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      Rapid forest clearing in a Myanmar proposed national park threatens two newly discovered species of geckos (Gekkonidae: Cyrtodactylus)

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          Abstract

          Myanmar’s recent transition from military rule towards a more democratic government has largely ended decades of political and economic isolation. Although Myanmar remains heavily forested, increased development in recent years has been accompanied by exceptionally high rates of forest loss. In this study, we document the rapid progression of deforestation in and around the proposed Lenya National Park, which includes some of the largest remaining areas of lowland evergreen rainforest in mainland Southeast Asia. The globally unique forests in this area are rich in biodiversity and remain a critical stronghold for many threatened and endangered species, including large charismatic fauna such as tiger and Asian elephant. We also conducted a rapid assessment survey of the herpetofauna of the proposed national park, which resulted in the discovery of two new species of bent-toed geckos, genus Cyrtodactylus. We describe these new species, C. lenya sp. nov. and C. payarhtanensis sp. nov., which were found in association with karst (i.e., limestone) rock formations within mature lowland wet evergreen forest. The two species were discovered less than 35 km apart and are each known from only a single locality. Because of the isolated nature of the karst formations in the proposed Lenya National Park, these geckos likely have geographical ranges restricted to the proposed protected area and are threatened by approaching deforestation. Although lowland evergreen rainforest has vanished from most of continental Southeast Asia, Myanmar can still take decisive action to preserve one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.

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          Most cited references 52

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          Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100.

          Scenarios of changes in biodiversity for the year 2100 can now be developed based on scenarios of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide, climate, vegetation, and land use and the known sensitivity of biodiversity to these changes. This study identified a ranking of the importance of drivers of change, a ranking of the biomes with respect to expected changes, and the major sources of uncertainties. For terrestrial ecosystems, land-use change probably will have the largest effect, followed by climate change, nitrogen deposition, biotic exchange, and elevated carbon dioxide concentration. For freshwater ecosystems, biotic exchange is much more important. Mediterranean climate and grassland ecosystems likely will experience the greatest proportional change in biodiversity because of the substantial influence of all drivers of biodiversity change. Northern temperate ecosystems are estimated to experience the least biodiversity change because major land-use change has already occurred. Plausible changes in biodiversity in other biomes depend on interactions among the causes of biodiversity change. These interactions represent one of the largest uncertainties in projections of future biodiversity change.
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            Primary forests are irreplaceable for sustaining tropical biodiversity.

            Human-driven land-use changes increasingly threaten biodiversity, particularly in tropical forests where both species diversity and human pressures on natural environments are high. The rapid conversion of tropical forests for agriculture, timber production and other uses has generated vast, human-dominated landscapes with potentially dire consequences for tropical biodiversity. Today, few truly undisturbed tropical forests exist, whereas those degraded by repeated logging and fires, as well as secondary and plantation forests, are rapidly expanding. Here we provide a global assessment of the impact of disturbance and land conversion on biodiversity in tropical forests using a meta-analysis of 138 studies. We analysed 2,220 pairwise comparisons of biodiversity values in primary forests (with little or no human disturbance) and disturbed forests. We found that biodiversity values were substantially lower in degraded forests, but that this varied considerably by geographic region, taxonomic group, ecological metric and disturbance type. Even after partly accounting for confounding colonization and succession effects due to the composition of surrounding habitats, isolation and time since disturbance, we find that most forms of forest degradation have an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on tropical biodiversity. Our results clearly indicate that when it comes to maintaining tropical biodiversity, there is no substitute for primary forests.
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              Determination of tropical deforestation rates and related carbon losses from 1990 to 2010

