Conservation Science Blog

New research relevant to conservation in western North America

The Conservation Science Blog is intended to bring new and relevant research to the attention of conservation scientists, and facilitate discussion on how to apply this science to further conservation goals in western North America.

Genetic diversity and dispersal in Northern Rocky Mountain wolves

Apologies for the many recent posts on Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) wolves, but this fall has seen a number of new studies published that have relevance to management of other species as well. Bridgett vonHoldt and colleagues have a new paper in Molecular Ecology that follows up on their 2008 study of gene flow among wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Using new genetic analysis techniques, the authors found that by at least 2004 (the ending date of the genetic data set), genetically effective dispersal had been established between the three wolf populations in the NRM. Read more

Posted in Endangered species management |

More on the effects of hunting on wolf populations

I’ve heard back from some colleagues concerning the new paper by Creel and Rotella, a meta-analysis of wolf mortality, that I described in a recent post. The respondents felt that the Creel and Rotella meta-analysis is generally sound and the conclusions that harvest mortality is not (or at least is only partially) compensatory to natural mortality has significant implications for state management, especially management that assumes that hunting of wolves can be used to reduce livestock conflicts. Read more

Posted in Endangered species management |

New perspectives on trophic cascades

A new study out of Australia, published in Ecology Letters, found that restoration of top predators such as the dingo may be a more effective method to limit the impacts of invasive species (in this case, introduced mesopredators such as foxes and cats) than direct control of invasives. The authors found that rather than controlling invasives, pest control inadvertently promoted invasive and opportunistic species by disrupting dingo populations. Read more

Posted in Endangered species management |

New studies on the effects of exurban development on wildlife populations and their genetic structure

Two new studies focus on how wildlife populations in southern California are affected by the expansion of both urban areas and the ‘exurban’ areas that surround them. The findings are relevant to other areas where natural vegetation is being rapidly converted to development. In the first issue of the new open-access journal Ecosphere, Burdett and colleagues built habitat models for puma from telemetry data and then, using a detailed projection of future development patterns, projected how the distribution of puma habitat would change over the coming decades. Read more

Posted in Endangered species management |

How can an understanding of the relationship between productivity and biodiversity aid conservation planning?

A new study by Linda Phillips examines how the diversity of bird species varies across North America in relation to primary productivity. The authors found that they could categorize regions into three groups with three contrasting types of productivity/diversity relationship. In regions of high primary productivity, such as the southeast US, diversity decreased as productivity increased. In regions with intermediate productivity, such as the boreal forests of Canada, the authors found no significant relationship between diversity and productivity. In areas of low productivity, such as the western Great Plains, Great Basin, and interior Alaska, diversity increased with increasing levels of productivity. Read more

Posted in Endangered species management |

Effects of hunting on wolf populations

The recent debate concerning wolf management in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) has focused in part on what type of long-term management approach is appropriate for recovered wolf populations. Often the normative or ethical debate over wolf hunting is difficult to separate from ecological questions such as what level of human-associated mortality (hunting, lethal control) can be sustained by wolf populations. Two new studies provide new insights on the latter question. Read more
Posted in Endangered species management |