Sunday, December 9, 2012

Conservation Reliant Species

I found an interesting article about another problem with the Endangered Species Act. As stated, the goal of the ESA is to help species at the risk of extinction “to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this Act are no longer necessary” (ESA § 3(3)). However, some species are conservation reliant. This means that they cannot survive without direct conservation efforts because the problems they face continue to persist. For some species, removing a particular threat (like DDT or an invasive species) is enough to allow the species to recover. After the threat is removed the species can survive on its own and no longer requires human help. But, this is not true for all species. Many species are conservation reliant and thus would continue to need help even if they are brought back up to target population levels and are delisted.

There are two types of conservation reliance, population-management reliance and threat-management reliance. Species that are population-management reliant need human intervention to facilitate movement between isolated habitat patches. Species that are threat-management reliant require human intervention to correctly maintain a particular habitat. For example, some species require periodic fires in their environment in order to survive. Since the natural fire regime has changed, these species, even when brought back to a large population, will continue to require control burns of their habitat.

Helping these conservation reliant species can be very difficult and keeping them on the Endangered Species List may not be the best way to solve the problem. A system has to be put in place to continue helping these conservation reliant species after they are delisted. A possible way to do this is to pass on the protection of the species to another conservation group. After the ESA helps the species reach its recovery goals, there could be a transition period where another group agrees to continue monitoring the conservation reliant species. For example, the Appalachian Mountain Club agreed to monitor and manage the habitat of the Robbins’ cinquefoil after it was delisted.

To learn more about this problem, read this article:

Dale D., et al. (2012). Conservation-reliant Species. BioScience 62(10):869-873.

(or search for it in Web of Science)

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