Conservation Translocations as Bioassays of Global Environmental Change

Conservation translocation is an umbrella term for any deliberate movement of plants or animals for conservation purposes and includes reintroductions where the recipient site is within the species’ indigenous range, and conservation introductions (C.I.) which involve moving individuals beyond the range. Reintroductions are regularly used for threatened species management but with mixed success (Dalrymple et al. 2011). Poor post-translocation survival might occur because recipient sites are only superficially like those supporting extant populations and practitioners do not account for the potential for recent climate change to have rendered parts of the former range unsuitable (Dalrymple 2010). In a meta-analysis of plant translocations, reintroductions resulted in higher mortality than C.I. (although not statistically significant due to the very small number of examples of C.I. identified; Dalrymple et al. 2011). Whilst there are limitations in this result, it highlights the urgent need to look at C.I. as a conservation option.  The identification of more C.I. examples may support the hypothesis that failed reintroductions are attributable to recent climate change whilst successful C.I. could indicate a shift in the spatial distribution of suitable climatic conditions beyond the species’ former range.

Research question
Can the differential success rate of reintroductions and C.I. be explained by a shift in suitable climate conditions relative to the indigenous range of species subject to conservation translocations?

1. Identify examples of plants and animals that have been the subject of reintroductions and C.I.  from an existing dataset of over 700 plant species subject to conservation translocations (Dalrymple et al. 2011) and a dataset of animal species currently under construction.
2. Use published and unpublished data to determine the current indigenous distribution of the focal species, the location of conservation translocation attempts, and the population growth rate at sites supporting indigenous and translocated populations.
3. Use modelling methods to describe the spatial extent of suitable climate conditions based on the growth rate of indigenous and translocated populations.  Assess the relative contribution of climate and non-climate factors to the extent of range change.

Conservation practitioners will be incentivised to contribute data by receiving a species-specific assessment of the extent of climatic space and the suitability of translocation sites in return. This will benefit species-focussed management by undertaking informative analyses for which there is little capacity outside of conservation research. Practitioners will be given the option of publishing the species assessment before being combined into a single publication reporting on the meta-data from the project.
This project will result in the first quantitative and global assessment of where C.I. is used and the relative success of reintroductions. It will add valuable empirical evidence from many taxa and biomes to the growing literature on species migration due to climate change which is currently dominated by predictive studies and distribution change studies highlighting the colonisation lag behind recent climatic shifts; deliberate introductions are an opportunity to explore range shift without the limitations of natural dispersal.

References and relevant publications:

Dalrymple, S.E. & Moerhenschlager, A. (2013). “Words matter.” A response to Jørgensen’s treatment of historic range and definitions of reintroduction. Restoration Ecology doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2012.00932.x.

Dalrymple, S.E., Banks, E., Stewart, G.B. & Pullin, A.S.  (2012). A meta-analysis of threatened plant re-introductions from across the globe. In: Maschinski, J. & Haskins, K.E. (ed.) Plant Reintroduction in a Changing Climate:  Promises and Perils. Island Press, Washington.

Kennedy, K., Albrecht, M.A., Guerrant, E.O., Dalrymple, S.E., Maschinski, J. & Haskins, K.E. (2012).  Synthesis and future directions.  In: Maschinski, J. & Haskins, K.E. (ed.) Plant Reintroduction in a Changing Climate:  Promises and Perils. Island Press, Washington.

Dalrymple, S.E., Stewart, G.B. & Pullin, A.S. (2011). Are re-introductions an effective way of mitigating against plant extinctions? CEE review 07-008 (SR32). Collaboration for Environmental Evidence: SR32.html.

Seddon, P.J., Stanley Price, M., Launay F., Maunder M., Soorae P., Molur S., Armstrong D., Jordan, M., Dalrymple S.E. & Genovesi P. (2011) Frankenstein Ecosystems and 21st Century Conservation Agendas: a reply to Oliveira-Santos and Fernandez. Conservation Biology 25: 212-213.

Dalrymple, S.E. & Broome, A. (2010).  Investigations into the importance of donor population identity and habitat type when creating populations of a nationally scarce annual, Melampyrum sylvaticum. Conservation Evidence 7: 1-8.

Dalrymple, S.E., Broome, A. & Gallagher, P. (2008). Re-introduction of small cow-wheat into the Scottish Highlands, UK.  In: Soorae, P.S. (ed.) GLOBAL RE-INTRODUCTION PERSPECTIVES: re-introduction case studies from around theglobe.  IUCN/SSC Re-introduction Specialist Group, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

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