Incorporating spatial synchrony in the status assessment of a threatened species with multivariate analysis

Biological Conservation
By: , and 



Spatial synchrony—correlated abundance fluctuations among distinct populations—is associated with increased extinction risk but is not a component of widely-used extinction risk assessments (e.g., IUCN Red List, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Species Status Assessment). Alongside traditional viability metrics (i.e., the number of populations, their spatial extent, the status of each population), consideration of spatial synchrony in these assessments may provide additional insight into extinction risk as well as the relative importance of intrinsic and extrinsic factors on population dynamics. We demonstrate a method for estimating abundance trends in populations of the endangered freshwater fish, the amber darter (Percina antesella), while simultaneously assessing support for spatial synchrony among its two populations in the Conasauga and Etowah rivers in Georgia, U.S.A. Our analysis was performed using multivariate autoregressive state-space (MARSS) models with annual sampling data from 1996-2018 at 16 sites distributed between the two populations. Our results indicate that amber darter populations have declined substantially, with 9% annual losses in both the Conasauga and Etowah rivers, suggesting rangewide imperilment. Furthermore, model selection indicated little support for models with independent dynamics between rivers, which may compound overall extinction risk. This analysis demonstrates the utility of tools such as MARSS models for assessing spatial synchrony and long-term population trajectories of imperiled species, resulting in improved vulnerability assessments that do not assume independence among separate populations.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Incorporating spatial synchrony in the status assessment of a threatened species with multivariate analysis
Series title Biological Conservation
DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108612
Volume 248
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Description 108612, 9 p.
Country United States
State Georgia
Other Geospatial Conasauga River, Etowah River
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