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Experimental Approaches to Conservation Biology

Experimental Approaches to Conservation Biology

Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: 1
Pages: 358
  • Book Info
    Experimental Approaches to Conservation Biology
    Book Description:

    We are living in the early stages of a looming worldwide extinction crisis. Abundant evidence shows that the current rate of species extinctions is nearing its highest level since the asteroid collision 65 million years ago, and that humans are largely responsible. This book addresses the urgent need to understand and find solutions to this crisis. Written by an international team of contributors who are among the best-known and most active experimental biologists working in the field of conservation biology today, it provides a unique approach by focusing on individual species rather than whole plant and animal communities. Emphasizing throughout how conservation biology can benefit from an experimental approach, the book looks at a wide range of terrestrial and aquatic species—from giant pandas and tree snails to sea turtles and Steller sea lions—and demonstrates what can be done both to preserve rare species and to combat invasive organisms. Finally, contributors show how we can bridge the gap between policy makers and research scientists in order to develop lasting solutions to these problems.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93063-6
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Contributors
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Section 1. Introduction

    • 1 Experimental Biology in Conservation Science
      (pp. 3-8)
      Malcolm S. Gordon and Soraya M. Bartol

      We are living in the relatively early stages of a worldwide biological extinction event. There is abundant evidence that the rate of extinctions of living species larger than protists is near the highest level since the asteroid collision that occurred 65 million years ago (Wilson 1988, 2002; Reaka-Kudla et al. 1997). An unprecedented feature of these extinctions is that the vast majority are anthropogenic—that is, the direct or indirect result of human activities. Massive modifications in habitats plus global climate changes are combining with comparably massive introductions of exotic, often invasive, species (some introductions are intentional, but most are...

  6. Section 2. Conservation of Endangered Species

    • 2 Overview
      (pp. 11-15)
      Gary Burness

      Extinction is a natural process. In fact, the number of species currently alive is estimated to be only 2–4% of the total number that have existed over geologic time (May et al. 1995). Although extinction is inevitable for all species, the rate at which species worldwide are currently disappearing is of concern to conservation biologists. We urgently need to understand the factors contributing to species declines, and to identify methods that can be used to mitigate those factors (Mace et al. 2001). The success of this endeavor will, however, depend on a detailed understanding of each species’ biology.


    • 3 Contributions of Ex Situ Propagation and Molecular Genetics to Conservation of Hawaiian Tree Snails
      (pp. 16-34)
      Michael G. Hadfield, Brenden S. Holland and Kevin J. Olival

      The O‘ahu tree snail is the poster child for the massive declines that have occurred among nearly all of Hawai‘i´s approximately 800 species of nonmarine snails. More than 75% of O‘ahu tree snails of the genusAchatinellahave become extinct in the last 50 to 70 years, owing to habitat degradation or destruction, shell collecting, and introduced predators. In our efforts to conserve the remaining species and populations, we have undertaken intense field-demographic studies to better understand the immediate causes of decline; laboratory propagation studies to conserve varieties and species that are rapidly vanishing from native habitats; and molecular-genetic investigations...

    • 4 Multiple Causes for Declining Amphibian Populations
      (pp. 35-65)
      Andrew R. Blaustein, Audrey C. Hatch, Lisa K. Belden and Joseph M. Kiesecker

      Amphibian population declines are part of an overall decline in biodiversity. Populations of amphibians are declining in all regions where they are found. No single cause for these declines has been documented. Rather, increasing evidence suggests that amphibian population declines are the result of multiple insults interacting with one another. Habitat destruction, global climate changes (including changes in temperature and precipitation), increasing levels of ultraviolet radiation, contaminants, disease, and introduced nonnative species all appear to play a role in amphibian population declines. These factors can act alone or in concert with one another. Moreover, amphibian populations may be declining for...

    • 5 Energetics of Leatherback Sea Turtles: A Step toward Conservation
      (pp. 66-82)
      David R. Jones, Amanda L. Southwood and Russel D. Andrews

      The leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) is the largest and certainly the most widespread pelagic reptile, ranging from New Zealand in the south to beyond the Arctic Circle in the north. Although we now have a rough picture of the movements and behavior of adult females, their early lives, from hatching to first nesting, remain “lost years” (Carr 1982). We know little about these large, charismatic, and gentle animals, and unfortunately we may never learn more now that leatherbacks are on the verge of extinction.

      Long-time residents of Playa Grande, Costa Rica, one of the largest nesting beaches in the...

