Why do animal groups matter for conservation and management?

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Abstract

The internationally recognized levels of conservation, namely ecosystems, species, and genes, have thus far served as important guidelines to determine how national and international laws should protect nature. However, a far ignored aspect of a species' life history in the legislation is its tendency to form social groups. Group members greatly depend on each other for survival and reproduction, and when the persistence of groups is threatened, so may the population as a whole. Humans affect groups through indirect activities, such as tourism, or directly by removing individuals through poaching, for example. These activities disturb groups in both predictable and unpredictable ways: destabilizing dominance hierarchies, changing the strength of social relationships, modifying cooperative interactions, reducing alloparental care, and altering social skills, among others. We propose that greater efforts must be undertaken first, to more thoroughly understand how our actions are affecting group dynamics in as many species as possible, and second, to adapt policies to reduce the negative effects of direct and indirect anthropogenic activities on group and population persistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere550
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Volume3
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)

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