The attainment of a desired condition for a species is often dependent on successful implementation of habitat restoration (USDA n.d.). In a restoration project at Lake Tahoe Basin, through adaptive management, questions were identified that relate to wildlife restoration projects including evaluating species-habitat relationships and determining the effectiveness of using certain species as indicators of environmental conditions (USDA n.d.). The first goal of the project was to maintain and restore habitat to support viable populations of native plants, invertebrates, and vertebrate riparian-dependent species (USDA n.d.). Another goal was to maintain and restore the distribution and health of biotic communities in aquatic habitats (such as springs, seeps, vernal pools, fens, bogs, and marshes) to perpetuate their unique functions and biological diversity (USDA n.d.). The project ended up determining its restoration objectives and activities based on the habitat preferences of species (USDA n.d.).
The scientists from the project also selected the type of species to monitor based on the sections of the area needing restoration. Specifically, they chose to monitor reptiles and amphibians because the groups of species rely on wet meadow or aquatic communities for part or all of their life-cycle (USDA n.d.). Given that restoration actions aim to improve wet meadow conditions, they concluded that monitoring reptiles and amphibians would be appropriate (USDA n.d.). Clearly, the health of habitat and its inhabitants are directly related. As the scientists in Lake Tahoe Basin focused on conserving six songbird species, they searched for and monitored the nests of these species to quantify productivity (USDA n.d.). Additionally, in his study, Ilkka Hanski (2015) concluded habitat fragmentation poses an extra threat to biodiversity, in addition to the threat posed by loss of habitat area. With that being said, protection of habitat plays a strong role in the overall goal of species conservation.
80 years ago, wildlife species such as the elk and white-tailed deer, wild turkey and acorn sheep populations were dangerously low (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020). Today, these iconic species have rebounded. It is a result of the reverence and care hunters from the National Wildlife Refuge System have for the habitat their loved ones have been going to for generations (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020). As Aldo Leopold said it, species come from their habitats (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2020). That said, hunters restoration efforts involve nourishing the habitats that provide a shelter for their prestigious game as they practice conservation by controlling prey-predator relationships.
Hanski, Ilkka. 2015. “Habitat fragmentation and species richness”. Journal of Biogeography. 42(5): 989-993.
USDA (n.d.). “Wildlife restoration and monitoring: Concepts and development.” https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5150405.pdf
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2020. “Wildlife Conservation.” National Wildlife Refuge System. Last modified August 13, 2020. Accessed January 12, 2021. https://www.fws.gov/refuges/wildlife-conservation/
Comment by Fenton Kay:
Great statement, Mary. I have worked in the wet meadows/streams/ponds of the Sierras. I have to wonder if the concentration on frogs, reptiles, and birds really does provide habitat protection/restoration for all of the species characteristic of those habitats. I am thinking about critters like voles, water shrews, and ground squirrels that are, in my recollection, characteristic of at least the wet meadows and streams. Do you think the study teams’ approach was a good one and did it preserve the habitats for the full range of species there?
Great point in seeing the assumption the scientists made in the study. The objectives from the get go were more-so focused on basing the study on areas of restoration in need instead of a full-range species protection program. I do not feel as though the concentration on frogs, reptiles and birds guarantees protection for all of the species characteristic of those habitats. The project contained bias in selecting the species to focus on and did not value the lesser known critters. The scientists would need to study the critters to understand their habitat preferences before being able to rightfully make the assumption that the restoration project was nourishing those critters, as well.
Comment by Fenton Kay:
Great response, Mary. I agree with you. I suspect that the people doing the restoration work were/are aware of the critters I have mentioned and others I have not. There’s a plethora of papers and data on that area. My guess is that the suggested actions would likely feed into helping the other species characteristic of those ecosystems. If the habitat is good for frogs, it’s probably good for water shrews. If it’s good for shrews, chances are the voles will also do well.
That makes sense. I imagine native species would particularly thrive as a result of habitat restoration.
Comment by Elizabeth Pagliuca:
Great post! I think the situation you have outlined gives way to many questions of the assumptions of researchers based on their project focus vs the impact of the entire ecosystem – although in this case as you and Fenton have discussed here every species seems to be benefiting from the restoration of a few native species.
You mentioned sustainable hunting practicing as they played a part in the rebound of the elk and white-tailed deer, wild turkey and acorn sheep populations that were brought back from threat of extinction. I have often been on edge about accepting hunting and then I did some more research about how sustainable hunting can be beneficial to conservation and found many success stories of species returning to historical sites that they once inhabited before agriculture or big game hunting ran them out. Thank you for your post – it forced me to become more at ease about something I’ve always been uncomfortable with
“Hunters as Conservationists | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.” 2017. Fws.Gov. 2017. https://www.fws.gov/refuges/hunting/hunters-as-conservationists