Friday's Findings - May 7 2021

Release Date:

Structured decision making: A strategy for collaboration and conservation of imperiled herpetofauna (Carolina gopher-frog) 

Date: May 7, 2021 from 2-2:30 p.m. eastern time

Speaker: Brian Crawford, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Georgia Cooperative Research Unit 

Join the Meeting

Call in: 202-640-1187

Phone Conference ID: 387 327 121#

An open-canopied ephemeral wetland

An open-canopied ephemeral wetland occupied by gopher frogs in the northern Florida Peninsula. Wetlands like these surrounded by sandy upland habitat, such as longleaf pine systems, support gopher frog populations. (Credit: Brian Irwin, USGS Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. Public domain.)

Background: Structured decision making (SDM) is a process that helps decision makers and stakeholders solve complex conservation problems by breaking them into a sequence of more tractable components based in values and science. We highlight the benefits of SDM using a case study on range-wide strategic conservation planning for the Carolina gopher frog. We used SDM with State, federal, and other partners to identify optimal management strategies for the gopher frog across 183 sites that maximize the number and distribution of breeding populations in 2050 while minimizing cost.  We combined species data and expert judgment to model population persistence under three scenarios: 1) “status quo” management (least costly actions), 2) “do-all-we-can” management (most costly), and 3) “cost-effective” management where we identified optimal strategies that balance population outcomes and cost. Models predicted a reduction in persisting populations, relative to current conditions, across all three scenarios. Cost-effective strategies slowed population declines expected under status quo options and included a combination of managing uplands and wetlands at currently occupied sites as well as establishing new populations via head-starting and translocations. Our results can aid partners in implementing optimal conservation strategies at site-, state-, and range-wide scales when resources are limited and inform forthcoming listing decisions of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.