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Ecological Effectiveness: Conservation Goals for Interactive Species

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The rarity or absence of highly interactive species leaves a functional void that can trigger linked changes leading to degraded or simplified ecosystems. A preliminary analysis indicates a relatively high frequency of such interactive species among endangered mammals. Rapid environmental change is likely to increase the interactivity of some species and reduce that of others over relatively short intervals. The current implementation of environmental policies and laws, such as the U.S. Endangered Species Act, generally ignores interspecific effects; recovery goals are autecological, short term, and numerically and spatially minimalistic. Moreover, by failing to account for interspecific interactions, recovery objectives are becoming indefensible in light of increasing knowledge from community ecology. Using the sea otter (   Enhydra lutris ) and wolf ( Canis lupus ) as examples, we argue that conservation plans should call for recovery or repatriation of such interactive species at ecologically effective densities in as many places as are currently realistic. It will be prudent and beneficial to estimate ecologically effective densities where there is disagreement among experts and interested parties about the desirability of restoring an interactive species to a particular region and to a particular density.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: P.O. Box 2010, Hotchkiss, CO 81419, U.S.A., 2: U.S. Geological Survey, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, U.S.A. 3: Wildlife Conservation Society, Moose, WY 83012, U.S.A. 4: Department of Zoology, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY 82071–3166, U.S.A.

Publication date: October 1, 2003

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