Emerging Issues in Population Viability Analysis

  • Reed J
  • Mills L
  • Dunning Jr. J
 et al. 
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Population viability analysis ( PVA) has become a commonly used tool
in endangered species management. There is no single process that
constitutes PVA, but all approaches have in common an assessment
of a population's risk of extinction (or quasi extinction) or its
projected population growth either under current conditions or expected
from proposed management. As model sophistication increases, and
software programs that facilitate PVA without the need for modeling
expertise become more available, there is greater potential for the
misuse of models and increased confusion over interpreting their
results. Consequently, we discuss the practical use and limitations
of PVA in conservation planning, and we discuss some emerging issues
of PVA. We review extant issues that have become prominent in PVA,
including spatially explicit modeling, sensitivity analysis, incorporating
genetics into PVA, PVA in plants, and PVA software packages, but
our coverage of emerging issues is not comprehensive. We conclude
that PVA is a powerful tool in conservation biology for comparing
alternative research plans and relative extinction risks among species,
but we suggest caution in its use: (1) because PVA is a model, its
validity depends on the appropriateness of the model's structure
and data quality; (2) results should be presented with appropriate
assessment of confidence; (3) model construction and results should
be subject to external review, and (4) model structure, input, and
results should be treated as hypotheses to be tested. We also suggest
(5) restricting the definition of PVA to development of a formal
quantitative model, (6) focusing more research on determining how
pervasive density-dependence feedback is across species, and (7)
not using PVA to determine minimum population size or (8) the specific
probability of reaching extinction. The most appropriate use of PVA
may be for comparing the relative effects of potential management
actions on population growth or persistence.

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  • J M Reed

  • L S Mills

  • J B Dunning Jr.

  • E S Menges

  • K S McKelvey

  • R Frye

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