Abundance of 388 ± 108 whales for the Okhotsk Sea bowhead whale population based on individual genotyping was estimated using the capture-recapture method for the open population model. The data demonstrate that this endangered population shows no signs of recovery.
Unintended effects of recreational activities in protected areas are of growing concern. We used an adaptive-management framework to develop guidelines for optimally managing hiking activities to maintain desired levels of territory occupancy and reproductive success of Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in Denali National Park (Alaska, U.S.A.). The management decision was to restrict human access (hikers) to particular nesting territories to reduce disturbance. The management objective was to minimize restrictions on hikers while maintaining reproductive performance of eagles above some specified level. We based our decision analysis on predictive models of site occupancy of eagles developed using a combination of expert opinion and data collected from 93 eagle territories over 20 years. The best predictive model showed that restricting human access to eagle territories had little effect on occupancy dynamics. However, when considering important sources of uncertainty in the models, including environmental stochasticity, imperfect detection of hares on which eagles prey, and model uncertainty, restricting access of territories to hikers improved eagle reproduction substantially. An adaptive management framework such as ours may help reduce uncertainty of the effects of hiking activities on Golden Eagles.
Indigenous people inhabit approximately 85% of areas designated for biodiversity conservation worldwide. They also continue to struggle for recognition and preservation of cultural identities, lifestyles, and livelihoods--a struggle contingent on control and protection of traditional lands and associated natural resources (hereafter, self-determination). Indigenous lands and the biodiversity they support are increasingly threatened because of human population growth and per capita consumption. Application of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to tribal lands in the United States provides a rich example of the articulation between biodiversity conservation and indigenous peoples' struggle for self-determination. We found a paradoxical relationship whereby tribal governments are simultaneously and contradictory sovereign nations; yet their communities depend on the U.S. government for protection through the federal-trust doctrine. The unique legal status of tribal lands, their importance for conserving federally protected species, and federal environmental regulations' failure to define applicability to tribal lands creates conflict between tribal sovereignty, self-determination, and constitutional authority. We reviewed Secretarial Order 3206, the U.S. policy on "American Indian tribal rights, federal-tribal trust responsibilities, and the ESA," and evaluated how it influences ESA implementation on tribal lands. We found improved biodiversity conservation and tribal self-determination requires revision of the fiduciary relationship between the federal government and the tribes to establish clear, legal definitions regarding land rights, applicability of environmental laws, and financial responsibilities. Such actions will allow provision of adequate funding and training to tribal leaders and resource managers, government agency personnel responsible for biodiversity conservation and land management, and environmental policy makers. Increased capacity, cooperation, and knowledge transfer among tribes and conservationists will improve biodiversity conservation and indigenous self-determination.
The critically endangered population of Far Eastern leopards ( Panthera pardus orientalis) may number as few as 60 individuals and is at risk from stochastic processes such as infectious disease. During May 2015, a case of canine distemper virus (CDV) was diagnosed in a wild leopard exhibiting severe neurologic disease in the Russian territory of Primorskii Krai. Amplified sequences of the CDV hemagglutinin gene and phosphoprotein gene aligned within the Arctic-like clade of CDV, which includes viruses from elsewhere in Russia, China, Europe, and North America. Histologic examination of cerebral tissue revealed perivascular lymphoid cuffing and demyelination of the white matter consistent with CDV infection. Neutralizing antibodies against CDV were detected in archived serum from two wild Far Eastern leopards sampled during 1993-94, confirming previous exposure in the population. This leopard population is likely too small to maintain circulation of CDV, suggesting that infections arise from spillover from more-abundant domestic or wild carnivore reservoirs. Increasing the population size and establishment of additional populations of leopards would be important steps toward securing the future of this subspecies and reducing the risk posed by future outbreaks of CDV or other infectious diseases.
Small, genetically uniform populations may face an elevated risk of extinction due to reduced environmental adaptability and individual fitness. Fragmentation can intensify these genetic adversities and, therefore, dispersal and gene flow among subpopulations within an isolated population is often essential for maintaining its viability. Using microsatellite and mtDNA data, we examined genetic diversity, spatial differentiation, interregional gene flow, and effective population sizes in the critically endangered Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis), which is endemic to the large but highly fragmented Lake Saimaa in southeastern Finland.
