Matching Items (14)

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America’s Wild Horses: How Do Our Perceptions Shape Management Decisions?

Description

The issue of wild horse management in the American West has become prevalent in the media recently and management strategies are often criticized and opposed by the public. Horses have

The issue of wild horse management in the American West has become prevalent in the media recently and management strategies are often criticized and opposed by the public. Horses have been a core feature of American history and culture nearly since the colonization of the western frontier, and popular media such as television and movies paint a romantic but often unrealistic picture of wild horses. Land management agencies must balance limited resources with an ever-growing wild horse population in order to properly manage public land so that it retains its ecological integrity and is still able to be used by multiple stakeholders, and they also must endure public criticism throughout the process. I used a photo elicitation survey to gather responses to photographic images of wild horses and determine how the public feels about wild horse management, given that horses are seen as a symbol of freedom and the American West. It was revealed that people who are unfamiliar with the issue still have opinions about how the horses should be managed, and these opinions often mirror what can be found in popular media.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2019-05

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Assessing the impact of Endangered Species Act recovery planning guidelines on managing threats for listed species

Description

Since its inception in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has been met with both praise and criticism. More than 40 years later, the Act is still polarizing, with proponents applauding

Since its inception in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has been met with both praise and criticism. More than 40 years later, the Act is still polarizing, with proponents applauding its power to protect species and critics arguing against its perceived ineffectiveness and potential mismanagement. Recovery plans, which were required by the 1988 amendments to the Act, play an important role in organizing efforts to protect and recover species under the Act. In 1999, in an effort to evaluate the process, the Society for Conservation Biology commissioned an independent review of endangered species recovery planning. From these findings, the SCB made key recommendations for how management agencies could improve the recovery planning process, after which the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service redrafted their recovery planning guidelines. One important recommendation called for recovery plans to make threats a primary focus, including organizing and prioritizing recovery tasks for threat abatement. Here, I seek to determine the extent to which SCB recommendations were incorporated into these new guidelines, and if, in turn, the recommendations regarding threats manifested in recovery plans written under the new guidelines. I found that the guidelines successfully incorporated most SCB recommendations, except those that addressed monitoring. As a result, recent recovery plans have improved in their treatment of threats, but still fail to adequately incorporate threat monitoring. This failure suggests that developing clear guidelines for monitoring should be an important priority in future ESA recovery planning.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Statistical evaluation and GIS model development to predict and classify habitat quality for the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher

Description

The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) has been studied for over two decades and listed as endangered for most of that time. Though the flycatcher has been granted protected

The Southwestern Willow Flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) has been studied for over two decades and listed as endangered for most of that time. Though the flycatcher has been granted protected status since 1995, critical habitat designation for the flycatcher has not shared the same history. Critical habitat designation is essential for achieving the long-term goals defined in the flycatcher recovery plan where emphasis is on both the protection of this species and "the habitats supporting these flycatchers [that] must be protected from threats and loss" (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2002). I used a long-term data set of habitat characteristics collected at three study areas along the Lower Colorado River to develop a method for quantifying habitat quality for flycatcher. The data set contained flycatcher nest observations (use) and habitat availability (random location) from 2003-2010 that I statistically analyzed for flycatcher selection preferences. Using both Pearson's Chi-square test and SPSS Principal Component Analysis (PCA) I determined that flycatchers were selecting 30 habitat traits significantly different among an initial list of 127 habitat characteristics. Using PCA, I calculated a weighted value of influence for each significant trait per study area and used those values to develop a habitat classification system to build predictive models for flycatcher habitat quality. I used ArcGIS® Model Builder to develop three habitat suitability models for each of the habitat types occurring in western riparian systems, native, mixed exotic and exotic dominated that are frequented by breeding flycatchers. I designed a fourth model, Topock Marsh, to test model accuracy on habitat quality for flycatchers using reserved accuracy assessment points of previous nest locations. The results of the fourth model accurately predicted a decline in habitat at Topock Marsh that was confirmed by SWCA survey reports released in 2011 and 2012 documenting a significant decline in flycatcher productivity in the Topock Marsh study area.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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Evaluation of the efficacy of DNA sequencing and microhistological analysis for determining diet composition in ungulates

