Can flexible timing of harvest for translocation reduce the impact on fluctuating source populations?
journal contributionposted on 2021-11-25, 04:01 authored by Simon VerdonSimon Verdon, William F Mitchell, Michael F Clarke
Abstract: Context. Species translocations are used in conservation globally. Although harvest for translocation may have negative impacts on source populations, translocation programs rarely explore ways of minimising those impacts. In fluctuating source populations, harvest timing may affect its impact because population size and trajectory vary among 5 years. Aims. We explored whether the timing and scale of harvest can be altered to reduce its impact on a fluctuating source population of Mallee Emu-wrens, Stipiturus mallee; an endangered passerine in south-eastern Australia. Mallee Emuwren populations fluctuate with ,5–10-year drought–rain cycles. Methods. We used population viability analysis (PVA) to compare the impact of five harvest scales (no harvest, 100, 10 200, 300 or 500 individuals) under three population trajectories (increasing, stable or decreasing) and two initial population sizes (our model-based estimate of the population size and the lower 95% confidence interval of that estimate). To generate a model-based estimate of the population size, we surveyed 540 sites (9 ha), stratified according to environmental variables known to affect Mallee Emu-wren occurrence. We used an information-theoretic approach with N-mixture models to estimate Mallee Emu-wren density, and extrapolated results over all potential habitat. 15 Key Results. We estimate that in spring 2019, the source population consisted of 6449 individuals, with a minimum of 1923 individuals (lower 95% confidence interval). Of 48 harvest scenarios, only seven showed no impact of harvest within 5 years (15%). Those seven all had increasing population trajectories and carrying capacity set to equal initial population size. Twenty-six populations showed no impact of harvest within 25 years (54%). These were either increasing populations that had reached carrying capacity or decreasing populations nearing extinction. 20 Conclusions. Initial population size, carrying capacity, harvest scale and population trajectory were all determinants of harvest impact. Given the importance of carrying capacity, further research is required to determine its role in the Mallee Emu-wren source population. Implications. Harvesting Mallee Emu-wrens after high-rainfall years will have the least impact because source populations are likely to be large with increasing trajectories. For fluctuating source populations, flexibility in the timing of 25 harvest can reduce its impact and should be considered during translocation planning.