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This Week in Biodiversity News – 15th December 2021

Hana Ketley
Hana Ketley

Successful park for sharks. South Africa, a global hotspot for over 191 species of sharks, rays, skates and chimaeras, is reviewing its National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks. One of their 42 marine protected areas, the De Hoop no-take MPA, was the focus of a study into the potential protective benefit of these MPAs for threatened shark species. The study found that both protected and commercially exploited shark species were in higher abundance within the MPA. This data will help in South Africa’s assessment of its reserve design.

A new study shows that widespread plants are displacing rare species across habitats. The species composition of Europe’s grasslands, forests and mountain summits are becoming increasingly similar. In recent decades, widely distributed plant species that prefer nutrient-rich habitats have increased and more restricted species with a preference for nutrient-poor soils are declining. The main driver is thought to be the increasing amounts of nutrients in soils due to anthropogenic nitrogen input, mainly from agriculture, industry and traffic.

British big game hunters are no longer allowed to bring trophies of endangered animals back to the UK. This new ban will prohibit the importation of body parts from 7,000 species including elephants, polar bears, lions and rhinos. The restrictions will apply to both wild animals and those kept in captivity, with a five-year jail sentence for anyone who breaks the rules, but a for enacting the law has not yet been set.

Airborne DNA has been used to detect insect species in breakthrough for ecologists. 85 species have been identified in a study by Lund University in Sweden, which suggests that airborne environmental DNA (eDNA) may become a useful tool in monitoring trends in insect abundance and biodiversity. The study also detected evidence of plants, fungi, algae and several vertebrates, including a woodpigeon, hedgehog and red squirrel, in the air sampled from three sites.