              We estimate changes in forest cover (deforestation and forest regrowth) in the tropics for the two last decades (1990–2000 and 2000–2010) based on a sample of 4000 units of 10 ×10 km size. Forest cover is interpreted from satellite imagery at 30 × 30 m resolution. Forest cover changes are then combined with pan-tropical biomass maps to estimate carbon losses. We show that there was a gross loss of tropical forests of 8.0 million ha yr−1 in the 1990s and 7.6 million ha yr−1 in the 2000s (0.49% annual rate), with no statistically significant difference. Humid forests account for 64% of the total forest cover in 2010 and 54% of the net forest loss during second study decade. Losses of forest cover and Other Wooded Land (OWL) cover result in estimates of carbon losses which are similar for 1990s and 2000s at 887 MtC yr−1 (range: 646–1238) and 880 MtC yr−1 (range: 602–1237) respectively, with humid regions contributing two-thirds. The estimates of forest area changes have small statistical standard errors due to large sample size. We also reduce uncertainties of previous estimates of carbon losses and removals. Our estimates of forest area change are significantly lower as compared to national survey data. We reconcile recent low estimates of carbon emissions from tropical deforestation for early 2000s and show that carbon loss rates did not change between the two last decades. Carbon losses from deforestation represent circa 10% of Carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production during the last decade (2000–2010). Our estimates of annual removals of carbon from forest regrowth at 115 MtC yr−1 (range: 61–168) and 97 MtC yr−1 (53–141) for the 1990s and 2000s respectively are five to fifteen times lower than earlier published estimates.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                12 April 2017
                2017
                : 12
                : 4
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Front Royal, Virginia, United States of America
                [2 ]Fauna & Flora International, San Chaung Township, Yangon, Myanmar
                [3 ]Myanmar Environment & Sustainable Conservation Co., LTD (MESC), Yangon, Myanmar
                [4 ]Department of Vertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., United States of America
                [5 ]Global Genome Initiative (GGI), National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., United States of America
                Chinese Academy of Forestry, CHINA
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                • Conceptualization: GMC KJLC DGM.

                • Formal analysis: PO DGM GMC GRZ.

                • Funding acquisition: MS MEG.

                • Investigation: DGM MKT GMC KJLC.

                • Project administration: MS MEG.

                • Visualization: GMC DGM.

                • Writing – original draft: GMC DGM GRZ.

                • Writing – review & editing: GMC DGM GRZ KJLC MEG.

                Article
                PONE-D-16-43141
                10.1371/journal.pone.0174432
                5389631
                28403189

                This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

                Page count
                Figures: 6, Tables: 2, Pages: 18
                Product
                Funding
                Funded by: Smithsonian Institution's Global Genome Initiative
                Funded by: European Union
                Funded by: Segre Conservation Foundation
                Funded by: Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
                The Smithsonian Institution's Global Genome Initiative (GGI) provided funding for the molecular lab work. Funding for international travel was provided by an award to Smithsonian Institution from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. In-country expenses for field surveys were made possible through grants to Fauna and Flora International from the European Union, Segre Conservation Foundation, and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. This included salary support for MKT of the Myanmar Environment & Sustainable Conservation Co., LTD (MESC), which is an environmental consulting firm specializing in biodiversity surveys in Myanmar. The funders did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of authors are articulated in the 'author contributions' section. Fauna and Flora International is a non-governmental organization based in the United Kingdom and had no commercial interest in this study.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Ecology
                Ecosystems
                Forests
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Ecology
                Ecosystems
                Forests
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Terrestrial Environments
                Forests
                People and Places
                Geographical Locations
                Asia
                Myanmar
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Taxonomy
                New Species Reports
                Computer and Information Sciences
                Data Management
                Taxonomy
                New Species Reports
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Conservation Science
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Ecology
                Biodiversity
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Ecology
                Biodiversity
                People and Places
                Geographical Locations
                Asia
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Agriculture
                Agroecology
                Agroforests
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Ecology
                Agroecology
                Agroforests
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Ecology
                Agroecology
                Agroforests
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                Agriculture
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                Agroforests
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                Biology and Life Sciences
                Zoology
                Animal Types
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                Custom metadata
                All specimens may be accessed by other researchers at the Smithsonian Institution's United States National Museum (specimen numbers: 587408–587411, 587788–587789, 587791–587792) and the California Academy of Sciences (specimen numbers: 260232–260233). Sequences generated for this study were deposited in GenBank under the accession numbers KY041652–KY041668, and COI sequences included original trace files and metadata in order to receive the keyword "barcode" in GenBank and were also submitted to the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD: MYARC001-16 to MYARC010-16).

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