Satellite images help species conservation

Nov 17, 2011
This is a male Mayotte Chameleon (Furcifer polleni), endemic to the island of Mayotte, Comoros. Credit: Oliver Hawlitschek 2010.

Organisms living on small islands are particularly threatened by extinction. However, data are often lacking to objectively assess these threats. A team of German and British researchers used satellite imagery to assess the conservation status of endangered reptiles and amphibians of the Comoro archipelago in the Western Indian Ocean. The researchers used their results to point out which species are most threatened and to define priorities for future protected areas. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

A typical problem in species conservation efforts, particularly in , is the lack of information on the extent of suitable habitat available for threatened species. "The analysis of allows us to precisely estimate the remaining extent of rainforest and other natural habitats," says Oliver Hawlitschek from the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology. This approach has rarely been used in species conservation, and this is the first time that it is applied to all species of a group in an entire country.

This is an Anjouan Day Gecko (Phelsuma v-nigra anjouanensis), endemic to the island of Anjouan. It also inhabits human-modified habitats. Credit: Frank Glaw 2010.

In addition to their analyses, the researchers conducted intensive field surveys in order to detect the habitat preferences of the reptiles. "We found that only 9% of the island area is still covered by , but many native species have adapted to habitats under like orchards, plantations, and gardens", Hawlitschek says. "Those species which are dependent on the remaining natural habitats are the ones most threatened by extinction".

This research was conducted in collaboration with Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation's (BCSF) project in the Comoros. "This collaboration has provided an exciting piece of research for the Comoros. Our project will be using this knowledge and data in combination with our research on birds, reptiles, butterflies, and species of conservation importance to guide our conservation actions which are working towards protecting the remaining forests and threatened species of Anjouan", says Katie Green, Head of Ecological Research and Monitoring, BCSF.

Today, rainforests on the Comoros are largely restricted to higher mountains. Credit: Oliver Hawlitschek 2010.

The researchers chose the Comoros as a case study for their methodology because, in relation to large islands like neighbouring Madagascar or continental regions, these islands cover little area and are inhabited by a limited number of species. However, they hope that their methods will also be applied to other areas, where more threatened species are concerned. " are destroyed at a fast pace in many regions of the world", says Frank Glaw, herpetologist at the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology. "We therefore need tools to assess quickly and objectively where we have to set our priorities in species conservation, especially for endemic to small islands which are particularly vulnerable to extinction."

Explore further: Japan to hunt fewer whales in Pacific this season (Update)

More information: Hawlitschek O, Brückmann B, Berger J, Green K, Glaw F (2011) Integrating field surveys and remote sensing data to study distribution, habitat use and conservation status of the herpetofauna of the Comoro Islands. ZooKeys 144: 21 doi: 10.3897/zookeys.144.1648

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Extinction alert issued for 800 species

Dec 13, 2005

Conservation and environmental groups have compiled a list of nearly 800 species they say face imminent extinction. Most of the threatened species are found mainly in tropical areas, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Red List overlooks island species

Jul 24, 2009

The criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s Red List are an essential tool for evaluating the conservation status of species around the planet, and according to these criteria ...

Dolphin conservationists save tigers in Bangladesh

Aug 05, 2011

A team of young Bangladeshi conservationists supported by the Conservation Leadership Program and Save Our Species have stopped a fire raging across an area of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, threatening species ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

8 hours ago

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

18 hours ago

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Researchers develop new model of cellular movement

(Phys.org) —Cell movement plays an important role in a host of biological functions from embryonic development to repairing wounded tissue. It also enables cancer cells to break free from their sites of ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...