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Dynamic biogeography and conservation of endangered species


As one moves from the core to the periphery of a species' geographical range, populations occupy less favourable habitats and exhibit lower and more variable densities1,2,3,4. Populations along the periphery of the range tend to be more fragmented and, as a result, are less likely to receive immigrants from other populations. A population's probability of extinction is directly correlated with its variability and inversely correlated with density and immigration rate5,6,7,8,9. This has led to the prediction that, when a species becomes endangered, its geographical range should contract inwards, with the core populations persisting until the final stages of decline2,10. Convinced by these logical but untested deductions, conservation biologists and wildlife managers have been instructed to avoid the range periphery when planning conservation strategies or allocating resources for endangered species11,12,13. We have analysed range contraction in 245 species from a broad range of taxonomic groups and geographical regions. Here we report that observed patterns of range contraction do not support the above predictions and that most species examined persist in the periphery of their historical geographical ranges.

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Figure 1: Patterns of range contraction in four endangered species.
Figure 2: Patterns of range contraction in four species whose historical range included islands as well as much larger areas on the Australian mainland.

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We thank A. Baynes, J. H. Brown, N. Czaplewski, B. Danielson, T. Franklin, M. Kaspari, B. Maurer, K. Pandora, D. Perault, K. Perez, S. Pimm, G. A. Smith and C. Vaughn for advice and comments on this paper, and J. M. Scott, D. Steadman and L. Carbyn for information on the distribution of several species. R.C. was supported by the Department of Zoology, University of Oklahoma, while conducting this research, and M.V.L. was supported by grants from the US National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Rob Channell.

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Channell, R., Lomolino, M. Dynamic biogeography and conservation of endangered species. Nature 403, 84–86 (2000).

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