Arlington, VA – If one photo is worth a thousand words, what are one million photos worth? Ecologists, working as part of the Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network, are beginning to get a clear answer to that question, which could have important consequences for the future of biodiversity and people. The global partnership that monitors change in tropical forest ecosystems, biomass, rainfall, and species diversity reports today that its multitude of remote camera traps has captured its one millionth photograph. The photographs captured by the TEAM Network provide real-time information on how unseen animal populations are being affected by changes in climate, habitat and land use; changes that often affect the flow of goods and life-sustaining services to people as well as the health of tropical forests.
The TEAM Network, which acts like an early warning system for nature, has monitored changes in tropical forests for ten years, using standardized methods to collect data on trees, mammals, the climate, woody vines known as ‘lianas’, and birds that are found in the Network’s study area, which covers 16 protected areas in 14 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America. After five years of monitoring bird and mammal biodiversity with camera traps, the millionth photograph, of an elusive jaguar
, was captured in Manu National Park, Peru.
“The one-millionth image is an amazing representation of our camera trap work, and it symbolizes the success we have had with this program in collecting new data,” said Dr. Jorge Ahumada, TEAM’s Technical Director. “As we celebrate this accomplishment, we are also at a critical point in beginning to provide information to decision makers from the local to global level on how biodiversity is affected by climate change and habitat loss.”
Working through local partner institutions, TEAM site managers and technicians set up the camera traps during the dry season. Cameras are placed in a grid throughout the forest every two square kilometers – over an area the equivalent of the distance between downtown Los Angeles and Beverly Hills - and left in the forest for thirty days. Each site collects between 10,000 and 30,000 photographs per year.
"Conservation is not usually about setting records, but there are times when the scale of an achievement can be measured in the millions,” said Dr. Joshua Ginsberg, Senior Vice President, Wildlife Conservation Society, one of TEAM’s partner institutions. “One million pictures allow us to develop and test global indicators that are critical to measuring the success of global conservation and informing the global community on the increasingly perilous state of the world's biodiversity."
Because data are collected using the same methodology at all of the sites, TEAM scientists are able to examine changes over time and compare across sites. The information is invaluable to protected area managers aiming to conserve species biodiversity. “Looking at the sum of these data gives us a picture of how we affect these ecosystems and the ecosystem services critical to our survival, such as carbon sequestration, a stable climate, soils, and so much more,” Ahumada said.
In its first published study of results from analyses of the camera trap data in 2011, “Community structure and diversity of tropical mammals: data from a global camera trap network
", TEAM scientists concluded that smaller reserves and habitat loss result in lower mammal diversity and diminished survival. Impacts are seen in the form of less diversity of species and less variety in body size and diets. This information replicated over time and space is crucial to understand the effects of global and regional threats on forest mammals and to anticipate extinctions before it is too late.
Dr. Sandy Andelman, Senior Vice President of Conservation International and Executive Director of the TEAM Network, added, "Most conservation science today isn’t ambitious enough. Through the millionth camera trap image TEAM is demonstrating that the right technology, applied at the right scales, can provide the world with an essential picture of how life on Earth is changing. "
Currently, the TEAM Network is collaborating with the Species Survival Commission at the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to integrate camera trap data into their Global Mammal and Bird Assessments. TEAM also recently joined the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership to provide new indicators to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
The TEAM Network is a partnership between Conservation International, Missouri Botanical Garden, Smithsonian Institution and the Wildlife Conservation Society and is implemented through over 80 local partner institutions. TEAM is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Northrop Grumman Foundation, and by support from other donors and the partner institutions.
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Fast facts about TEAM’s data collection:
- Latin America, Africa and Asia
- Sixteen sites:
- Barro Colorado Nature Monument – Soberania National Park (Panama)
- Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park (Indonesia)
- Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (Uganda)
- Caxiuanã National Forest (Brazil)
- Central Suriname Nature Reserve (Suriname)
- Manu National Park (Peru)
- Korup National Park (Cameroon)
- Manaus (Brazil)
- Nam Kading National Protected Area (Lao PDR)
- Nouabalé Ndoki (Republic of Congo)
- Pasoh Forest Reserve (Malaysia)
- Ranomafana National Park (Madagascar)
- Udzungwa Mountains National Park (Tanzania)
- Volcan Barva Transect (Costa Rica)
- Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park (Peru)
- Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve (Ecuador)
- Over 960 camera trap points
- 60 cameras in each site
- 1 camera every 2 square kilometers
- Cameras are set up for a month in each place
- Number of sites being monitored today: 16
- Roughly 35 endangered or critically endangered species documented
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