    • 6 Experimental Strategies for the Recovery of Depleted Populations of West Indian Rock Iguanas
      (pp. 83-100)
      Allison C. Alberts and John A. Phillips

      West Indian rock iguanas (genusCyclura) are the largest extant native vertebrates inhabiting the dry tropical forests of the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas (Schwartz and Henderson 1991). As a group they are threatened with extinction, with six of eight species classified by the IUCN as critically endangered (IUCN 2003). Reasons for their decline include predation on juveniles by introduced species—particularly mongooses, dogs, and feral cats—and free-ranging hoofstock, which not only severely degrade native vegetation but also disturb nesting burrows (Iverson 1978; Henderson 1992; Mitchell 1999; Tolson 2000). The Jamaican iguana, believed extinct until its rediscovery in 1991,...

    • 7 Endocrinology and the Conservation of New Zealand Birds
      (pp. 101-121)
      John F. Cockrem, Dominic C. Adams, Ellen J. Bennett, E. Jane Candy, Emma J. Hawke, Sharon J. Henare and Murray A. Potter

      Some species of New Zealand birds have become extinct since the arrival of humans, and the numbers and ranges of many others have been dramatically reduced. Today there are active conservation programs for many species, the most intensive of which is the effort to save the kakapo(Strigops habroptilus). In this essay, we present examples of studies in conservation endocrinology for the threatened northern brown kiwi(Apteryx mantelli)and for the kakapo.

      Captive kiwi are held in nocturnal houses and outdoor pens for breeding and for public display. There has been debate about whether it is stressful for kiwi to...

    • 8 Conservation of Australian Arid-Zone Marsupials: Making Use of Knowledge of Their Energy and Water Requirements
      (pp. 122-131)
      Ian D. Hume, Lesley A. Gibson and Steven J. Lapidge

      Measurement of the energy and water requirements of free-living bilbies(Macrotis lagotis)and yellow-footed rock-wallabies(Petrogale xanthopus)in the arid zone of western Queensland has provided information that confirms the suspicion that both marsupials have exceptionally low water requirements and are probably independent of a source of free water.

      Although these low requirements provide these threatened marsupials with some natural protection against introduced competitors (feral goats and rabbits) and exotic predators (foxes and feral cats), more could and should be done to ensure the long-term conservation of these arid-zone marsupials by progressively removing artificial sources of water wherever possible throughout...

    • 9 The Population Decline of Steller Sea Lions: Testing the Nutritional Stress Hypothesis
      (pp. 132-146)
      Russel D. Andrews

      Steller sea lions(Eumetopias jubatus)are the largest of the otariids, or eared seal subfamily, and certainly one of the most difficult to study. This difficulty has been an important determinate of our unfortunate inability, despite over a decade of intensive research, to satisfactorily explain the precipitous population decline of Steller sea lions (a decline that continues, albeit at a more moderate rate than at the beginning of our population monitoring). The decline was so severe that in November 1990 the United States National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) listed Steller sea lions as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In...

  7. Section 3. Control or Elimination of Exotic and Invasive Species

    • 10 Overview
      (pp. 149-153)
      Pamela J. Mueller

      Conservation biologists summarize the multitude of factors that act together to threaten biodiversity under the acronym HIPPO: habitat destruction, invasive species, pollution; (over) population by humans, and overharvesting (Wilson 2002). Invasive species are considered second only to habitat destruction as a force driving species toward extinction and thus depressing biodiversity worldwide.

      Exotic and invasive species are organisms freely living beyond their natural or historical range. Also called foreign, alien, non-indigenous, or nonnative, exotics have reached their new homes through transportation, intentional or otherwise, by humans, and subsequent release, either intentional, accidental, or incidental. With the increasing globalization of the past...

    • 11 Tipping the Balance in the Restoration of Native Plants: Experimental Approaches to Changing the Exotic: Native Ratio in California Grassland
      (pp. 154-179)
      Jeffrey D. Corbin, Carla M. D’Antonio and Susan J. Bainbridge

      As exotic species increasingly threaten native biodiversity, habitat managers have turned to a variety of tools designed to increase the efficiency of plantrestoration projects. These efforts include eliminating exotic competitors through mechanical removal, herbicide application, or fire, and increasing native species’ competitiveness relative to that of exotic species through reduction of soil nitrogen availability, grazing, prescribed burning, or biological control. In this chapter, we evaluate the ability of experimental tests of these techniques to favor native species in California grassland ecosystems. We found no evidence that any of the strategies consistently favored native species relative to exotic species. Outcomes were...

