Center for Conservation Research

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Center for Conservation Research

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Hargreaves A.L.,Center for Conservation Research | Whiteside D.P.,Animal Health Center | Whiteside D.P.,University of Calgary | Gilchrist G.,Carleton University
Science of the Total Environment | Year: 2011

Exposure to contaminants is one hypothesis proposed to explain the global decline in shorebirds, and is also an increasing concern in the Arctic. We assessed potential contaminants (As, Be, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, Tl, V, and Zn) at a shorebird breeding site in Nunavut, Canada. We compared element levels in soil, invertebrates and shorebird blood to assess evidence for bioconcentration and biomagnification within the Arctic-based food chain. We tested whether elements in blood, feathers and eggs of six shorebird species (Pluvialis squatarola, Calidris alpina, C. fuscicollis, Phalaropus fulicarius, Charadrius semipalmatus, and Arenaria interpres) were related to fitness endpoints: adult body condition, blood-parasite load, egg size, eggshell thickness, nest duration, and hatching success. To facilitate comparison to other sites, we summarise the published data on toxic metals in shorebird blood and egg contents.Element concentrations and invertebrate composition differed strongly among habitats, and habitat use and element concentrations differed among shorebird species. Hg, Se, Cd, Cu, and Zn bioconcentrated from soil to invertebrates, and Hg, Se and Fe biomagnified from invertebrates to shorebird blood. As, Ni, Pb, Co and Mn showed significant biodilution from soil to invertebrates to shorebirds. Soil element levels were within Canadian guidelines, and invertebrate Hg levels were below dietary levels suggested for the protection of wildlife. However, maximum Hg in blood and eggs approached levels associated with toxicological effects and Hg-pollution in other bird species. Parental blood-Hg was negatively related to egg volume, although the relationship varied among species. No other elements approached established toxicological thresholds. In conclusion, whereas we found little evidence that exposure to elements at this site is leading to the declines of the species studied, Hg, as found elsewhere in the Canadian Arctic, is of potential concern for breeding bird populations. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

Hargreaves A.L.,Center for Conservation Research | Whiteside D.P.,Animal Health Center | Whiteside D.P.,University of Calgary | Gilchrist G.,Carleton University
Science of the Total Environment | Year: 2010

Exposure to contaminants is one hypothesis proposed to explain the global decline in shorebirds, and this is of particular concern in the arctic. However, little information exists on contaminant levels in arctic-breeding shorebirds, especially in Canada. We studied potential contaminants in three biparental shorebird species nesting in Nunavut, Canada: ruddy turnstones (Arenaria interpres), black-bellied plovers (Pluvialis squatarola) and semipalmated plovers (Charadrius semipalmatus). Blood, feathers and eggs were analyzed for As, Be, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sb, Se, Tl, V, and Zn. We assessed whether element concentrations a) differed among species and sexes, b) were correlated among pairs and their eggs, and c) were related to fitness endpoints, namely body condition, blood-parasite load, nest survival days, and hatching success.Non-essential elements were found at lower concentrations than essential elements, with the exception of Hg. Maximum Hg levels in blood approached those associated with toxicological effects in other bird species, but other elements were well below known toxicological thresholds. Reproductive success was negatively correlated with paternal Hg and maternal Pb, although these effects were generally weak and varied among tissues. Element levels were positively correlated within pairs for blood-Hg (turnstones) and feather-Ni and Cr (semipalmated plovers); concentrations in eggs and maternal blood were never correlated. Concentrations of many elements differed among species, but there was no evidence that any species had higher overall exposure to non-essential metals. In conclusion, whereas we found little evidence that exposure to the majority of these elements is leading to declines of the species studied here, Hg levels were of potential concern and both Hg and Pb warrant further monitoring. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Jetz W.,Yale University | McPherson J.M.,Center for Conservation Research | McPherson J.M.,Simon Fraser University | Guralnick R.P.,University of Colorado at Boulder
Trends in Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2012

Global knowledge about the spatial distribution of species is orders of magnitude coarser in resolution than other geographically-structured environmental datasets such as topography or land cover. Yet such knowledge is crucial in deciphering ecological and evolutionary processes and in managing global change. In this review, we propose a conceptual and cyber-infrastructure framework for refining species distributional knowledge that is novel in its ability to mobilize and integrate diverse types of data such that their collective strengths overcome individual weaknesses. The ultimate aim is a public, online, quality-vetted 'Map of Life' that for every species integrates and visualizes available distributional knowledge, while also facilitating user feedback and dynamic biodiversity analyses. First milestones toward such an infrastructure have now been implemented. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.

