Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Planning translocations under a changing climate

Just before Christmas I attended the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting at the University of Birmingham and saw a talk by Alienor Chauvenet of ZSL. Her talk, entitled 'Planning translocations under a changing climate' used the example of the hihi, Notiomystis cincta, to explore some ideas she originally proposed in her paper in Animal Conservation last year (reference below).

Chauvenet noted, as I have in my systematic review of plant reintroductions, that climate change is very rarely cited as a motivation for undertaking translocations. However, climate change is not an issue that should be only be tackled when we discuss the pros and cons of assisted colonisation and other types of conservation introduction. Climate change has the potential to irreversibly alter the distribution of suitable habitat and therefore, needs to be accounted for in translocation projects whether it is a reintroduction or an introduction to new sites.

Both her paper and the BES talk propose a combination of methods to ensure that site selection in translocation projects maximises the success of reintroductions and assisted colonization under climate change. The strength of using a variety of methods to attempt to select translocation sites is made clear in
Table 2 of the paper. Eight key questions are included that would be necessary to ask in any translocation attempt and the methods given to answer them. Questions include 'where can the species be translocated?' and 'how many individuals and what sex ratio should be translocated?'. The methods include population dynamics modelling, species distribution models and risk assessment to ensure that both project planning and implementation are informed by relevant and detailed analysis.

As far as I am aware, this is the most comprehensive scheme for avoiding many of the common problems that result in failed translocations. One thing I'm still not sure of, and have blogged about before, is the uptake of such methods by practitioners - are modelling methods still the preserve of researchers? If so, shouldn't we be trying to build the capacity for these analytical methods within NGOs and government agencies? I'm hoping to blog about this in the future but instead of simply pointing out the research-practice gap, I hope to give some practical pointers on which data to collect, what freeware is available and who has used what.  If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Chauvenet, A. L. M., Ewen, J. G., Armstrong, D. P., Blackburn, T. M., & Pettorelli, N. (2012). Maximizing the success of assisted colonizations. (M. Gompper, Ed.)Animal Conservation, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2012.00589.x

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