Posted on 28 January 2019
View of Grand Bois Mountain, Haiti, during an expedition in 2013. Photo by Sarah Hanson.
In a first for Haiti, a mountain in the southwest of the country has been purchased on January 18th to preserve some of the last original forest and rare species threatened with extinction. Approximately 500 hectares (2 square miles) of Morne Grand Bois, including the highest areas, were purchased by Société Audubon Haiti for Haiti National Trust. "This is a new approach to conservation in Haiti that we think will work" says Haitian businessman Philippe Bayard, the CEO of both non-profit organizations.
There are at least 68 species of vertebrates on Grand Bois including some found nowhere else in the world, and plants and animals previously thought to be extinct, such as Ekman's Magnolia tree and the Tiburon Stream Frog. A first step in managing Grand Bois, already started, involved creating a nursery for the magnolia trees, with technical assistance from Fundacion Progressio, an NGO in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
"The native species of plants and animals in Haiti need greater protection," says Professor S. Blair Hedges, director of the Center for Biodiversity at Temple University in Philadelphia. Hedges has been surveying, with helicopter, the last remaining tracts of Haiti's original forests before they disappear. In November, he and his team reported, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that Haiti has less than 1% of its original primary forest and is going through a mass extinction of biodiversity. However, they identified a few remaining biodiversity 'hot spots' where original forests and their species still exist, including Grand Bois.
During the last decade, Hedges and Bayard worked together to raise public awareness about Haiti's disappearing species through videos, brochures, public lectures, and a documentary film. Their collaboration led to the recent creation of Haiti National Trust. With funding from two non-profit organizations based in the United States, Global Wildlife Conservation and Rainforest Trust, Haiti National Trust was able to purchase and begin management of Grand Bois.
"Besides acquiring land for conservation, we look forward to working alongside the Haitian government in managing protected areas already established on public land" says Bayard. "Forests are disappearing from our national parks, and that is a tragedy that can be stopped. Land and soil are resources that cannot be easily created and the original forests and habitats are irreplaceable. Besides saving species, protection of the forests will preserve ecosystem services such as soil, clean water, clean air and flood control, benefitting the Haitian people. In the case of Grand Bois, these communities extend along all the waters that originate in the rainforest and flow to the sea."
Morne Grand Bois is found in Haiti's Massif de la Hotte mountain range, the highest priority conservation area in the country and one of the most important areas for amphibians in the world. Because 19 species of amphibians here are critically endangered, the Massif de la Hotte is an Alliance for Zero Extinction site and also a Key Biodiversity Area, which is a nationally identified region of global significance.
In addition to his research and conservation work in Haiti, Hedges has collaborated with the Philadelphia Zoo to keep alive and/or captively breed the most endangered frog species still found in the country.
Posted on 29 October 2018
A deforested mountain in the Haitian Chaîne de Matheux. Image courtesy of S. Blair Hedges.
Temple University, College of Science and Technology (Press Release)
Loss of more than 99 percent of primary, virgin forests in Haiti is triggering an ongoing mass extinction of reptiles, amphibians, and other species.
Read the full article here: EurekaAlert
Posted on 7 February 2018
Scientists have long debated why some regions of the Earth, such as the tropics, have more species than other regions. Now an international team has, for the first time, tested all of the major hypotheses simultaneously and come up with an answer—time. In other words, groups of organisms that have occupied areas longer have more species because they have had more time to produce them. This conclusion goes against the prevailing thought in the fields of ecology and evolution that ecological factors—such as the interactions of species and their environment—primarily determine the diversity and distribution of species around the globe.
“Previous studies usually focus on one or two explanations” said Julie Marin, Research Assistant Professor at Temple University’s Center for Biodiversity and lead author of the work just published online in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B. “We found that the simplest explanation—time—was the winner when we evaluated the relative contribution of all of the previous suggested explanations, using data from 27,000 species of terrestrial vertebrates such as mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians.”
Although time is a simple concept, it is difficult information to obtain because the vast majority of species have no fossil record. Instead, these researchers used ‘timetrees,’ which are evolutionary trees scaled to geologic time, built from DNA sequence data. “Timetrees are accelerating research in many areas including this one,” said Blair Hedges, Carnell Professor and Director of the Center for Biodiversity at Temple University. “With these important data we could directly test the time hypothesis against the others.”
The researchers used statistical tests called ‘structural equation models’ to evaluate all of the different explanations at the same time. In the past, authors have suggested that speciation speeds up and slows down depending on ecological factors, leading to geographic differences in the number of species. Other authors have invoked dispersal, the movement of species from one region to another, as influencing species diversity. However, neither speciation rate nor dispersal were found to be as important as time in determining species diversity.
“Although time was the most important driver in explaining patterns of species diversity in terrestrial vertebrates, speciation rate and the indirect effects of ecological and environmental factors also were contributing factors,” said Marin.
The team included other researchers from Temple University (Matthew R. Helmus, Jocelyn E. Behm), and from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Thomas M. Brooks), NatureServe (Giovanni Rapacciuolo, Bruce Young), Auburn University (Gabriel Costa), University of Wisconsin (Volker C. Radeloff), and Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscape (Catherine H. Graham).
Posted on 27 July 2017
Professor Hedges was invited to Oxford’s Bodleian Library in May to study the biology of a 900-year old book in pristine condition, along with other scientists and scholars. Some results were reported at the meeting and a news article on the event appeared in Science, with a video and podcast.
Posted on 22 October 2016
New images of destruction from Hurricane Matthew in southwest Haiti taken by the Haiti National Trust team.
On Monday (17 October) they flew over southwest Haiti to survey hurricane damage to the communities surrounding Grand Bois National Park, and took these images showing flooding still affecting communities in the region, with fallen trees and others stripped of leaves. The eye of the hurricane passed through this region where we work. Photos taken along the road near Port Salut also show the impact of the storm, with overturned cars and destroyed houses. Clearly many people in this area were affected and are without housing.
We can help rebuild permanent housing for members of the Grand Bois community who were displaced by the hurricane, with help from your donations.
Editor – S. Blair Hedges
Assistant Editor – Adrienne Kasprowicz