NO. 23 DATE 07/18/00

Wild Horse and Burro Population Viability

By: Linda Coates-Markle Program Specialist
Montana State Office, BLM

The first in a series of 13 Resource Notes based on transactions from the Wild Horse and Burro Population Viability Forum, a Bureau of Land Management Sponsored Event, April 21, 1999, Fort Collins, Colorado

The intent of the Forum was to provide a unique opportunity for useful discussion and strategy development on important conceptual and practical topics pertaining to population viability. Our approach included thought-provoking, science-based presentations, followed by in-depth question and answer sessions between scientific researchers, Bureau of Land Management Horse Program specialists and managers, Advisory Board members, and interested members of the public. Program organization and facilitation was handled by Linda Coates-Markle, Montana/Dakotas State Program Specialist. This Resource Note is the first in a series of thirteen Notes to summarize the issues of the Forum. It serves as an index guide for Notes in the series.

Goals and Focus for the Forum

Session 1 (Resource Notes 24-26): Identify and define the equine resource. Are there unique genetic resources, and/or smaller populations, in need of genetic conservation efforts or are we dealing primarily with larger metapopulations where genetic conservation is not a critical issue? Draw inference from wild equids of Africa and Asia. In other words, comparisons to other wild equid populations may help us to define and further understand critical inbreeding and/or density dependent issues.

Session 2 (Resource Notes 27-29): Clarify genetic terms and issues such as Effective Genetic Population (Ne) size and Minimum Viable Population size. What is meant by genetic diversity or heterozygosity and how does it relate to levels of inbreeding within a population? These are all terms used by researchers and interested public requesting information about BLM herds, and it is important that we both understand these concepts and their applicability to populations and management decisions.

Session 3 (Resource Notes 30-32): Define Population Viability Analysis (PVA) and identify possible benefits and limitations to modeling efforts. What types of demographic, genetic and/or ecological data are needed for these models? Compare and contrast different methods of population monitoring which are used to provide the necessary data to estimate viability.
Resource Note #30 - Population Viability Analysis - General Principles and Applications - Drs. Barry Noon, Fred Sampson and Nels Johnson, Colorado State University.

Session 4 (Resource Notes 33-35): Finally, use PVA to evaluate real-life scenarios involving wild horse populations. What are the consequences of different management alternatives? Compare and contrast the complexities of herd management, using both removals and immunocontraception, for two very different populations. Demonstrate the potential for enhancing the adaptive decision-making process through the use of PVA.

Linda Coates Markel
Program Specialist,
Montana State Office, MT-010, Billings Montana,
phone (406) 896-5223,
fax (406) 896-5281,

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