New Zealand forests still threatened, but not THAT threatened

February 8, 2011

Last week Conservation International published its list of the world’s ten most threatened forest hotspots, where biodiversity and endemism is high and less than 10% of the original habitat is remaining.  New Zealand was, somewhat shockingly, number 2 on their list.  I must admit I thought this was a little odd – especially as their list claims we have only 5% of our forest (which is listed as tropical and subtropical broadleaf forest) remaining – and well, it turns out the folks at Conservation International were a little confused.

Apparently New Zealand was confused with New Caledonia, and is actually ranked number 22 on the list, with 22% of its original forest cover remaining.  Easy mistake to make, I guess (although the folks over at Kiwiblog of course think its all a big conspiracy of the part of the Greens).

So its not quite as alarming as we thought, but this is no reason to be complacent about the state of our forests.  A timely bit of research published online in the journal Science last week shows how even small changes in the makeup of our forests, like extinction of one or two key species, can have a cascading effect on biodiversity.  I’m not sure that it matters whether we are number 2 or 22 on Conservation International’s list, when we still have one of the worst records of biodiversity loss in the world.

Cheetah genetic diversity revisited

February 4, 2011

Another chapter has been added to the story of genetic variation in the cheetah, with a paper out in next month’s Molecular Biology and Evolution journal giving a detailed description of variation at key immune genes in the species.  I first became familiar with the cheetah story as a PhD student when I was studying genetic diversity in the black robin.  At the time the cheetah was something of a poster child for the perils of low genetic variation, but this most recent paper suggests that their immune system is not as genetically invariant as first thought, and they may not be so vulnerable to disease after all. Read the rest of this entry »