Wednesday, August 4, 2010

PS 56-96: Move It? An assessment tool and ranking system for assisted colonization

Katherina B. Searing, Kevin T. Shoemaker, William D. Helenbrook, and Martin A. Schlaepfer. SUNY- College of Environmental Science and Forestry


In response to rapidly changing climates, animal and plant populations must shift their geographic distribution, adapt in situ, or face extinction.  For species that may face imminent extinction, the conservation community is exploring the costs and benefits of an interventionist approach.  One approach is assisted colonization (also known as managed relocation), which we define as the human-mediated transport of organisms threatened with extinction to locations with suitable habitat both within and outside of their historical range.  There is a growing need for a set of best practices for assisted colonization and a framework to help practitioners evaluate the risks and benefits of this controversial strategy.  We elaborate on a decision tree presented in Hoegh-Guldberg et al. (2008) and present “Move It?,” an on-line assessment tool for decision-makers interested in assisted colonization. 


“Move It?” consists of a comprehensive survey designed to assess whether a taxon is suitable for assisted colonization.  Thirteen questions are organized these into three categories: (1) The need for assisted colonization (i.e. is the taxon of interest likely to go extinct in the near future in the absence of management intervention?); (2) The technical feasibility of translocation and successful establishment of the taxon; and (3) A biological and socioeconomic cost-benefit analysis.  These questions are each scored along a five-point scale, and average scores within each category represent an index of a taxon’s need, technical feasibility, and suitability for assisted colonization.  Upon completion of the survey, the average score of each category is reported and used to suggest a management action.  Assisted colonization should be considered a potential option when the need and technical feasibility of a particular taxon are high and the biological and socioeconomic benefits outweigh the costs.  Scores entered on-line by users are incorporated into a freely available online database, which can be used to compare scores of different users for the same taxon, scores of different taxa, and trends in scores over time. “Move It?” is available at