Seddon P.J.,University of Otago | Moehrenschlager A.,Center for Conservation Research | Ewen J.,UK Institute of Zoology
Trends in Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2014

Technological advances have raised the controversial prospect of resurrecting extinct species. Species DeExtinction should involve more than the production of biological orphans to be scrutinized in the laboratory or zoo. If DeExtinction is to realize its stated goals of deep ecological enrichment, then resurrected animals must be translocated (i.e., released within suitable habitat). Therefore, DeExtinction is a conservation translocation issue and the selection of potential DeExtinction candidates must consider the feasibility and risks associated with reintroduction. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Guidelines on Reintroductions and Other Conservation Translocations provide a framework for DeExtinction candidate selection. We translate these Guidelines into ten questions to be addressed early on in the selection process to eliminate unsuitable reintroduction candidates. We apply these questions to the thylacine, Yangtze River Dolphin, and Xerces blue butterfly. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.

Sheppard D.J.,Outreach | Sheppard D.J.,Nature Conservation Research Center | Moehrenschlager A.,Center for Conservation Research | Mcpherson J.M.,Center for Conservation Research | And 2 more authors.
Environmental Conservation | Year: 2010

Community-based natural resource management has been accused of failing on social, economic or ecological grounds. Balanced assessments are rare, however, particularly in West Africa. This paper examines the first 10 years of Ghana's Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary using an evaluation framework that considers socioeconomic and ecological outcomes, as well as resilience mechanisms. Building upon traditional taboos against the killing of hippopotami, this initiative has attempted to conserve an imperilled large mammal, protect biodiversity and alleviate abject poverty amidst a bush meat crisis and complex ethnic diversity. Findings show that the Sanctuary has improved local livelihoods by spurring economic diversification and infrastructure development rates 2-8 times higher than in surrounding communities. Simultaneously, threats to biodiversity have subsided, hippopotamus numbers have remained stable and the Sanctuary's riparian habitats now harbour more bird species than comparable areas nearby. Improved social capital, true empowerment, an equitable distribution of benefits, ecological awareness among children and support for the Sanctuary, even amongst community members who were disadvantaged by its creation, speak to good long-term prospects. Risks remain, some of which are beyond the community's control, but evidence of socioecological resilience suggests that capacity exists to buffer risks and foster sustainability. Lessons learnt at Wechiau translate into recommendations for the planning, implementation and evaluation of future community-based conservation initiatives, including greater interdisciplinary integration and the use of adaptive co-management approaches. © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2010.

Nadon M.O.,University of Hawaii at Manoa | Nadon M.O.,University of Miami | Nadon M.O.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Baum J.K.,National Center for Ecological Analysis And Synthesis | And 8 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2012

Sharks and other large predators are scarce on most coral reefs, but studies of their historical ecology provide qualitative evidence that predators were once numerous in these ecosystems. Quantifying density of sharks in the absence of humans (baseline) is, however, hindered by a paucity of pertinent time-series data. Recently researchers have used underwater visual surveys, primarily of limited spatial extent or nonstandard design, to infer negative associations between reef shark abundance and human populations. We analyzed data from 1607 towed-diver surveys (>1 ha transects surveyed by observers towed behind a boat) conducted at 46 reefs in the central-western Pacific Ocean, reefs that included some of the world's most pristine coral reefs. Estimates of shark density from towed-diver surveys were substantially lower (<10%) than published estimates from surveys along small transects (<0.02 ha), which is not consistent with inverted biomass pyramids (predator biomass greater than prey biomass) reported by other researchers for pristine reefs. We examined the relation between the density of reef sharks observed in towed-diver surveys and human population in models that accounted for the influence of oceanic primary productivity, sea surface temperature, reef area, and reef physical complexity. We used these models to estimate the density of sharks in the absence of humans. Densities of gray reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), whitetip reef sharks (Triaenodon obesus), and the group "all reef sharks" increased substantially as human population decreased and as primary productivity and minimum sea surface temperature (or reef area, which was highly correlated with temperature) increased. Simulated baseline densities of reef sharks under the absence of humans were 1.1-2.4/ha for the main Hawaiian Islands, 1.2-2.4/ha for inhabited islands of American Samoa, and 0.9-2.1/ha for inhabited islands in the Mariana Archipelago, which suggests that density of reef sharks has declined to 3-10% of baseline levels in these areas. © 2012 Society for Conservation Biology.

Cullingham C.I.,University of Alberta | Moehrenschlager A.,Center for Conservation Research
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

Reintroductions are increasingly used to reestablish species, but a paucity of long-term postrelease monitoring has limited understanding of whether and when viable populations subsequently persist. We conducted temporal genetic analyses of reintroduced populations of swift foxes (Vulpes velox) in Canada (Alberta and Saskatchewan) and the United States (Montana). We used samples collected 4 years apart, 17 years from the initiation of the reintroduction, and 3 years after the conclusion of releases. To assess program success, we genotyped 304 hair samples, subsampled from the known range in 2000 and 2001, and 2005 and 2006, at 7 microsatellite loci. We compared diversity, effective population size, and genetic connectivity over time in each population. Diversity remained stable over time and there was evidence of increasing effective population size. We determined population structure in both periods after correcting for differences in sample sizes. The geographic distribution of these populations roughly corresponded with the original release locations, which suggests the release sites had residual effects on the population structure. However, given that both reintroduction sites had similar source populations, habitat fragmentation, due to cropland, may be associated with the population structure we found. Although our results indicate growing, stable populations, future connectivity analyses are warranted to ensure both populations are not subject to negative small-population effects. Our results demonstrate the importance of multiple sampling years to fully capture population dynamics of reintroduced populations. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.

