• A novel method to optimise the utility of underused moulted plumulaceous feather samples for genetic analysis in bird conservation.

      Peters, Catherine; Nelson, Howard; Rusk, Bonnie; Muir, Anna P.; Rusk, Bonnie L.; University of Chester (Springer, 2019-10-24)
      Non-invasive sampling methods are increasingly being used in conservation research as they reduce or eliminate the stress and disturbance resulting from invasive sampling of blood or tissue. Here we present a protocol optimised for obtaining usable genetic material from moulted plumulaceous feather samples. The combination of simple alterations to a ‘user-developed’ method, comprised of increased incubation time and modification of temperature and volume of DNA elution buffer, are outlined to increase DNA yield and significantly increase DNA concentration (W = 81, p <0.01, Cohens’s d= 0.89). We also demonstrate that the use of a primerless Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technique increases DNA quality and amplification success when used prior to PCR reactions targeting avian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). A small amplicon strategy proved effective for mtDNA amplification using PCR, targeting three overlapping 314-359bp regions of the cytochrome oxidase I barcoding region which, when combined, aligned with target-species reference sequences. We provide evidence that samples collected non-invasively in the field and kept in non-optimal conditions for DNA extraction can be used effectively to sequence a 650bp region of mtDNA for genetic analysis.
    • A review of tropical dry forest ecosystem service research in the Caribbean – gaps and policy-implications

      Nelson, Howard; Devenish-Nelson, Eleanor; Rusk, Bonnie; Geary, Matthew; Lawrence, Andrew; University of Chester;University of Edinburgh; Grenada Dove Conservation Programme
      Tropical dry forests (TDFs) are globally threatened, yet remain poorly studied. In the Caribbean, the most biodiverse of island biodiversity hotspots, TDFs have structural properties distinct from the Neotropical mainland and are important to local communities for ecosystem services. We undertook a systematic review (n = 186) of ecosystem services literature of Caribbean TDF. Only 19.89% qualified for inclusion, with the majority (56.76%) from primary literature. Research on supporting services (31.14%), particularly primary production was predominant. Most studies (70.97%) took a biophysical perspective and quantification focused on the supply of ecosystem services (43.00%), while measurement of wellbeing benefits were uncommon. Geographic coverage of all studies was patchy originating from only nine of 28 independent countries and dependent territories. Our findings highlight a lack of research, while accentuating the value of grey literature in quantifying cultural services. Of concern, are gaps in air- and water-related services and the importance of TDF to human health. To move from biophysical assessments to a broader portfolio of ecosystem services studies, research on Caribbean TDF should be collaborative and strategic. Such gaps and research biases suggest opportunities for evidence-led policy-making. These lessons are relevant for mainstreaming ecosystem services into decision-making in Small Island Developing States.