This study examines the role of risk preferences in explaining the public's willingness to pay for marine turtle conservation in China. Respondents (n = 218) were randomly selected from eight districts in Beijing. They were interviewed in person and participated in a risk experiment. The results show that residents in Beijing had some knowledge about marine turtles. The typical respondent in Beijing is risk averse. We found that the risk preferences of individuals have significant effects on their willingness to pay for marine turtle conservation. Risk taking respondents are more likely to support the marine turtle conservation program. Results also indicate that increases in the bid value, household income levels, years of education and participation in public environmental issues have significant effects on the public's acceptance of marine turtle conservation. The findings of this study can help resource managers and/or policy makers to improve the conservation of marine turtles in China.
Conservation Targets & Planning
Modern zoos and aquariums aspire to contribute significantly to biodiversity conservation and research. For example, conservation research is a key accreditation criterion of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). However, no studies to date have quantified this contribution. We assessed the research productivity of 228 AZA members using scientific publications indexed in the ISI Web of Science (WoS) database between 1993 and 2013 (inclusive). AZA members published 5175 peer-reviewed manuscripts over this period, with publication output increasing over time. Most publications were in the zoology and veterinary science subject areas, and articles classified as “biodiversity conservation” by WoS averaged 7% of total publications annually. From regression analyses, AZA organizations with larger financial assets generally published more, but research-affiliated mission statements were also associated with increased publication output. A strong publication record indicates expertise and expands scientific knowledge, enhancing organizational credibility. Institutions aspiring for higher research productivity likely require a dedicated research focus and adequate institutional support through research funding and staffing. We recommend future work build on our results by exploring links between zoo and aquarium research productivity and conservation outcomes or uptake.
A loss of memory of past environmental degradation has resulted in shifted baselines, which may result in conservation and restoration goals that are less ambitious than if stakeholders had a full knowledge of ecosystem potential. However, the link between perception of baseline states and support for conservation planning has not been tested empirically. Here, we investigate how perceptions of change in coral reef ecosystems affect stakeholders' willingness to pay (WTP) for the establishment of protected areas. Coral reefs are experiencing rapid, global change that is observable by the public, and therefore provide an ideal ecosystem to test links between beliefs about baseline states and willingness to support conservation. Our survey respondents perceived change to coral reef communities across six variables: coral abundance, fish abundance, fish diversity, fish size, sedimentation, and water pollution. Respondants who accurately perceived declines in reef health had significantly higher WTP for protected areas (US $256.80 vs. $102.50 per year), suggesting that shifted baselines may reduce engagement with conservation efforts. If WTP translates to engagement, this suggests that goals for restoration and recovery are likely to be more ambitious if the public is aware of long term change. Therefore, communicating the scope and depth of environmental problems is essential in engaging the public in conservation.
Mangrove forests provide critical services around the globe to both human populations and the ecosystems they occupy. However, losses of mangrove habitat of more than 50% have been recorded in some parts of the world, and these losses are largely attributable to human activities. The importance of mangroves and the threats to their persistence have long been recognized, leading to actions taken locally, by national governments, and through international agreements for their protection. In this review, we explore the status of mangrove forests as well as efforts to protect them. We examine threats to the persistence of mangroves, consequences, and potential solutions for effective conservation. We present case studies from disparate regions of the world, showing that the integration of human livelihood needs in a manner that balances conservation goals can present solutions that could lead to long-term sustainability of mangrove forests throughout the world.
Conservation often focuses on “critical habitat” including areas important for the reproduction of threatened taxa. As for many aquatic species a priority of shark conservation is the protection of nurseries, yet few countries can support the costly fieldwork required to identify these according to strict criteria. Alternative approaches are therefore required where resource, capacity and security constraints exist. This study collates low-resolution data from alternative, remotely collected and inexpensive existing sources (fish market surveys, literature, museums, anecdotal accounts), to evaluate a possible nursery for the regionally Endangered bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) in the Tigris-Euphrates system and adjacent northwestern Persian/Arabian Gulf (Iraq, Iran, Kuwait), a data-poor area long characterised by conflict and inaccessibility. Evidence is presented that aligns with two of the three nursery definition criteria (abundance and repeated use), along with other data supporting known C. leucas reproductive behaviour. While the necessarily low resolution data cannot answer the full suite of strict nursery criteria nor identify precise nursery locations, they nevertheless collectively provide compelling evidence for a broad area of importance to young and juvenile C. leucas. This area is both highly threatened (e.g. by damming, climate change, fisheries) and of potential major significance, given the apparent absence of similar estuary habitat for thousands of kilometres of arid northwestern Indian Ocean coast. The inexpensive desk-based approach to identifying critical habitat provides another toolkit option for conservationists and could best be applied to distinctive threatened aquatic taxa, especially in the developing world where conservation is often resource-limited.
