Importance of health assessments for conservation in noncaptive wildlife

Kophamel, Sara, Illing, Björn, Ariel, Ellen, Difalco, Morgan, Skerratt, Lee F., Hamann, Mark, Ward, Leigh C., Méndez, Diana, and Munns, Suzanne L. (2022) Importance of health assessments for conservation in noncaptive wildlife. Conservation Biology, 36 (1). e13724.

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Wildlife health assessments help identify populations at risk of starvation, disease, and decline from anthropogenic impacts on natural habitats. We conducted an overview of available health assessment studies in noncaptive vertebrates and devised a framework to strategically integrate health assessments in population monitoring. Using a systematic approach, we performed a thorough assessment of studies examining multiple health parameters of noncaptive vertebrate species from 1982 to 2020 (n = 261 studies). We quantified trends in study design and diagnostic methods across taxa with generalized linear models, bibliometric analyses, and visual representations of study location versus biodiversity hotspots. Only 35% of studies involved international or cross‐border collaboration. Countries with both high and threatened biodiversity were greatly underrepresented. Species that were not listed as threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List represented 49% of assessed species, a trend likely associated with the regional focus of most studies. We strongly suggest following wildlife health assessment protocols when planning a study and using statistically adequate sample sizes for studies establishing reference ranges. Across all taxa blood analysis (89%), body composition assessments (81%), physical examination (72%), and fecal analyses (24% of studies) were the most common methods. A conceptual framework to improve design and standardize wildlife health assessments includes guidelines on the experimental design, data acquisition and analysis, and species conservation planning and management implications. Integrating a physiological and ecological understanding of species resilience toward threatening processes will enable informed decision making regarding the conservation of threatened species.

Item ID: 68024
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1523-1739
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Copyright Information: © 2021 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
Funders: Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation (SWR), Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), James Cook University (JCU)
Projects and Grants: SWR/6/2019, IL 220/3‐1
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 13 May 2021 22:36
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3009 Veterinary sciences > 300904 Veterinary diagnosis and diagnostics @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 40%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management @ 20%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2099 Other health > 209999 Other health not elsewhere classified @ 40%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180606 Terrestrial biodiversity @ 30%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180504 Marine biodiversity @ 30%
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