    • 12 Using Natural Experiments in the Study of Alien Tree Invasions: Opportunities and Limitations
      (pp. 180-201)
      David M. Richardson, Mathieu Rouget and Marcel Rejmánek

      For a variety of reasons, hundreds of tree species have been planted well outside their natural ranges. In numerous parts of the world, alien trees are the foundation of commercial forestry and agroforestry enterprises, and many are planted for a wide range of other uses. A small sample of tree species that are widely cultivated as aliens have spread from planting sites, and some taxa are among the most damaging of invasive alien plants.

      The configuration of alien tree plantings—many species planted in a wide range of habitats, subject to many types, intensities, and combinations of natural and human-mediated...

    • 13 Biological Control in Support of Conservation: Friend or Foe?
      (pp. 202-238)
      Mark S. Hoddle

      The damage invasive organisms cause to natural and agricultural environments and the potential exotic threats that lurk outside state and country borders are well-documented phenomena that are understood by scientists, politicians, economists, and the lay public. Relatively new environmental concepts such as biological invasions; biodiversity; exotic, alien, and invasive organisms; biotic homogenization; species declines and extinctions; and habitat fragmentation, degradation, and disturbance are mainstream and have precipitated enough public interest to have become the themes of numerous popular nonfiction books, radio, television, and newspaper and magazine articles that describe ecological issues and the science attempting to explain the mechanisms involved....

  8. Section 4. Policy-Related Matters

    • 14 Overview
      (pp. 241-243)
      Anthony C. Steyermark

      Careful consideration of the best available scientific data is supposed to be a central feature of the decision-making processes relating to the protection and management of endangered, threatened, or exotic species. The major laws governing these matters in the United States require this consideration.

      For example, the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, with amendments, mandates that “The Secretary [of the Interior] shall make determinations [of endangered species and threatened species] solely on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available” and “shall designate critical habitat . . . on the basis of the best scientific data available...

    • 15 The Army and the Desert Tortoise: Can Science Inform Policy Decisions?
      (pp. 244-268)
      James R. Spotila and Harold W. Avery

      The United States Army wishes to expand its National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, in the interests of national security. Environmentalists opposed the expansion because it would destroy habitat in the western Mojave Desert and because it would impact the threatened desert tortoise. After 14 years of deadlock between the Army, the Department of the Interior, and environmentalists, the Army undertook a new strategy. It attempted to tie the expansion of Fort Irwin to the recovery of the desert tortoise. Instead of treating the tortoise as an obstacle, the Army sought to aid in its recovery. When the...

    • 16 Integrating Experimental Research with the Needs of Natural-Resource and Land Managers: Case Studies from Australia and New Zealand
      (pp. 269-281)
      John C. Rodger

      Finding effective ways to link the skills and expertise of researchers, especially in academia, with the needs of industry and the nation has been recognised as a major problem in many countries, including Australia. Such linkage is also needed in areas not traditionally seen as commercial, such as natural-resource management, which includes conservation. In the early 1990s, the Australian government set up a completely new national competitive programme to encourage such multi-institutional, multidisciplinary research and technology development called the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme.

      The Marsupial CRC comprises core member organisations from across Australia and New Zealand: universities, state government...

    • 17 Making Wildlife Research More Meaningful by Prioritizing Science, Linking Disciplines, and Building Capacity
      (pp. 282-297)
      David E. Wildt

      Research strategies for wildlife biology are packaged in many ways. There are those scientists whose first priority is thein situapproach—understanding habitats (and, secondarily, the complex species interactions within).

      Others trudge through landscapes to study a single species, population, or even individual. Some focus on animals living ex situ (in zoos or breeding centers) or sometimes simply on animal “parts” (germplasm, blood components, tissues, cells, DNA) in laboratories. Still others never study the wild animal at all but rather concentrate on taxonomic relatives as “models” for new information (e.g., the domestic cow for wild antelopes, the domestic cat...

    • 18 African National Parks under Challenge: Novel Approaches in South Africa May Offer Respite
      (pp. 298-322)
      Leo Braack

      Africa is well known for the diversity and abundance of its wildlife, particularly within its savanna areas, and the combination of game and scenic wilderness remains a prime attraction for tourists from all over the world. Yet these areas and the fascinating diversity of life they contain are but remnants of what was once present, and even these remnants are now seriously threatened.

      Following millennia of evolution and adaptation, in a relative blink of the eye over the last three centuries, colonizing powers carved up the continent into political blocks (Packenham 2000), opening the doors to a steady stream of...

  9. Systematic Index
    (pp. 323-330)
  10. Subject Index
    (pp. 331-343)