BioBriefs NIKI WILSON Biologists and land managers use rein- reintroduced individuals. For over two International Union for Conservation troduction as a way to bring back plants decades, scientists have cited the CLM of Nature Reintroduction Specialist and animals that have disappeared reintroduction as a model for fisher Group. He agrees with Stewart but from their native ranges. However, reintroduction. But no longer. “We may notes that reintroduction will often be relocating a subset of animals from be underestimating how well these ani- quicker or more feasible than facili- another population can have a high mals can travel through habitat we tating natural colonization. He also price tag, require mountains of manual thought was unsuitable,” Stewart says. cautions that previous reintroduction labor, and lead to variable outcomes. Curious about the possibility that success should not necessarily be used Often, when a species appears to have this had happened elsewhere, Stewart to determine whether future reintro- reestablished its population after these reviewed all fisher reintroductions in ductions go ahead. “This focus on suc- efforts, the reintroduction is celebrated North America where genetic testing cess or, conversely, worry about failure as a success, with the assumption that for reintroduction success had been can make people risk averse,” he says, the resulting individuals are genetic performed—about 16 cases out of 30. which sometimes discourages people descendants of those reintroduced. But She found that 47 percent of the time, from taking action and means fewer, surprising findings from a new study genetic testing changed the status of less successful outcomes in the long on fishers in Alberta, Canada, suggest the reintroduction from successful to run. “Part of reintroduction biology is that this may not always be the case. a doubtful or ambiguous genetic con- simply about monitoring and making Fishers were once common across tribution from the released animals. the information available so people the forests of North America, until hab- This is believed to be the first work can learn from previous experience.” itat loss from agriculture and excessive to question reintroduction success not Stewart agrees, adding that many trapping resulted in a 40 percent con- just of a population but also of an entire times, reintroductions make sense, per- traction of their range. By the 1990s, species across the continent. And its haps even when there is a reasonable fishers had already been extirpated implications extend far beyond fishers. chance of recolonization. “It’s possible from many parts of Alberta for 50 “A lot of money, effort, and public that by performing a reintroduction, years, and attempts were made across and political buy-in are put into rein- you attract other [members of the spe- the province to reintroduce them to troductions as a conservation strategy, cies] from adjacent areas,” providing their native range. A release of fishers and there are definitely instances [in a secondary route to reintroduction from source populations in Manitoba which] that is needed,” says Stewart. “success.” She concludes, however, that and Ontario into Alberta’s Cooking “But maybe the effort is better spent “this area needs a lot more research.” Lake Moraine (CLM) area (900 square conserving habitat between populations Regardless, in cases in which there is kilometers)—a forested “terrestrial rather than moving animals. If you start a chance of recolonization, it is impossi- island” in a sea of farmland—had, until to conserve habitat, you connect popu- ble to know whether or not reintroduc- recently, been credited with the return lations, which is a requirement for hav- tions are valuable until the completion of fishers to that area. ing a resilient species on the landscape. of follow-up genetic analyses on a spe- But a team of scientists led by But you also address the issue of why a cies-by-species basis, she explains. Frances Stewart, from the University of lot of these species have gone extinct in Stewart and her coauthors encourage Victoria, decided to test this assump- the first place, and that is habitat loss.” other conservation biologists to investi- tion. They genotyped 147 individual The study authors recommend that gate, share, and publish similar genetic fishers from the CLM to determine the prior to a possible reintroduction, con- work to build a broader scientific base genetic contribution of these assumed servation biologists model the connec- for understanding reintroduction versus source populations versus that of adja- tivity of the landscape to areas where recolonization success. “This will help cent, northern populations in Alberta they know there are sustainable popula- us determine how common the example (www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/ tions. “If there’s any chance that those of the CLM fishers might be,” she says. pii/S0006320716307170). animals could move to the new land- What they discovered “was a sur- scape on their own, then maybe it’s worth Niki Wilson is science writer based in Jasper, prise to many fisher biologists,” says trying to facilitate that,” says Stewart. Alberta. Say hello at www.nikiwilson.com or on Stewart. The CLM fishers were geneti- Doug Armstrong is a professor Twitter @niki_wilson. cally more similar to populations fur- of conservation biology at Massey ther north than to those that were the University, New Zealand, and source of the captured and translocated chair of the Oceania Section of the doi:10.1093/biosci/bix157 232 BioScience • March 2018 / Vol. 68 No. 3 https://academic.oup.com/bioscience Downloaded from https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article-abstract/68/3/232/4829560 by Ed 'DeepDyve' Gillespie user on 16 March 2018
BioScience – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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