Description

An understanding of diet habits is crucial in implementing proper management strategies for wildlife. Diet analysis, however, remains a challenge for ruminant species. Microhistological analysis, the method most often employed

An understanding of diet habits is crucial in implementing proper management strategies for wildlife. Diet analysis, however, remains a challenge for ruminant species. Microhistological analysis, the method most often employed in herbivore diet studies, is tedious and time consuming. In addition, it requires considerable training and an extensive reference plant collection. The development of DNA barcoding (species identification using a standardized DNA sequence) and the availability of recent DNA sequencing techniques offer new possibilities in diet analysis for ungulates. Using fecal material collected from controlled feeding trials on pygmy goats, (Capra hicus), novel DNA barcoding technology using the P6-loop of the chloroplast trnL (UAA) intron was compared with the traditional microhistological technique. At its current stage of technological development, this study demonstrated that DNA barcoding did not enhance the ability to detect plant species in herbivore diets. A higher mean species composition was reported with microhistological analysis (79%) as compared to DNA barcoding (50%). Microhistological analysis consistently reported a higher species presence by forage class. For affect positive species identification, microhistology estimated an average of 89% correct detection in control diets, while DNA barcoding estimated 50% correct detection of species. It was hypothesized that a number of factors, including variation in chloroplast content in feed species and the effect of rumen bacteria on degradation of DNA, influenced the ability to detect plant species in herbivore diets and concluded that while DNA barcoding opens up new possibilities in the study of plant-herbivore interactions, further studies are needed to standardize techniques and for DNA bar-coding in this context.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Sonoran desert tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) growth and juvenile habitat selection at a long-term study site in central Arizona, USA

Description

Biological diversity is threatened by increasing anthropogenic modification of natural environments and increasing demands on natural resources. Sonoran desert tortoises (Gopherus morafkai) currently have Candidate status under the Endangered Species

Biological diversity is threatened by increasing anthropogenic modification of natural environments and increasing demands on natural resources. Sonoran desert tortoises (Gopherus morafkai) currently have Candidate status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) based on health and habitat threats. To ensure this animal persists in the midst of multiple threats requires an understanding of the life history and ecology of each population. I looked at one physiological and one behavioral aspect of a population of tortoises at the Sugarloaf Mountain (SL) study site in central Arizona, USA. I used 21 years of capture-recapture records to estimate growth parameters of the entire population. I investigated habitat selection of juvenile tortoises by selecting 117 locations of 11 tortoises that had been tracked by radio-telemetry one to three times weekly for two years, selecting locations from both summer active season and during winter hibernation. I compared 22 microhabitat variables of tortoise locations to random SL locations to determine habitat use and availability. Male tortoises at SL reach a greater asymptotic length than females, and males and females appear to grow at the same rate. Juvenile tortoises at the SL site use steep rocky hillsides with high proportions of sand and annual vegetation, few succulents, and enclosed shelters in summer. They use enclosed shelters on steep slopes for winter hibernation. An understanding of these features can allow managers to quantify Sonoran desert tortoise habitat needs and life history characteristics and to understand the impact of land use policies.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Pikas, grasslands, and pastoralists: understanding the roles of plateau pikas in a coupled social-ecological system

Description

The plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae), a small burrowing lagomorph that occupies the high alpine grassland ecosystems of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in western China, remains a controversial subject among policymakers and

The plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae), a small burrowing lagomorph that occupies the high alpine grassland ecosystems of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in western China, remains a controversial subject among policymakers and researchers. One line of evidence points to pikas being a pest, which has led to massive attempts to eradicate pika populations. Another point of view is that pikas are a keystone species and an ecosystem engineer in the grassland ecosystem of the QTP. The pika eradication program raises a difficult ethical and religious dilemma for local pastoralists, and is criticized for not being supported by scientific evidence. Complex interactions between pikas, livestock, and habitat condition are poorly understood. My dissertation research examines underpinning justifications of the pika poisoning program leading to these controversies. I investigated responses of pikas to habitat conditions with field experimental manipulations, and mechanisms of pika population recovery following pika removal. I present policy recommendations based on an environmental ethics framework and findings from the field experiments. After five years of a livestock grazing exclusion experiment and four years of pika monitoring, I found that grazing exclusion resulted in a decline of pika habitat use, which suggests that habitat conditions determine pika population density. I also found that pikas recolonized vacant burrow systems following removal of residents, but that distances travelled by dispersing pikas were extremely short (~50 m). Thus, current pika eradication programs, if allowed to continue, could potentially compromise local populations as well as biodiversity conservation on the QTP. Lethal management of pikas is a narrowly anthropocentric-based form of ecosystem management that has excluded value-pluralism, such as consideration of the intrinsic value of species and the important ecological role played by pikas. These conflicting approaches have led to controversies and policy gridlock. In response, I suggest that the on-going large-scale pika eradication program needs reconsideration. Moderation of stocking rates is required in degraded pika habitats, and Integrated Pest Management may be required when high stocking rate and high pika density coexist. A moderate level of livestock and pika density can be consistent with maintaining the integrity and sustainability of the QTP alpine steppe ecosystem.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Herpetofauna community responses to saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) biological control and riparian restoration along a Mojave Desert stream, U.S.A

