Conservation Status of Native Fishes in the Chihuahuan Desert Region of the United States: a spatial perspective

Perkin, Joshuah
Troia, Matthew
Acre, Matthew
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Desert Fishes Council

Native fishes in the American Southwest are in need of conservation because of anthropogenic riverscape alterations involving habitat destruction, introduction of non-native species, and dewatering. Status assessments are useful conservation planning tools, but there is a need for transparent, repeatable, and empirically-driven assessment frameworks. We present a multi-criteria status assessment framework based on publicly available geospatial data and apply this framework to native fishes occupying the United States Chihuahuan Desert region. Criteria included (1) area occupied, (2) dependence on human protected areas, (3) genetic risk from non-native congeners, (4) vulnerability to expected climate change, (5) presence of anthropogenic threats, and (6) regional endemism. Of the 65 species reviewed, four are considered globally extinct, three are considered extirpated from the region, and 10 persist but are rarely encountered. Of the remaining 48 species with recent (i.e., post 1999) records, the current assessment ranked 6 (13%) as in danger of extinction (Endangered), 11 (23%) as on a trajectory towards extinction (Vulnerable), 5 (10%) as Near-Threatened, and 26 (54%) as Least Concern. These percentages broadly matched status ranks developed by multiple conservation entities based on a meta-status metric (i.e., status of statuses) that averaged ranks from multiple, existing assessments. Of the five species listed as Endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), three were ranked as Endangered and two were ranked as Vulnerable in the current assessment. The two species listed as Threatened under the ESA were ranked as Vulnerable in the current assessment. Three species listed as Endangered and seven species listed as Vulnerable in the current assessment are not currently listed under the ESA. Range contraction scenarios based on recent region-wide studies of four species revealed that the status scores developed here are sensitive to potential species declines. The data-driven framework developed here supplements those used by agencies at state, federal, and international scales and can be repeated over short time intervals to develop responsive and timely status assessments.

Perkin, J. S., M. J. Troia, and M. R. Acre. 2021. Conservation Status of Native Fishes in the Chihuahuan Desert Region of the United States: a spatial perspective. Proceedings of the Desert Fishes Council Special Publication 2021:77-103 ISSN: 1068-0381