The siting of protected areas to achieve management and conservation objectives draws heavily on biogeographic concepts of the spatial distribution and connectivity of species. However, the marine protected area (MPA) literature rarely acknowledges how biogeographic theories underpin MPA and MPA network design. We review which theories from biogeography have been incorporated into marine spatial planning and which relevant concepts have yet to be translated to inform the next generation of design principles. This biogeographic perspective will only become more relevant as climate change amplifies these spatial and temporal dynamics, and as species begin to shift in and out of existing MPAs. The scale of climate velocities predicted for the 21st century dwarfs all but the largest MPAs currently in place, raising the possibility that in coming decades many MPAs will no longer contain the species or assemblages they were established to protect. We present a number of design elements that could improve the success of MPAs and MPA networks in light of biogeographic processes and climate change. Biogeographically informed MPA networks of the future may resemble the habitat corridors currently being considered for many terrestrial regions.
Species invasions often occur at geographic scales that preclude complete eradication, setting up long-term battles for population control. To understand the extent to which exotic species removal by volunteers can contribute to local invasion suppression and alleviate invasion effects, we studied the activities of volunteers culling invasive lionfish during annual “derby” events in the Atlantic. From 2012 to 2014, single-day derbies reduced lionfish densities by 52% over 192 km2 on average each year. Differences in recolonization and productivity between regions meant that annual events were sufficient to suppress the invasion below levels predicted to cause declines in native species in one region, but not the other. Population reduction was not related to catch per unit effort, confirming the importance of in situ monitoring to gauge control effectiveness. Culling by volunteers may be a useful tool in areas where exotic species are easily identified and safely captured, and culling can be promoted as an ongoing recreational activity. Strategically guiding volunteer effort toward sensitive or underserved habitats could aid practitioners in optimizing their use of limited resources for invasion management.
Flagship species are widely used in conservation to raise awareness and funds, and recent observational research suggests that less popular species can be marketed to increase support for their conservation. Using two species groups, sharks and dolphins, this paper experimentally investigates whether stated conservation preferences can shift from more charismatic species to those not typically considered as flagship species. Although universal appeal is considered a desirable trait for flagship species, there are individual differences in preferences for species. Therefore, this paper also investigates the role of individual demographic and attitudinal differences on choices, as these may impact the success of conservation marketing. Using discrete choice experiments, six forced choice sets of two species were presented to 168 participants, with species shown and the amount of information presented about each one varied. Demographic differences between participants was found to affect donating behavior: individuals with more positive attitudes to sharks were more likely to donate to shark conservation, as are individuals with a biology background. However, it was found that individual choices can also be shifted through the provision of additional information. Participants chose to conserve species with more information, whether the two species in the choice set were both sharks, both dolphins, or a shark and a dolphin. When equal amounts of information were provided about two species, potential donors preferred the more endangered species. This research suggests that by selecting appropriate populations to target for marketing, even less charismatic species can be used as flagship species and attract potential donors.
Understanding cumulative effects of multiple threats is key to guiding effective management to conserve endangered species. The critically endangered, Southern Resident killer whale population of the northeastern Pacific Ocean provides a data-rich case to explore anthropogenic threats on population viability. Primary threats include: limitation of preferred prey, Chinook salmon; anthropogenic noise and disturbance, which reduce foraging efficiency; and high levels of stored contaminants, including PCBs. We constructed a population viability analysis to explore possible demographic trajectories and the relative importance of anthropogenic stressors. The population is fragile, with no growth projected under current conditions, and decline expected if new or increased threats are imposed. Improvements in fecundity and calf survival are needed to reach a conservation objective of 2.3% annual population growth. Prey limitation is the most important factor affecting population growth. However, to meet recovery targets through prey management alone, Chinook abundance would have to be sustained near the highest levels since the 1970s. The most optimistic mitigation of noise and contaminants would make the difference between a declining and increasing population, but would be insufficient to reach recovery targets. Reducing acoustic disturbance by 50% combined with increasing Chinook by 15% would allow the population to reach 2.3% growth.
Environmental and anthropogenic factors often drive population declines in top predators, but how their influences may combine remains unclear. Albatrosses are particularly threatened. They breed in fast-changing environments, and their extensive foraging ranges expose them to incidental mortality (bycatch) in multiple fisheries. The albatross community at South Georgia includes globally important populations of three species that have declined by 40–60% over the last 35 years. We used three steps to deeply understand the drivers of such dramatic changes: (i) describe fundamental demographic rates using multievent models, (ii) determine demographic drivers of population growth using matrix models, and (iii) identify environmental and anthropogenic drivers using ANOVAs. Each species was affected by different processes and threats in their foraging areas during the breeding and nonbreeding seasons. There was evidence for two kinds of combined environmental and anthropogenic effects. The first was sequential; in wandering and black-browed albatrosses, high levels of bycatch have reduced juvenile and adult survival, then increased temperature, reduced sea-ice cover, and stronger winds are affecting the population recovery potential. The second was additive; in gray-headed albatrosses, not only did bycatch impact adult survival but also this impact was exacerbated by lower food availability in years following El Niño events. This emphasizes the need for much improved implementation of mitigation measures in fisheries and better enforcement of compliance. We hope our results not only help focus future management actions for these populations but also demonstrate the power of the modelling approach for assessing impacts of environmental and anthropogenic drivers in wild animal populations.