Challenges and opportunities in implementing managed relocation for conservation of freshwater species
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The rapidity of climate change is predicted to exceed the ability of many species to adapt or to disperse to more climatically favorable surroundings. Conservation of these species may require managed relocation (also called assisted migration or assisted colonization) of individuals to locations where the probability of their future persistence may be higher. The history of non-native species throughout the world suggests managed relocation may not be applicable universally. Given the constrained existence of freshwater organisms within highly dendritic networks containing isolated ponds, lakes, and rivers, managed relocation may represent a useful conservation strategy. Yet, these same distinctive properties of freshwater ecosystems may increase the probability of unintended ecological consequences. We explored whether managed relocation is an ecologically sound conservation strategy for freshwater systems and provided guidelines for identifying candidates and localities for managed relocation. A comparison of ecological and life-history traits of freshwater animals associated with high probabilities of extirpation and invasion suggests that it is possible to select species for managed relocation to minimize the likelihood of unintended effects to recipient ecosystems. We recommend that translocations occur within the species' historical range and optimally within the same major river basin and that lacustrine and riverine species be translocated to physically isolated seepage lakes and upstream of natural or artificial barriers, respectively, to lower the risk of secondary spread across the landscape. We provide five core recommendations to enhance the scientific basis of guidelines for managed relocation in freshwater environments: adopt the term managed translocation to reflect the fact that individuals will not always be reintroduced within their historical native range; examine the trade-off between facilitation of individual movement and the probability of range expansion of non-native species; determine which species and locations might be immediately considered for managed translocation; adopt a hypothetico-deductive framework by conducting experimental trials to introduce species of conservation concern into new areas within their historical range; build on previous research associated with species reintroductions through communication and synthesis of case studies.