Developing policy on moving threatened species called 'a grand challenge for conservation'

Jul 18, 2012

the act of purposely relocating a threatened species, population, or genotype to an area that is foreign to its natural history—is a controversial response to the threat of extinction resulting from climate change. An article in the August 2012 issue of BioScience by Mark W. Schwartz and his colleagues reports on the findings of the Managed Relocation Working Group, an interdisciplinary group of scientists, researchers, and policymakers whose goals were to examine the conditions that might justify the use of managed relocation and to assess the research being conducted on the topic. The authors note that although traditional management strategies are not likely to address the effects of climate change adequately, guidelines and protocols for managed relocation are poorly developed. "Developing a functional policy framework for managed relocation is a grand challenge for conservation," they assert.

Moving a to a higher elevation, for instance, may allow it to survive rising temperatures or an elevated sea level, but doing do in an ethically acceptable way is fraught with both legal and political complications. Unforeseen environmental consequences of such an action may be severe—the species might become invasive in its new location, for example. Some question the appropriateness of conserving a single species at the expense of possibly disrupting an entire ecosystem. What is more, lax regulation of managed relocation may open the door to exploitative movement of species. Regulation is often dispersed among states, the federal government, and various agencies, which may have conflicting agendas, and most relevant policies and laws were not written with in mind.

The current state of ecological knowledge is such that predicting accurately the effects of any particular proposed relocation is difficult and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. This makes it hard to know which species are most likely to benefit from managed relocation. Even so, ad hoc managed relocation projects are already under way in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Schwartz and colleagues recommend action by government agencies to develop and adopt best practices for . They urge a transparent approach, with integrated research and international involvement of scientists, policymakers, resource managers, and other stakeholders. The BioScience authors provide a list of key questions that identify the main areas of possible contention. What is needed, they write, is more research to make better predictions; clearly written policies to define the responsibilities of various parties, to enable management and to limit abuse; and stakeholder involvement to minimize social conflict.

Explore further: Obama recommends extended wilderness zone in Alaska

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Proposed moose relocation draws debate

Jul 17, 2006

A proposed relocation plan for orphaned moose calves from the Alaska Moose Federation's Gary Olsen has received both a grant and criticism from officials.

Recommended for you

Obama recommends extended wilderness zone in Alaska

1 hour ago

US President Barack Obama said Sunday he would recommend a large swath of Alaska be designated as wilderness, the highest level of federal protection, in a move likely to anger oil proponents.

Uganda seizes massive ivory and pangolin haul

3 hours ago

Ugandan wildlife officers have seized a huge haul of elephant ivory and pangolin scales, representing the deaths of hundreds of endangered animals, police said Sunday.

The elephant poaching business in numbers

11 hours ago

From the pittance paid to local poachers to a multi-billion dollar industry, here are some of the key numbers related to Africa's endangered elephants:

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.