Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: North Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Dunn, C.G., D.A. Schumann, M.E. Colvin, L.J Sleezer, M. Wagner, D.T. Jones-Farrand, E. Rivenbark, S. McRae, and K. Evans. In 2024. Using resiliency, redundancy, and representation in a Bayesian belief network to assess imperilment of riverine fishes. Ecosphere.


Conservation-prioritization frameworks are used worldwide to identify species at greatest risk of extinction and to allocate limited resources across regions, species, and populations. Conservation prioritization can be impeded by ecological knowledge gaps and data deficiency, especially in freshwater species inhabiting highly complex aquatic ecosystems. Therefore, we developed a flexible approach that calculates a species’ imperilment risk based on the conservation principles of resiliency, redundancy, and representation (i.e., the “three R’s”). Our approach organizes data on species traits, distributions, population connectivity, and threats within a Bayesian belief network capable of predicting resiliency and redundancy within representative ecological settings. Empirical data and expert judgement inform the model to provide robust and repeatable risk assessments for rare and data-deficient species. The model calculates resiliency at hierarchical spatial scales from distributional trends and population strength. Redundancy is estimated from numbers and connectivity among extant populations. Resiliency, redundancy, and species’ inherent vulnerability based on species traits collectively estimate extirpation risk within each unique ecological setting. Extirpation risks across ecological settings characterize representation and are aggregated to estimate global imperilment risk. We demonstrate the model’s utility with Piebald Madtom (Noturus gladiator), a species petitioned for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Our results revealed that resiliency, redundancy, and extirpation risks can vary spatially across the species’ range while identifying populations where additional sampling could disproportionally reduce uncertainty in estimated global imperilment risk. Our approach could standardize and expedite conservation status assessments, identify opportunities for early management intervention of at-risk species and populations, and strategically reduce uncertainty by focusing monitoring and research on priority information gaps.