Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 4700
Title: Incorporating Climate and Ocean Change into Extinction Risk Assessments for 82 Coral Species
Author: R. E. Brainard, C. Birkeland, C. M. Eakin, Paul McElhany, M. Patterson, G. A. Piniak, M. Dunlap, M. Weijerman
Publication Year: In press
Journal: Conservation Biology
Keywords: Corals,Endangered Species Act,climate change
Abstract: Unlike commercial or iconic species, many marine invertebrate species facing potential extinction have uncertain taxonomies and poorly known demographic and ecological traits. Uncertainties are compounded when potential extinction drivers are climate and ocean changes whose impacts on even widespread and abundant species are only partially understood. The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) mandates conservation management decisions based on the extinction risk to species based on the best available information. This paper describes an expert threat-based approach used to assess the extinction risk from climate change and other threats to 82 coral species for which population status and threat response information was limited. Such methods are urgently needed because limited budgets and manpower prevent adequate data from being obtained for many vulnerable marine species. Significant species-specific information gaps and uncertainties precluded us from conducting quantitative assessments of habitat loss or population declines and forced consideration of demographic characteristics and threat vulnerabilities at genus or family levels. Adapting some approaches used by other assessments and developing some new ones, we rated the importance of threats contributing to coral extinction risk, and assessed those threats against limited population status and trend information to evaluate each species extinction risk in the 21st century. Species most susceptible to high-importance climate-related threats were among those at greatest extinction risk. Species with narrow geographic or habitat ranges were interpreted to have increased extinction risk because of the potential impact of local threats. This work contributed to a proposal to list 66 coral species under the ESA and provides a general approach to assessing extinction risks for other data-limited species that are likely to be impacted by global-scale threats.
Theme: Recovery, Rebuilding and Sustainability of Marine and Anadromous Species
Foci: Develop methods to use physiological and biological information to predict population-level processes.
Describe the relationship among human activities and species stock status, recovery, rebuilding and sustainability.