Which species, how many, and from where: Integrating habitat suitability, population genomics, and abundance estimates into species reintroduction planning
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Extirpated organisms are reintroduced into their former ranges worldwide to combat species declines and biodiversity losses. The growing field of reintroduction biology provides guiding principles for reestablishing populations, though criticisms remain regarding limited integration of initial planning, modeling frameworks, interdisciplinary collaborations, and multispecies approaches. We used an interdisciplinary, multispecies, quantitative framework to plan reintroductions of three fish species into Abrams Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA. We first assessed the appropriateness of habitat at reintroduction sites for banded sculpin (Cottus carolinae), greenside darter (Etheostoma blennioides), and mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdii) using species distribution modeling. Next, we evaluated the relative suitability of nine potential source stock sites using population genomics, abundance estimates, and multiple-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) based on known correlates of reintroduction success. Species distribution modeling identified mottled sculpin as a poor candidate, but banded sculpin and greenside darter as suitable candidates for reintroduction based on species-habitat relationships and habitats available in Abrams Creek. Genotyping by sequencing revealed acceptable levels of genetic diversity at all candidate source stock sites, identified population clusters, and allowed for estimating the number of fish that should be included in translocations. Finally, MCDA highlighted priorities among candidate source stock sites that were most likely to yield successful reintroductions based on differential weightings of habitat assessment, population genomics, and the number of fish available for translocation. Our integrative approach represents a unification of multiple recent advancements in the field of reintroduction biology and highlights the benefit of shifting away from simply choosing nearby populations for translocation to an information-based science with strong a priori planning coupled with several suggested posteriori monitoring objectives. Our framework can be applied to optimize reintroduction successes for a multitude of organisms and advances in the science of reintroduction biology by simultaneously addressing a variety of past criticisms of the field.
author list (cited authors)
Malone, E. W., Perkin, J. S., Leckie, B. M., Kulp, M. A., Hurt, C. R., & Walker, D. M.