New methods are being considered in the conservation efforts of the Mojave desert tortoise, a species categorized as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act. US Fish and Wildlife Service recovery biologists Roy Averill-Murray, Catherine Darst, Kimberleigh Field and Linda Allison have discussed such methods within the October 2012 issue of BioScience.
Rather than any single factor, many factors threaten the survival of the Mojave desert tortoise. Of these factors, human activities such as waste disposal, urban and road development and mining cause the greatest impacts. Natural factors such as predation and disease also impact the population.
Because of its status under the ESA, numerous efforts have been made to conserve the species. Of these previous efforts, most were administrative management designations, which did little to conserve the population. Other more direct efforts, such as the installation of protective fencing and the limitation of off-highway vehicle access, still had little impact.
The main challenge facing previous conservation efforts lies in the inability to determine which threat is most responsible for population declines. Beyond this issue, problems also lie in determining the best ways to address the threats in the most efficient and impactful manner.
These researchers feel that they have discovered such a method through their proposed two-pronged approach. The first component involves the organization of a coordinated and structured recovery program. This would involve putting greater emphasis on the evaluation of the effectiveness of management actions through a structured decision-making and adaptive-management process. This would also include the development of an interactive decision-support system that computes the effects of a threat on a tortoise population.
The second component involves broad and active participation from individuals who can directly influence the implantation of these actions. Such broad and active participants would be obtained through the establishment of cross-jurisdictional recovery teams. These teams would be composed to land and wildlife managers from local, state and federal agencies, nongovernmental stakeholders and scientists.
Hopefully, with the help of this recently developed two-pronged approach, these tortoises will be given a fighting chance against the mostly human based activities that drove them to their threatened status in the first place.
Journal Reference: Averill-Murray, R. (2012). A new approach to the conservation of the mojave desert tortoise. BioScience, 62(10), Retrieved from http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1525/bio.2012.62.10.9
Article Review by Danielle Gardner