Incorporating population viability models into species status assessment and listing decisions under the U.S. Endangered Species Act

Global Ecology and Conservation
By: , and 

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Abstract

Assessment of a species' status is a key part of management decision making for endangered and threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Predicting the future state of the species is an essential part of species status assessment, and projection models can play an important role in developing predictions. We built a stochastic simulation model that incorporated parametric and environmental uncertainty to predict the probable future status of the Sonoran desert tortoise in the southwestern United States and North Central Mexico. Sonoran desert tortoise was a Candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and decision makers wanted to use model predictions in their decision making process. The model accounted for future habitat loss and possible effects of climate change induced droughts to predict future population growth rates, abundances, and quasi-extinction probabilities. Our model predicts that the population will likely decline over the next few decades, but there is very low probability of quasi-extinction less than 75 years into the future. Increases in drought frequency and intensity may increase extinction risk for the species. Our model helped decision makers predict and characterize uncertainty about the future status of the species in their listing decision. We incorporated complex ecological processes (e.g., climate change effects on tortoises) in transparent and explicit ways tailored to support decision making processes related to endangered species.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Incorporating population viability models into species status assessment and listing decisions under the U.S. Endangered Species Act
Series title Global Ecology and Conservation
DOI 10.1016/j.gecco.2017.09.004
Volume 12
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Atlanta
Description 12 p.
First page 119
Last page 130
Country Mexico, United States
Other Geospatial Sonoran Desert