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Estimating Demographic Rates and Assessing Environmental Effects on Species Survival: the use of ISIS data to conserve wild populations

Habitat loss, infectious diseases, and invasive species continue to be among the key drivers of species extinction worldwide. Climate change increasingly represents an additional threat, in particular for polar and mountain species. As a result, predicting population trends for wild populations will be key to developing management programs to slow down current extinction rates. Extinction is in essence a demographic process, where mortality levels are higher than birth rates: this eventually results in the total collapse of populations. Therefore, demography is a fundamental discipline that can inform the effective management of populations. For this, data on species demographic rates such as age at first reproduction, clutch and litter size among others are essential. To date, there are only sufficient demographic data available to parameterize population models for ~0.5% of the world’s vertebrates. Without such data, PVAs are limited in application and their value as a tool for informing conservation management totally undermined. However, ISIS member institutions hold ~15% of the IUCN Red List threatened species, with data on these species stored in extensive ISIS databases. Such information, if properly calibrated, could substantially improve our ability to predict the dynamics of wild populations, and their response to a changing environment. In this project we aim to use ISIS data to answer two key questions for species conservation: 1) For which types of species can we use ISIS data to parameterize PVAs and with what level of confidence, and 2) How do environmental effects influence demographic rates of species. Based on this knowledge we will be able to explore how environmental variables affect demographic trajectories using zoos as a control populations. These analyses will provide key insight for species survival analyses under different climate change scenarios. To do this we will compare species for which there is sufficient data available from ISIS-zoos and wild populations and assess if generalizations can be made for certain life history group’s or/and phylogenetically related groups. This study will address one of the main limiting factors of managing species at risk of extinction: the lack of demographic data. Partners: Dalia Amor Conde, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Odense, Denmark | Jonathan Wilcken, Auckland Zoo New Zealand | Nate Flesness | International Species Information System, USA Funding: RZSA, MPI, Auckland Zoo
Date:1 Jan 2014  →  Today