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Developing a conservation strategy to maximize persistence of an endangered freshwater mussel species while considering management effectiveness and cost

David R. Smith, Sarah E. McRae, Tom Augspurger, Judith A. Ratcliffe, Robert B. Nichols, Chris B. Eads, Tim Savidge and Arthur E. Bogan
Freshwater Science
Vol. 34, No. 4 (December 2015), pp. 1324-1339
DOI: 10.1086/683121
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/683121
Page Count: 16
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Developing a conservation strategy to maximize persistence of an endangered freshwater mussel species while considering management effectiveness and cost
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Abstract

AbstractWe used a structured decision-making process to develop conservation strategies to increase persistence of Dwarf Wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon) in North Carolina, USA, while accounting for uncertainty in management effectiveness and considering costs. Alternative conservation strategies were portfolios of management actions that differed by location of management actions on the landscape. Objectives of the conservation strategy were to maximize species persistence, maintain genetic diversity, maximize public support, and minimize management costs. We compared 4 conservation strategies: 1) the ‘status quo’ strategy represented current management, 2) the ‘protect the best’ strategy focused on protecting the best populations in the Tar River basin, 3) the ‘expand the distribution’ strategy focused on management of extant populations and establishment of new populations in the Neuse River basin, and 4) the ‘hybrid’ strategy combined elements of each strategy to balance conservation in the Tar and Neuse River basins. A population model informed requirements for population management, and experts projected performance of alternative strategies over a 20-y period. The optimal strategy depended on the relative value placed on competing objectives, which can vary among stakeholders. The protect the best and hybrid strategies were optimal across a wide range of relative values with 2 exceptions: 1) if minimizing management cost was of overriding concern, then status quo was optimal, or 2) if maximizing population persistence in the Neuse River basin was emphasized, then expand the distribution strategy was optimal. The optimal strategy was robust to uncertainty in management effectiveness. Overall, the structured decision process can help identify the most promising strategies for endangered species conservation that maximize conservation benefit given the constraint of limited funding.

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