Nav: Home

Bargain-hunting for biodiversity

March 16, 2020

KNOXVILLE --The best bargains for conserving some of the world's most vulnerable salamanders and other vertebrate species can be found in Central Texas and the Appalachians, according to new conservation tools developed at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

The study involves a suite of computer algorithms that surf across many different kinds of data to create maps of top priorities and projections of what species would benefit the most from increases in conservation dollars.

An interdisciplinary team of computer programmers, biodiversity data scientists, conservation decision makers, economists, and others from around the globe convened at NIMBioS to develop the optimization tool, which was published in the journal Ecological Applications.

Determining where the best protection payoffs are to be found has traditionally been a challenge for conservation, especially when budgets are stretched thin.

"The challenge for conservation practitioners is how to best combine many really disparate kinds of data and do so in a way that lets them compare possible options for protection--the goal being to find opportunities where conservation efforts offer the greatest bang for the buck," said the study's lead author, UT Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Paul Armsworth.

The algorithm considers data including land acquisition costs, future development patterns, budget allocations for conservation, and the presence of threatened species.

The new approach could prove valuable to conservation and natural resource managers looking to optimize conservation dollars.

"It's basically a giant bargain-hunting formula for biodiversity conservation," said Joe Fargione, science director for the North American region at the Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization. "The authors are finding important bargains--places where the most good for the most species can be done, sometimes at very low cost."

When comparing many possible scenarios and models, the researchers found that some priority areas for protection arose repeatedly. In the United States, those appeared to be in counties around Austin, Texas, and parts of the southern Appalachians.

The unique geology and complex groundwater systems around Austin provide habitats for highly specialized species. Many salamander species found there occur nowhere else in the world, with some receiving protection under the US Endangered Species Act because of their vulnerability to extinction.

The ancient mountains of southern Appalachian Mountains provided a refuge for species through past Ice Ages. The rich topography and diversity of habitats in the region provide a global hotspot for many different groups of species.

"Both areas offer very good deals if you only have a limited budget to work with and are trying to protect vulnerable species. Adding more protection into these places wouldn't be too expensive. And these habitats could be in trouble in the future if additional protection isn't undertaken," Armsworth said.
-end-
The National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis is a National Science Foundation-supported center that brings together researchers from around the world to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries to investigate solutions to basic and applied problems in the life sciences. NIMBioS is supported through NSF Award #DBI-1300426 with additional support from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

CONTACT:

Catherine Crawley, NIMBioS, 865-974-9350, ccrawley@nimbios.org

Paul Armsworth, UT, 865-974-9748, p.armsworth@utk.edu

National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)

Related Conservation Articles:

Environmental groups moving beyond conservation
Although non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have become powerful voices in world environmental politics, little is known of the global picture of this sector.
Hunting for the next generation of conservation stewards
Wildlife ecology students become the professionals responsible for managing the biodiversity of natural systems for species conservation.
Conservation research on lynx
Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes.
New 'umbrella' species would massively improve conservation
The protection of Australia's threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient 'umbrella' species were prioritised for protection, according to University of Queensland research.
Trashed farmland could be a conservation treasure
Low-productivity agricultural land could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserve across the world, according to University of Queensland-led research.
Bats in attics might be necessary for conservation
Researchers investigate and describe the conservation importance of buildings relative to natural, alternative roosts for little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park.
Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.
Making conservation 'contagious'
New research reveals conservation initiatives often spread like disease, a fact which can help scientists and policymakers design programs more likely to be taken up.
Helping conservation initiatives turn contagious
New research shows that conservation initiatives go viral, which helps scientists and policymakers better design successful programs more likely to be adopted.
Overturning the truth on conservation tillage
Conservation tillage does not lower yield in modern cropping systems.
More Conservation News and Conservation Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#569 Facing Fear
What do you fear? I mean really fear? Well, ok, maybe right now that's tough. We're living in a new age and definition of fear. But what do we do about it? Eva Holland has faced her fears, including trauma and phobia. She lived to tell the tale and write a book: "Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.