Microsatellite diversity within the subspecies (HE?=?0.36) ranks among the lowest thus far recorded within the order Pinnipedia, with signs of ongoing loss of individual heterozygosity, reflecting very low effective subpopulation sizes. Bayesian assignment analyses of the microsatellite data revealed clear genetic differentiation among the main breeding areas, but interregional structuring was substantially weaker in biparentally inherited microsatellites (FST?=?0.107) than in maternally inherited mtDNA (FST?=?0.444), indicating a sevenfold difference in the gene flow mediated by males versus females.
Genetic structuring in the population appears to arise from the joint effects of multiple factors, including small effective subpopulation sizes, a fragmented lacustrine habitat, and behavioural dispersal limitation. The fine-scale differentiation found in the landlocked Saimaa ringed seal is especially surprising when contrasted with marine ringed seals, which often exhibit near-panmixia among subpopulations separated by hundreds or even thousands of kilometres. Our results demonstrate that population structures of endangered animals cannot be predicted based on data on even closely related species or subspecies.
The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) depends on sea ice for feeding, breeding, and movement. Significant reductions in Arctic sea ice are forecast to continue because of climate warming. We evaluated the impacts of climate change on polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea by means of a demographic analysis, combining deterministic, stochastic, environment-dependent matrix population models with forecasts of future sea ice conditions from IPCC general circulation models (GCMs). The matrix population models classified individuals by age and breeding status; mothers and dependent cubs were treated as units. Parameter estimates were obtained from a capture-recapture study conducted from 2001 to 2006. Candidate statistical models allowed vital rates to vary with time and as functions of a sea ice covariate. Model averaging was used to produce the vital rate estimates, and a parametric bootstrap procedure was used to quantify model selection and parameter estimation uncertainty. Deterministic models projected population growth in years with more extensive ice coverage (2001-2003) and population decline in years with less ice coverage (2004-2005). LTRE (life table response experiment) analysis showed that the reduction in lambda in years with low sea ice was due primarily to reduced adult female survival, and secondarily to reduced breeding. A stochastic model with two environmental states, good and poor sea ice conditions, projected a declining stochastic growth rate, log lambdas, as the frequency of poor ice years increased. The observed frequency of poor ice years since 1979 would imply log lambdas approximately - 0.01, which agrees with available (albeit crude) observations of population size. The stochastic model was linked to a set of 10 GCMs compiled by the IPCC; the models were chosen for their ability to reproduce historical observations of sea ice and were forced with "business as usual" (A1B) greenhouse gas emissions. The resulting stochastic population projections showed drastic declines in the polar bear population by the end of the 21st century. These projections were instrumental in the decision to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
Mountain vegetation is highly specialized to harsh climatic conditions and therefore is sensitive to any change in environment. The rarest and most vulnerable plants occurring in alpine regions are expected to respond rapidly to environmental changes. An example of such a species is Carex lachenalii subsp. lachenalii Schkuhr, which occurs in Poland on only a few isolated sites in the Tatra Mts. The aim of this study was to assess changes in distribution of C. lachenalii in the Tatra Mts over the past 50-150years and the effects of climate change, tourism and historical grazing on the ecological niche of C. lachenalii. We focused on changes in the importance of functional diversity components in shaping plant species composition. Over the past 50-150years, the elevation of the average distribution of C. lachenalii shifted about 178m upward alongside a significant prolongation of the vegetative season by approximately 20days in the last 50-60years. Species composition of plots without C. lachenalii was characterized by competition between plants, whereas on plots with C. lachenalii habitat filtering was the most important component. Our results suggest that climate change was the main factor driving upward shift of C. lachenalii. Moderate trampling enhanced horizontal spread of this plant, whereas cessation of grazing grazing caused decline of C. lachenalii. The three environmental factors studied that determined shifts in distribution of C. lachenalii may also contribute to changes in distribution of other rare mountain plant species causing changes in ecosystem functioning.
