Activity-specific ecological niche models for planning reintroductions of California condors (Gymnogyps californianus)

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Abstract

Ecological niche models can be a useful tool to identify candidate reintroduction sites for endangered species but have been infrequently used for this purpose. In this paper, we (1) develop activity-specific ecological niche models (nesting, roosting, and feeding) for the critically endangered California condor ( Gymnogyps californianus) to aid in reintroduction planning in California, Oregon, and Washington, USA, (2) test the accuracy of these models using empirical data withheld from model development, and (3) integrate model results with information on condor movement ecology and biology to produce predictive maps of reintroduction site suitability. Our approach, which disentangles niche models into activity-specific components, has applications for other species where it is routinely assumed (often incorrectly) that individuals fulfill all requirements for life within a single environmental space. Ecological niche models conformed to our understanding of California condor ecology, had good predictive performance when tested with data withheld from model development, and aided in the identification of several candidate reintroduction areas outside of the current distribution of the species. Our results suggest there are large unoccupied regions of the California condor's historical range that have retained ecological features similar to currently occupied habitats, and thus could be considered for future reintroduction efforts. Combining our activity-specific ENMs with ground reconnaissance and information on other threat factors that could not be directly incorporated into empirical ENMs will ultimately improve our ability to select successful reintroduction sites for the California condor.

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Activity-specific ecological niche models for planning reintroductions of California condors (Gymnogyps californianus). (2015). Biological Conservation, 184, 90–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2015.01.002

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