An Ecosystems Approach for Multispecies Conservation

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Southeast CASC supported researchers and partners propose a framework for evaluating species based on an ecosystem approach rather than a single species approach that can efficiently inform multiple species status assessments (SSAs) within a region and provide a foundation for transition to multispecies SSAs in the future.

A field of golden colored grasses surrounded by conifers under a blue sky.

Grasslands in the Piedmont region of the Southeastern US.  (Public domain.)

Read the original news story by the Southeast CASC, here.

Species status assessments (SSAs) are a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service process to inform U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) decisions from species’ listing to recovery. Existing SSAs currently have a single-species focus, yet in a new publication, Southeast CASC researchers and partners demonstrate how ecosystem-based research can efficiently inform multiple SSAs within a region and provide a foundation for transition to multispecies SSAs in the future. They considered at-risk grassland species and ecosystems within the southeastern U.S., where a disproportionate number of rare and endemic species are grassland-associated. They used a combined literature-based and structured World Café workshop format to identify science needs for SSAs that could be addressed by an ecosystem-based framework. Workshop discussions concentrated on five categories of threats to grassland species and ecosystems, consistent with recommendations to make shared threats a focus of planning under the ESA: (1) habitat loss, fragmentation, and disruption of functional connectivity; (2) climate change; (3) altered disturbance regimes; (4) invasive species; and (5) localized impacts. The researchers found that a combination of literature review and structured discussion effective for identifying the scientific information and analysis needed to support the development of multiple SSAs.

This publication is a product of the project, “Clarifying Science Needs for Southeastern Grasslands” funded by the Southeast CASC.

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