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ESR 7:55-76 (2009)  -  DOI:

Global decline in aggregated migrations of large terrestrial mammals

Grant Harris1,2,*, Simon Thirgood 3,4, J. Grant C. Hopcraft3,5, Joris P. G. M. Cromsigt6, Joel Berger7,8

1Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West, 79th Street, New York, New York 10024, USA
2US Fish & Wildlife Service, PO Box 1306, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87103, USA
3Frankfurt Zoological Society, PO Box 14935, Arusha, Tanzania
4Aberdeen Centre for Environmental Sustainability, Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen AB34 5EL, UK
5Community and Conservation Ecology, University of Groningen, Postbus 72, 9700 AB Groningen, The Netherlands
6Mammal Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, 17-230 Bialowieza, Poland
7Northern Rockies Field Office, Wildlife Conservation Society, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA
8Division of Biological Sciences (HS 4824), University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812, USA

ABSTRACT: Knowledge of mammal migrations is low, and human impacts on migrations high. This jeopardizes efforts to conserve terrestrial migrations. To aid the conservation of these migrations, we synthesized information worldwide, describing 24 large-bodied ungulates that migrate in aggregations. This synthesis includes maps of extinct and extant migrations, numbers of migrants, summaries of ecological drivers and threats migrants confront. As data are often lacking, we outlined steps for science to address and inform conservation actions. We evaluated migrants against this framework, and reported their status. Mass migrations for 6 species are extinct or unknown. Most remaining migrants (n = 9) occur from 6 locations in Africa, with Eurasia and North America containing 6 and 4 remaining mass migrants, respectively (with caribou/reindeer Rangifer tarandus occurring in both regions). All migrants declined in abundance, except wildebeest and other migrants in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem (SME), white-eared kob and tiang in Sudan, and some caribou populations. Protected areas only contain migrations for 5 species in the SME, chiru on the Tibetan Plateau, and some caribou populations in North America. Most mass migrants track the seasonal and shifting patterns of greening vegetation over expanses of savannahs, steppes, and grasslands. Principal threats include overhunting and habitat loss from livestock, agriculture, and fencing that excludes animals from forage or water. Conservation science overlooks numerous migrations, so many have already disappeared and continue to do so. Key principles for conserving migrants, exemplified by the SME and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), include securing seasonal ranges, resource protection, government support and minimizing fences. This review forms a baseline for initiating conservation action for many ungulate migrations needing attention.

KEY WORDS: Mammals · Migration · Aggregation · Serengeti-Mara · Yellowstone · Ungulate · Global audit

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Cite this article as: Harris G, Thirgood S, Hopcraft JGC, Cromsigt JPGM, Berger J (2009) Global decline in aggregated migrations of large terrestrial mammals. Endang Species Res 7:55-76.

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