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Members of over 1,200 taxa have been listed as Threatened or Endangered, and over 4,000 additional organisms have been identified as Candidate Species or Species of Concern. Identification of critical limiting factors may result in management actions that stabilize vulnerable populations and insure their perpetuation. Both naturally-occurring and anthropogenic activities (e.g., environmental contaminants and pollution) have been demonstrated to be a significant factor in depressing populations or catalyzing the final crash of some species. The objective of this project is to develop a synthesis document and database that lists and ranks the presumed causes of decline, with special emphasis on contaminants and pollutant-related situations. This will be accomplished by synoptic review of all recovery plans (n=479) with listing packages (n=1134) serving as a secondary source of information, followed by itemization, cross-referencing, enumeration, and ranking of contributing and limiting factors. To date we have analyzed all of the recovery plans for reptiles (n=26) and amphibians (n=6). 188 causes are defined, falling into 6 major categories: habitat alteration/availability (47.8%); exploitation/harvest (19.7%); introduction of exotic species (10.1%); contaminants (9.0%); miscellaneous others (6.9%); pollution (6.4%). The applicability of these data are extensive, including facilitating reviews of Section 7 consultations and Environmental Impact Statements, reviewing permit applications, conducting environmental contaminant risk assessments, identifying specific data gaps and research needs, selecting potential management actions, and establishing priorities for broad-based research on limiting factors applicable to groups of species rather than the current species-by-species approach. However. caution must be exercised in the use of this data because of the speculative nature of the causes; most of the causes (69.7%) are based on poorly documented expert opinion and/or guesswork. This is particularly true of the contaminant/pollution categories where only 13.8% of the incidents are documented in the literature as true causes of decline.
Additional Publication Details
Species decline: Contaminants and other contributing factors
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, annual meeting abstract book