, novel genetic meth­ods should be employed to bet­ter under­stand the his­tory and evo­lu­tion of the region’s bio­di­ver­sity. These same tools can also be used to assess how ani­mal and plant pop­u­la­tion may be able to respond to cur­rent and future threats. Stan­dard­ized mon­i­tor­ing pro­grams can also be used in con­cert with these meth­ods to track impacts of envi­ron­men­tal change and develop appro­pri­ate response strate­gies, par­tic­u­larly impor­tant for trop­i­cal species likely to be affected by cli­mate change.

Lastly, while insti­tu­tions of higher edu­ca­tion across the region face con­sid­er­able chal­lenges, they are ide­ally posi­tioned to play a piv­otal role in train­ing the region’s next gen­er­a­tion of bio­di­ver­sity sci­en­tists. Expand­ing train­ing to meet national pri­or­i­ties in nat­ural resource man­age­ment, assess­ing the legacy and impact of exter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tion and focus­ing invest­ment in bet­ter cyber-​infrastructure and pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment were also iden­ti­fied as impor­tant pri­or­i­ties for the future.

The main­te­nance of national, high-​level con­ser­va­tion sci­ence train­ing, and long-​term mon­i­tor­ing of wildlife and threats is essen­tial for main­tain­ing Cen­tral Africa’s vast, unique, and in many places largely intact wild places” says Dr Fiona Maisels, a co-​author and WCS con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist who worked in the region for over two decades. “Ongo­ing finan­cial and resources com­mit­ments from the Cen­tral African nations and the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity are vital to ensure that suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tions of African sci­en­tists are trained, funded, and employed in the field of wildlife conservation”.

(Source: WCS press release, 06.02.2015)

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Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.

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