Understanding threatened species diversity is important for long-term conservation planning. Geodiversity-the diversity of Earth surface materials, forms, and processes-may be a useful biodiversity surrogate for conservation and have conservation value itself. Geodiversity and species richness relationships have been demonstrated; establishing whether geodiversity relates to threatened species' diversity and distribution pattern is a logical next step for conservation. We used 4 geodiversity variables (rock-type and soil-type richness, geomorphological diversity, and hydrological feature diversity) and 4 climatic and topographic variables to model threatened species diversity across 31 of Finland's national parks. We also analyzed rarity-weighted richness (a measure of site complementarity) of threatened vascular plants, fungi, bryophytes, and all species combined. Our 1-km2 resolution data set included 271 threatened species from 16 major taxa. We modeled threatened species richness (raw and rarity weighted) with boosted regression trees. Climatic variables, especially the annual temperature sum above 5 °C, dominated our models, which is consistent with the critical role of temperature in this boreal environment. Geodiversity added significant explanatory power. High geodiversity values were consistently associated with high threatened species richness across taxa. The combined effect of geodiversity variables was even more pronounced in the rarity-weighted richness analyses (except for fungi) than in those for species richness. Geodiversity measures correlated most strongly with species richness (raw and rarity weighted) of threatened vascular plants and bryophytes and were weakest for molluscs, lichens, and mammals. Although simple measures of topography improve biodiversity modeling, our results suggest that geodiversity data relating to geology, landforms, and hydrology are also worth including. This reinforces recent arguments that conserving nature's stage is an important principle in conservation.
The capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is one of Poland's most endangered bird species, with an estimated population of 380-500 individuals in four isolated areas. To study these natural populations in Poland further, more than 900 non-invasive genetic samples were collected, along with samples from 59 birds representing large, continuous populations in Sweden and Russia; and from two centres in Poland breeding capercaillie. Microsatellite polymorphism at nine loci was then analysed to estimate within-population genetic diversity and genetic differentiation among populations. The results confirmed that isolation of populations and recent decreases in their sizes have reduced genetic diversity among capercaillie in Poland, with all the country's natural populations found to be experiencing the genetic after-effects of demographic bottlenecks. The results of analyses of genetic differentiation and structure further suggest the presence of a 'lowland' cluster (encompassing birds of the Augustowska and Solska Primaeval Forests in Poland, and of Sweden and Russia), and a Carpathian cluster. Capercaillie from Sweden and Russia are also found to differ markedly. The Polish lowland populations seem more closely related to birds from Scandinavia. Our genetic analysis also indicates that the stocks at breeding centres are of a high genetic diversity effectively reflecting the origins of founder individuals, though identification of ancestry requires further study in the case of some birds. Overall, the results sustain the conclusion that the Polish populations of capercaillie from the Carpathians and the lowlands should be treated as independent Management Units (MUs). This is to say that the breeding lines associated with these two sources should be maintained separately at breeding centres. The high level of genetic differentiation of birds from the Solska Primaeval Forest suggests that this population should also be assigned the status of independent MU.
Cites: Genetics. 1995 Jan;139(1):457-627705646
Cites: Bioinformatics. 2008 Jun 1;24(11):1403-518397895
Changes in concentration of pollutants and pathogen distribution can vary among ecotypes (e.g. marine versus terrestrial food resources). This may have important implications for the animals that reside within them. We examined 1) canid pathogen presence in an endangered arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) population and 2) relative total mercury (THg) level as a function of ecotype ('coastal' or 'inland') for arctic foxes to test whether the presence of pathogens or heavy metal concentration correlate with population health. The Bering Sea populations on Bering and Mednyi Islands were compared to Icelandic arctic fox populations with respect to inland and coastal ecotypes. Serological and DNA based pathogen screening techniques were used to examine arctic foxes for pathogens. THg was measured by atomic absorption spectrometry from hair samples of historical and modern collected arctic foxes and samples from their prey species (hair and internal organs). Presence of pathogens did not correlate with population decline from Mednyi Island. However, THg concentration correlated strongly with ecotype and was reflected in the THg concentrations detected in available food sources in each ecotype. The highest concentration of THg was found in ecotypes where foxes depended on marine vertebrates for food. Exclusively inland ecotypes had low THg concentrations. The results suggest that absolute exposure to heavy metals may be less important than the feeding ecology and feeding opportunities of top predators such as arctic foxes which may in turn influence population health and stability. A higher risk to wildlife of heavy metal exposure correlates with feeding strategies that rely primarily on a marine based diet.