Harrington L.A.,University of Oxford | Moehrenschlager A.,University of Oxford | Moehrenschlager A.,Center for Conservation Research | Gelling M.,University of Oxford | And 3 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

Despite differences in focus, goals, and strategies between conservation biology and animal welfare, both are inextricably linked in many ways, and greater consideration of animal welfare, although important in its own right, also has considerable potential to contribute to conservation success. Nevertheless, animal welfare and animal ethics are not always considered explicitly within conservation practice. We systematically reviewed the recent scientific peer-reviewed and online gray literature on reintroductions of captive-bred and wild-caught animals (mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles) to quantify the occurrence of animal welfare issues. We considered monitoring that could be indicative of the animal's welfare status and supportive management actions that could improve animal welfare (regardless of whether the aim was explicitly animal-welfare orientated). Potential welfare issues (of variable nature and extent) were recorded in 67% of 199 projects reviewed; the most common were mortality >50%, dispersal or loss of animals, disease, and human conflict. Most (>70%) projects monitored survival, 18% assessed body condition, and 2% monitored stress levels. Animal welfare, explicitly, was referred to in 6% of projects. Supportive actions, most commonly use of on-site prerelease pens and provision of supplemental food or water, were implemented in 79% of projects, although the extent and duration of support varied. Practitioners can address animal-welfare issues in reintroductions by considering the potential implications for individual animals at all stages of the release process using the decision tree presented. We urge practitioners to report potential animal-welfare issues, describe mitigation actions, and evaluate their efficacy to facilitate transparent evaluation of common moral dilemmas and to advance communal strategies for dealing with them. Currently, comparative mortality rates, health risks, postrelease stress, effectiveness of supportive measures, and behavior of individuals warrant further research to improve animal welfare in reintroductions and to increase success of such projects. © 2013 Society for Conservation Biology.

Dalrymple S.E.,Bangor University | Moehrenschlager A.,Center for Conservation Research
Restoration Ecology | Year: 2013

According to Jørgensen, the definition of reintroductions is crucial to their proper implementation and she highlights a number of ambiguities in existing definitions, particularly associated with the concept of historic range. We could not agree more and have incorporated her suggested term of "indigenous range" rather than "historic range" into the current revision of the InternationalUnion for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Guidelines for Reintroductions and other Conservation Translocations (in preparation by IUCN Species Survival Commission Reintroduction and Invasive Species Specialist Groups). We also agree with Jørgensen's interpretation that reintroductions are not always necessitated by humans causing the extirpation of species. However, we disagree with other aspects of Jørgensen's argument such as the critique of Seddon, the interpretation of previous IUCN guidance documents, and the recommendation that the conservation community "rethink the basic definition of reintroduction" rather than moving toward other translocation-based interventions. With regard to the latter point, we emphasize that reintroductions are part of a spectrum of translocations and to focus on reintroductions alone would overlook the fact that introductions beyond a species' indigenous range are being attempted. The new revision of the IUCN guidelines incorporates the whole conservation translocation spectrum and aims to avoid the ambiguities of previous definitions highlighted by Jørgensen. © 2013 Society for Ecological Restoration.

PubMed | Center for Conservation Research
Type: Review | Journal: Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology | Year: 2016

The use of conservation translocations to mitigate human effects on biodiversity is increasing, but how these efforts are allocated remains unclear. Based on a comprehensive literature review and online author survey, we sought to determine the goals of translocation efforts, whether they focus on species and regions with high threat and likelihood of perceived success, and how success might be improved. We systematically searched the ISI Web of Knowledge and Academic Search Complete databases to determine the species and regions of conservation translocations and found 1863 articles on conservation translocations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean published from 1974 to 2013. We questioned 330 relevant authors to determine the motivation for translocations, how translocations were evaluated, and obstacles encountered. Conservation translocations in North America were geographically widespread (in 21 countries), increased in frequency over time for all animal classes (from 1 in 1974 to 84 in 2013), and included 279 different species. Reintroductions and reinforcements were more common in the United States than in Canada and Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean, and their prevalence was correlated with the number of species at risk at national and state or provincial levels. Translocated species had a higher threat status at state and provincial levels than globally (International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List categorization), suggesting that translocations may have been motivated by regional priorities rather than global risk. Our survey of authors was consistent with these results; most translocations were requested, supported, or funded by government agencies and downlisting species at national or state or provincial levels was the main goal. Nonetheless, downlisting was the least reported measure of success, whereas survival and reproduction of translocated individuals were the most reported. Reported barriers to success included biological factors such as animal mortality and nonbiological factors, such as financial constraints, which were less often considered in the selection of release sites. Our review thus highlights discrepancies between project goals and evaluation criteria and between risk factors considered and obstacles encountered, indicating room to further optimize translocation projects.

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