Description

In riparian ecosystems, reptiles and amphibians are good indicators of environmental conditions. Herpetofauna have been linked to specific microhabitat characteristics, microclimates, and water resources in riparian forests. My objective was

In riparian ecosystems, reptiles and amphibians are good indicators of environmental conditions. Herpetofauna have been linked to specific microhabitat characteristics, microclimates, and water resources in riparian forests. My objective was to relate herpetofauna abundance to changes in riparian habitat along the Virgin River caused by the Tamarix biological control agent, Diorhabda carinulata, and riparian restoration.

During 2013 and 2014, vegetation and herpetofauna were monitored at 21 riparian locations along the Virgin River via trapping and visual encounter surveys. Study sites were divided into four stand types based on density and percent cover of dominant trees (Tamarix, Prosopis, Populus, and Salix) and presence of restoration activities: Tam, Tam-Pros, Tam-Pop/Sal, and Restored Tam-Pop/Sal. Restoration activities consisted of mechanical removal of non-native trees, transplanting native trees, and introduction of water flow. All sites were affected by biological control. I predicted that herpetofauna abundance would vary between stand types and that herpetofauna abundance would be greatest in Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites due to increased habitat openness and variation following restoration efforts.

Results from trapping indicated that Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites had three times more total lizard and eight times more Sceloporus uniformis captures than other stand types. Anaxyrus woodhousii abundance was greatest in Tam-Pop/Sal and Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites. Visual encounter surveys indicated that herpetofauna abundance was greatest in the Restored Tam-Pop/Sal site compared to the adjacent Unrestored Tam-Pop/Sal site. Habitat variables were reduced to six components using a principle component analysis and significant differences were detected among stand types. Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites were most similar to Tam-Pop/Sal sites. S. uniformis were positively associated with large woody debris and high densities of Populus, Salix, and large diameter Prosopis.

Restored Tam-Pop/Sal sites likely supported higher abundances of herpetofauna, as these areas exhibited greater habitat heterogeneity. Restoration activities created a mosaic habitat by reducing canopy cover and increasing native tree density and surface water. Natural resource managers should consider implementing additional restoration efforts following biological control when attempting to restore riparian areas dominated by Tamarix and other non-native trees.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Diet, nutrients, and free water requirements of pronghorn antelope on Perry Mesa, Arizona

Description

For the past 30 years wildlife biologists have debated the need of pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) to drink freestanding water (free water). Some have suggested that pronghorn may feed at

For the past 30 years wildlife biologists have debated the need of pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) to drink freestanding water (free water). Some have suggested that pronghorn may feed at night to increase preformed water (plant moisture) intake, thus decreasing their dependence on free water. Pronghorn diet composition and nutrient intake is integral to understanding water available to pronghorn through preformed and metabolic sources. The dual purpose of this study was to determine plant composition of pronghorn diets, and to examine whether night feeding provides a water allocation advantage by testing for differences between day and night and modeling free water requirements during biologically critical seasons and years of different precipitation. I determined species composition, selected nutrients, and moisture content of American pronghorn diets on Perry Mesa, Arizona in March, May, June and August of 2008 and 2009. I used microhistological analysis of fecal samples to determine percent plant composition of pronghorn diets. I used forage samples to evaluate the nutrient composition of those diets for moisture, crude protein and structural carbohydrates, and to calculate metabolic water. I used calculations proposed by Fox et al. (2000) to model free water requirements and modified the equations to reflect increased requirements for lactation. Diet analysis revealed that pronghorn used between 67% and 99% forbs and suggested fair range conditions. Preformed water was not significantly different between night and day. Night feeding appeared to be of marginal advantage, providing an average potential 9% preformed water increase in 2008, and 3% in 2009. The model indicated that neither male nor female pronghorn could meet their water requirements from preformed and metabolic water during any time period, season or year. The average free water requirements for females ranged from 0.67 L/animal/day (SE 0.06) in March, 2008 to 3.12 L/animal/day (SE 0.02) in June, 2009. The model showed that American pronghorn on Perry Mesa require access to free water during biological stress periods.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2012

