• A call to action for climate change research on Caribbean dry forests

      Nelson, Howard P.; Devenish-Nelson, Eleanor S.; Rusk, Bonnie L.; Geary, Matthew; Lawrence, Andrew J.; Department of Biological Sciences, University of Chester; Grenada Dove Conservation Programme, St. Georges, Grenada (Springer, 2018-04-20)
      Tropical dry forest (TDF) is globally one of the most threatened forest types. In the insular Caribbean, limited land area and high population pressure have resulted in the loss of over 60% of TDF, yet local people’s reliance on these systems for ecosystem services is high. Given the sensitivity of TDF to shifts in precipitation regimes and the vulnerability of the Caribbean to climate change, this study examined what is currently known about the impacts of climate change on TDF in the region. A systematic review (n = 89) revealed that only two studies addressed the ecological response of TDF to climate change. Compared to the rapidly increasing knowledge of the effects of climate change on other Caribbean systems and on TDF in the wider neotropics, this paucity is alarming given the value of these forests. We stress the need for long-term monitoring of climate change responses of these critical ecosystems, including phenological and hotspot analyses as priorities.
    • 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.