Comparison of reintroduction and enhancement effects on metapopulation viability
AbstractMetapopulation viability depends upon a balance of extinction and colonization of local habitats by a species. Mechanisms that can affect this balance include physical characteristics related to natural processes (e.g. succession) as well as anthropogenic actions. Plant restorations can help to produce favorable metapopulation dynamics and consequently increase viability; however, to date no studies confirm this is true. Population viability analysis (PVA) allows for the use of empirical data to generate theoretical future projections in the form of median time to extinction and probability of extinction. In turn, PVAs can inform and aid the development of conservation, recovery, and management plans. Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) is a dune endemic that exhibited metapopulation dynamics. We projected viability of three natural and two restored populations with demographic data spanning 15-23 years to determine the degree the addition of reintroduced population affects metapopulation viability. The models were validated by comparing observed and projected abundances and adjusting parameters associated with demographic and environmental stochasticity to improve model performance. Our chosen model correctly predicted yearly population abundance for 60% of the population-years. Using that model, 50-year projections showed that the addition of reintroductions increases metapopulation viability. The reintroduction that simulated population performance in early-successional habitats had the maximum benefit. In situ enhancements of existing populations proved to be equally effective. This study shows that restorations can facilitate and improve metapopulation viability of species dependent on metapopulation dynamics for survival with long-term persistence of C. pitcheri in Indiana likely to depend on continued active management.
Volume, Issue, Page Number23, 4, 375-384