Connecting Wildlife and Science: Borderlands and Beyond

ROOM: Room 240 – La Cienega
The conservation and study of wildlife populations along borderlands often face challenges arising from geography, anthropogenic impacts, and jurisdictional policies that are often asymmetric with respect to borders. Recent shifts in U.S. border policy will interact with existing challenges to cross-border collaboration and ecological connections. This session will present research and conservation actions occurring near the U.S./Mexico border and other borderlands demonstrating successes and challenges.

10:30AM Noninvasive Genetic Monitoring of Sonoran Pronghorn Along the United States-Mexico Border
  Lisette Waits; Susannah Woodruff; Paul Lukacs; Stephanie Doerries; Miguel Grageda; Jennifer Adams; John Hervert; James Atkinson
Knowledge of population demographics and connectivity is important for species’ management but can be challenging to obtain in low density, wide-ranging species. We developed noninvasive genetic sampling methods to monitor the endangered Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis) using fecal DNA sampling. This method was piloted in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Barry Goldwater Range in southern Arizona from 2013-2014. Fecal pellets were collected May-July during summer drought at 17 pronghorn water holes (drinkers). To increase our ability to detect pronghorn not using drinkers, we also targeted radiocollared individuals away from drinkers in 2014. We analyzed 500 and 634 Sonoran pronghorn pellet piles collected from drinkers in 2013 and 2014 respectively. In 2014, an additional 137 pellet piles were analyzed from non-drinker locations. We identified individuals using microsatellite genotyping and used robust design capture-recapture sampling to estimate survival and abundance. Minimum pronghorn counts were 95 and 124 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Separate population estimates were generated for drinker locations only and drinker and non-drinker locations in 2014. The population using drinkers remained stable at 116 individuals (95% CI: 102-131) and 121 individuals (95% CI: 112-132) in 2013 and 2014. The population estimate for all locations in 2014 was 144 individuals (95% CI: 132-157). Adults had higher annual survival probabilities (0.83, 95% CI: 0.69-0.92) than fawns (0.41, 95% CI: 0.21-0.65). Monitoring has continued in 2015 and 2016 at these sites and was expanded across the border to Mexico in 2016. In 2015, 97 individuals were detected from 511 samples collected in Arizona; 2016 analyses are ongoing. In Mexico, 20 individuals were detected from 40 samples, and no individuals were detected moving across the border. Fecal DNA sampling is a promising approach for long-term genetic and demographic monitoring of Sonoran pronghorn along the US-Mexico border.
10:50AM An Overview of Advances in Connectivity Conservation at the Borderlands of Sonora and Chihuahua
  Juan Carlos Bravo
In recent years, Mexican agencies, non-profit groups, and academia, in collaboration with their U.S. counterparts, have made efforts to better address connectivity needs in the borderlands region of Sonora and northeastern Chihuahua. Actions have focused on identifying impacts of U.S. border infrastructure, advancing protected area regulations, and reducing habitat fragmentation generated by roads, with an emphasis on Highway 2. I present an overview of some of these projects in an attempt to inform conservationists and decision-makers in the United States of actions that may leverage their work and open up avenues for international collaboration. This overview focuses on the region known as the Sky Islands and extends both east and west to incorporate important actions in the Janos and Pinacate Biosphere reserves. Efforts reviewed include the wildlife crossings built in the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve; the designation of a core area of the Janos Biosphere Reserve along the border with New Mexico; and the protection by their owners and certification by CONANP – Mexico’s federal parks agency – of two private reserves along the border: Los Fresnos and Los Ojos. Additionally, I present results from a bi-national coalition of groups and individuals collaborating with Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transport in identifying and reducing the impacts of Highway 2 in the Sky Islands region of Sonora. Together, we have generated the first baseline inventory of roadkill along 147 miles of highway, documenting over 293 vertebrate deaths – including species listed in Mexico’s NOM-059 (ESL equivalent). We then used this data to issue specific recommendations for wildlife crossings. Finally, I have included the work of researchers who have enhanced our knowledge of the areas different species need to move across the border, generating publicly-accessible geographic information allowing wildlife and resource managers of both countries to incorporate trans-boundary knowledge into their planning processes.
11:10AM Border Impacts on Wildlife
  Miguel Angel Grageda; Tyler Coleman