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Microhabitat and movement assessment for northern Mexican gartersnakes (Thamnophis eques megalops) at Bubbling Ponds Hatchery, Arizona

Description

Species conservation requires an understanding of the habitats on which that species depends as well as how it moves within and among those habitats. Knowledge of these spatial and temporal

Species conservation requires an understanding of the habitats on which that species depends as well as how it moves within and among those habitats. Knowledge of these spatial and temporal patterns is vital for effective management and research study design. Bubbling Ponds Hatchery in Cornville, Arizona, supports a robust population of the northern Mexican gartersnake (Thamnophis eques megalops), which was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. Natural resource managers are interested in understanding the ecology of gartersnakes at this site to guide hatchery operations and to serve as a model for habitat creation and restoration. My objectives were to identify habitat selection and activity patterns of northern Mexican gartersnakes at the hatchery and how frequency of monitoring affects study results. I deployed transmitters on 42 individual gartersnakes and documented macro- and microhabitat selection, daily and seasonal activity patterns, and movement distances. Habitat selection and movements were similar between males and females and varied seasonally. During the active season (March–October), snakes primarily selected wetland edge habitat with abundant cover and were more active and moved longer distances than during other parts of the year. Gestating females selected similar locations but with less dense cover. During the inactive season (November–February), snakes were less mobile and selected upland habitats, including rocky slopes with abundant vegetation. Snakes displayed diurnal patterns of activity. Estimates of daily distance traveled decreased with less-frequent monitoring; a sampling interval of once every 24 hours yielded only 53–62% of known daily distances moved during the active season. These results can help inform management activities and research design. Conservation of this species should incorporate a landscape-level approach that includes abundant wetland edge habitat with connected upland areas. Resource managers and researchers should carefully assess timing and frequency of activities in order to meet project objectives.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2017

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Responses of mammals to native and non-native riparian forest types in Southeastern Arizona

Description

Riparian areas are an important resource, especially in the arid southwest, for many wildlife species. Understanding species occurrence in areas dominated by non-native vegetation is important to determine if management

Riparian areas are an important resource, especially in the arid southwest, for many wildlife species. Understanding species occurrence in areas dominated by non-native vegetation is important to determine if management should be implemented. Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) is one of the most prevalent non-native trees in riparian areas in the southwest United States and can alter vegetation structure, but little is known about how medium and large carnivores use stands of saltcedar. Three riparian forest types make up the San Pedro riparian corridor: non-native saltcedar, native mesquite (Prosopis spp.) bosque, and a mixture of native cottonwood (Populus fremontii) and willow (Salix goodingii) woodlands. My goals were to determine relative use, diversity, and occupancy of medium and large mammals across forest types to evaluate use of the non-native stands. I sampled mammals along approximately 25.7 river kilometers between July 2017 and October 2018, using 18 trail cameras (six per forest type) spaced 1km apart. I summarized environmental variables around the camera sites to relate them to species occupancy and reduced them to 4 components using a Principal Component Analysis (PCA). I observed 14 carnivore species, including bobcat (Lynx rufus), coyote (Canis latrans), and coati (Nasua narica) over 7,692 trap nights. Occupancy of some species may have been influenced by the different components, but models showed high standard errors, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. Most mammal species used all three forest types at some level and no surveyed forest type was completely avoided or unused. Coyote tended to have greater use in the mesquite forest while canids trended toward greater use in saltcedar forest. Based on two-species occupancy models as well as activity overlap patterns, subordinate species did not appear to avoid dominant species. No species seems significantly affected by non-native saltcedar at this time.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2019