Reintroducing species when threats still exist: assessing the suitability of contemporary landscapes for island endemics Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractReintroducing species into landscapes with persistent threats is a conservation challenge. Although historic threats may not be eliminated, they should be understood in the context of contemporary landscapes. Regenerating landscapes often contain newly emergent habitat, creating opportunities for reintroductions. The Endangered St Croix ground lizard Pholidoscelis polops was extirpated from the main island of St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, as a result of habitat conversion to agriculture and predation by the small Indian mongoose Herpestes auropunctatus. The species survived on two small cays and was later translocated to two islands. Since the 1950s, new land-cover types have emerged on St Croix, creating a matrix of suitable habitat throughout the island. Here we examined whether the new habitat is sufficient for a successful reintroduction of the St Croix ground lizard, utilizing three complementary approaches. Firstly, we compared a map from 1750 to the current landscape of St Croix and found statistical similarity of land-cover types. Secondly, we determined habitat suitability based on a binomial mixture population model developed as part of the programme monitoring the largest extant population of the St Croix ground lizard. We estimated the habitat to be sufficient for > 142,000 lizards to inhabit St Croix. Thirdly, we prioritized potential reintroduction sites and planned for reintroductions to take place during 20202023. Our case study demonstrates how changing landscapes alter the spatial configuration of threats to species, which can create opportunities for reintroduction. Presuming that areas of degraded habitat may never again be habitable could fail to consider how regenerating landscapes can support species recovery. When contemporary landscapes are taken into account, opportunities for reintroducing threatened species can emerge.

published proceedings

  • ORYX

altmetric score

  • 11.93

author list (cited authors)

  • Angeli, N. F., & Fitzgerald, L. A.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Angeli, Nicole Frances||Fitzgerald, Lee Austin

publication date

  • May 2021