Minimum Ecologically Viable Populations : Risk assessment from a multispecies perspective

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Institutionen för fysik, kemi och biologi


The extinction risk of threatened species has traditionally been assessed by the use of tools of Population Viability Analysis (PVA). Species interactions, however, have seldom been accounted for in PVA:s. The omission of species interactions in risk assessments may further lead to serious mistakes when setting target sizes of populations. Even a slight abundance decrease of a target species may result in changes of the community structure; in the worst case leading to a highly impoverished community. Of critical importance to conservation is therefore the question of how many individuals of a certain population that is needed in order to avoid this kind of consequences. In the current study, a stochastic multispecies model is used to estimate minimum ecological viable populations (MEVP); earlier defined as “the minimum size of a population that can survive before itself or some other species in the community becomes extinct”. The MEVP:s are compared to population sizes given by a single species model where interactions with other species are treated as a constant source incorporated in the species specific growth rate. MEVP:s are found to be larger than the population sizes given by the single species model. The results are trophic level dependent and multispecies approaches are suggested to be of major importance when setting target levels for species at the basal level. Species at higher trophic levels, however, are altogether more prone to extinction than species at the basal level, irrespective of food web size and food web complexity.

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