Many species around the world are declining precipitously as a result of multiple threats and changing climate. Managers tasked with protecting species often face difficult decisions in regard to identifying which threats should be addressed, given limited resources and uncertainty in the success of any identified management action. On Kaua‘i Island, Hawai‘i, USA, forest bird species have experienced accelerated declines over the last 20 years, and 2 species, the ‘akikiki (Oreomystis bairdi) and ‘akeke‘e (Loxops caeruleirostris), are now at the brink of extinction. Both species face multiple threats, and managers face difficult decisions on whether to mitigate threats in the wild, establish a captive population as insurance against extinction, translocate birds to novel locations, or some combination of these actions. Each set of actions (alternatives) would require substantial resources with considerable uncertainty in success. In 2014, we brought together 14 experts representing biologists and managers familiar with the species and island to develop a conservation strategy under a structured decision making (SDM) framework, an approach for making complex decisions under uncertainty. The group's challenge was to identify a set of alternatives that reduces the risk of extinction, set the foundation for one or more genetically viable, reproducing, stable to increasing populations in 10 years, and promote conditions for long-term persistence in the wild. Multiple alternatives were evaluated, via expert judgement, in terms of the probability they would achieve the objectives concerning immediate extinction risk, near-term viability, and adequacy of habitat. Factors that might impede the success of each action were also evaluated. The process identified the establishment of a captive population and efforts to stabilize the existing wild population as the approach most likely to meet the objectives of preventing imminent extinction and ensuring long-term viability.
|Title||Minimizing extinction risk in the face of uncertainty: Developing conservation strategies for 2 rapidly declining forest bird species on Kaua‘i Island|
|Authors||Eben H. Paxton, Lisa H. Crampton, John Vetter, Megan Laut, Lainie Berry, Steve Morey|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Wildlife Society Bulletin|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center|