ESR 32:507-513 (2017)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00831

OPINION PIECE
Conservation physiology can inform threat assessment and recovery planning processes for threatened species

Kim Birnie-Gauvin1,2,*, Sarah Walton1, Caleigh A. Delle Palme1, Beckie A. Manouchehri1,3, Simon Venne4, Robert J. Lennox1, Jacqueline M. Chapman1, Joseph R. Bennett3, Steven J. Cooke1

1Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
2DTU Aqua, National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Section for Freshwater Fisheries Ecology, Technical University of Denmark, Vejlsøvej 39, 8600 Silkeborg, Denmark
3Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada
4Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, 30 Marie-Curie, Ottawa, ON K1N 6N5, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Conservation physiology has emerged as a discipline with many success stories. Yet, it is unclear how it is currently integrated into the activities of the IUCN and other bodies which undertake international, national, or regional species threat assessments and work with partners to develop recovery plans. Here we argue that conservation physiology has much to offer for the threat assessment process and we outline the ways in which this can be operationalized. For instance, conservation physiology is effective in revealing causal relationships and mechanisms that explain observed patterns, such as population declines. Identifying the causes of population declines is a necessary precursor to the design of actions to reverse or mitigate such threats. Conservation physiology can also identify complex interactions and support modeling activities that consider emerging threats. When a population or species is deemed threatened and recovery plans are needed, physiology can be used to predict how organisms will respond to the conservation intervention and future threats. For example, if a recovery plan was focused on translocation, understanding how to safely translocate organisms would be necessary, as would ensuring that the recipient habitat provides the necessary environmental characteristics to meet the fundamental physiological needs/tolerances of that organism. Our hope is that this paper will clarify ways in which physiological data can make an important contribution to the conservation activities of bodies like the IUCN that are engaged in threat assessment and recovery of endangered organisms. Although we focus on activities at the international scale, these same concepts are relevant and applicable to national and regional bodies.


KEY WORDS: Endangered species · Physiology · IUCN · Threat assessments · Recovery planning · Conservation


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Cite this article as: Birnie-Gauvin K, Walton S, Palme CAD, Manouchehri BA and others (2017) Conservation physiology can inform threat assessment and recovery planning processes for threatened species. Endang Species Res 32:507-513. https://doi.org/10.3354/esr00831

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