In wake of 'super typhoon,' researchers return to Philippines

Thursday, April 24, 2014

PhilippinesIn November 2013, as Super Typhoon Haiyan produced landfall in the Philippines with the highest-ever recorded wind speed for a Category 5 tropical cyclone, it wreaked near complete devastation for miles. The expense was dear for each humans and wildlife.

Rafe Brown, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas, already had spent years researching biodiversity in the country. He said watching the Tv coverage of Haiyan was "one particular of the most profoundly saddest events in my life."

"The death toll was so high, the calculations of loss of life so obviously underestimated—it was like the international disaster relief neighborhood had no notion what they had to deal with," Brown stated. "A important metropolitan location and university town exactly where I had spent several fine days interacting with colleagues and students —Tacloban City—had been reduced completely to rubble. And the devastation in more far-flung regions of the archipelago was totally unknown. I found myself asking yourself: What about all these forests? What happened to the sites we had surveyed in the last 5 years? Had been the locations exactly where we established survey transects flattened absolutely? What species nevertheless remained in the most devastated forests?"

Mainly because Brown, who also serves as curator-in-charge of the Herpetology Division at KU's Biodiversity Institute, had compiled such an in depth record of biodiversity in the Philippines by way of prior investigations, he realized he could be of aid to the nation and the scientific neighborhood if he have been able to characterize the extent of Haiyan's toll on wildlife in the location. Now, he has secured a one particular-year, $125,000 award from the National Science Foundation, a grant designed to address a distinct need of higher urgency in a rapid time frame.

"A number of of the locations we have surveyed prior to the typhoon are viewed as specifically biodiverse, with higher numbers of mammal species, birds, amphibians and reptiles," mentioned Brown. "We now have to have an immediate 'after' glimpse of the diversity ideal after the storm. Our project is aimed at delivering that picture of the aftermath…such that followup research can be conducted at 5, ten and possibly 15 or 20 years from now, to document how recovery transpires in these all-natural systems."

Brown, along with KU colleagues Robert Moyle and A. Townsend Peterson, will train a field group of personnel and graduate students to survey habitat impacted by Haiyan where biodiversity datasets had already been created ahead of landfall of the storm. Comparing the "prior to" and "right after" information will reveal the extent of the super typhoon's destruction, as properly as the capacity of various species to bounce back from catastrophe.

"The solutions we will employ will be the very same techniques we undertook for the earlier surveys, applying the same trails, the same transects and sampling measures, and even the very same individuals who carried out the operate," mentioned Brown. "We'll standardize the work so that statistical comparisons can be made, and then encourage future researchers to use these identical approaches once more over the next decade or two."

Whilst it is impossible to predict all of the aftereffects of Haiyan on the wildlife of the Philippines, the KU researcher said some species truly could be scattered to the winds.

"These typhoons are usually devastating to low-lying regions since storm surge can scour coastal plains and eradicate anything that lives there," Brown said. "They are normally also heavily damaging to mid- and upper-montane locations for the reason that the heavy rainfall causes landslides and flattens forests if winds are powerful enough. There is no doubt that they also transport species from a single region to another—small animals, literally blown from a single island to the next—but these specifics have seldom been quantified to date. This is an ancillary target of our new project, to measure the quantity of storm-associated translocation of populations of land vertebrates from one particular island to yet another."

Brown stated that the Philippines is an desirable nation in which to study biodiversity since of the stark contrasts, such as habitable islands versus inhospitable intervening seaways, along with the recognized geological history of the archipelago, the rich legacy of data compiled by scientists over centuries to draw upon, and the incredibly clear and, at instances, simplified communities of vertebrates that inhabit the 7,one hundred landmasses of the archipelago.

Even so, he stated that his findings could shed light on how species thrive or fail in the aftermath of all-natural disasters anyplace on Earth.

"This award addresses a unique higher-urgency need to have for surveys post-Haiyan but fits into the general framework of our investigation plan in that we seek to fully grasp how such exceptionally high levels of land vertebrate diversity can exist in the island archipelagos and biodiversity hotspots like the Philippines," said Brown. "It may perhaps relate to the frequency of all-natural disturbance. That is, if chronic and periodic natural disturbance is standard of a forest community, it is conceivable that such a forest neighborhood may perhaps stay specifically diverse since it contains a combination of steady, resident neighborhood species and also a cohort of 'edge' species or species that invade an area following the effect of natural disturbance. Our information may present a direct measure of the predictions of this 'intermediate disturbance hypothesis' in a actual-time empirical method. Such an chance is really rare—only coming along as soon as or twice in a lifetime."

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