The Sonoran Desert is one of the most biologically unique regions in North American and is home to a diverse array of rare wildlife species. It straddles the international border between Mexico and the United States which can make wildlife conservation complex. In the core of the Sonoran Desert two National Parks, The Pinacate Biosphere Reserve in Sonora, Mexico and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, U.S. are at the epicenter of conservation for the region. Designated as sister parks in 2006, these two land masses cover 8,484 sq. km of an intact portion of the Sonoran Desert. They share a common border and a number of endangered and imperiled wildlife species. In this presentation two park wildlife biologists from both sides of the border discuss population trends and management goals for Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis), Sonoyta mud turtles (Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale), Quitobaquito pupfish (Cyprinodon eremus), and lesser long-nosed bats (leptonycteris yerbabuenae). Sonoran pronghorn and lesser long-nosed bats have had an increase in population size recently, while Quitobaquito pupfish and Sonoyta mud turtles continue to struggle with low numbers and scant resources. The conservation of these rare species is intensified because of the proximity of both parks to the international border. These challenges are both scientific, such as animal movement barriers, and social, such as language or logistics. The contrast between the two parks, including successes and limitations, helps illustrate the interesting dynamics involved with borderlands and international conservation.
11:30AM Wildlife Conservation in Mexico: Challenges and Risks
  Karla Pelz Serano
Mexico is the 5th country with highest biodiversity in the world. However, even this country is considered megadiverse, wildlife in this country faces many threats that compromise its conservation. Besides the regular threats to wildlife conservation (habitat fragmentation and loss, invasive species, urbanization, etc.) in Mexico, wildlife also suffers the lack of law enforcement, which provokes that trafficking of wildlife remains unpunished and uncontrolled. Many populations of endangered species are decreasing due to illegal trapping and marketing, such as populations of golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and Mexican axolotl ( Ambystoma mexicanum). Lack of law enforcement is also found in the malfunctioning Natural Protected Areas where human settlements, agriculture, pouching, illegal sewage discharges are allow, not controlled and unpunished. In terms of science, Mexico has had a serious violence and security problem since 2008, when President Felipe Calderón launched his war against narco. This insecurity has negatively affected ecological research, conservation work, and the training of students in biologically important areas throughout the country. Furthermore, The percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) assigned to Science and Technology (S&T) in Mexico is low (0.5%) compared to countries like the United States, Korea and Israel, which give over 3% of their GDP. In addition, the percentage of the GDP for environment protection is 0.83, which is not enough to enforce law, mange Natural Protected Areas, develop conservation action plans for species, etc. Therefore, this study aims to show through a comparative analysis the differences between the funds devoted to science and conservation in Mexico compared to that in the U.S., and Canada, as well as a comparison of the management and conservation strategies in Mexico compared to the US and Canada.
11:50AM Protected Areas and the Agricultural Frontier in the Colombia: A New Artificial Border for Carnivores?
  I. Mauricio Vela-Vargas; José F. González-Maya; Angela P. Hurtado-Moreno; Diego Andres Zárrate-Charry; J. Sebastian Jiménez-Alvarado; Catalina Moreno; Mauricio González
Transformation of natural forests to production areas in Colombia have led to the loss of natural habitats and fragmentation processes, with the consequent expansion of the agricultural frontier. Fragmentation processes have affected the wildlife movements in landscapes, leading to potential isolation and local extinction processes, generating a hostile matrix of isolated natural covers only within protected areas. With the current rate of deforestation in Colombia, local, regional and national level protected areas are one of the only alternatives for maintaining wildlife populations and connectivity corridors, creating artificial borderlines between protected areas and productive landscapes, showing low permeability for movement of wildlife, specially carnivores. We identified potential connectivity areas in different regions of Colombia using protected areas (PA) as core areas. We used first spatial distribution models for carnivores identifying potential habitat for the species. We identified the principal determinants for connectivity corridors form PA’s, the pinch points required for improving such connectivity, and the principal variables affecting carnivore movements in transition areas across three landscapes in Colombia. We found that the presence of human settlements, roads and matrix composition are main determinants of carnivore connectivity along different landscapes, redefining the agricultural frontier beyond and within protected areas. Our results allow to build a baseline for identification of priority areas for environmental authorities’ conservation intervention and provides information about potential connectivity corridors and priority actions for “redefining” conservation borders across the country.

Organizers: Dave Christianson, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; Johnathan Derbridge, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; Melissa Merrick, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Supported by: TWS International Wildlife Management Working Group

Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 27, 2017 Time: 10:30 am - 12:10 pm