If you have not read "Introductions: Canada Goose" (hereafter I:CAGO) and "Introductions: Trumpeter Swans" I suggest you do so before proceeding. The following will have more meaning as I reference some of that material.
In "Parallels" I will address, in modest terms, some of the questions posed by August Froehlich within the context of Bill Whan's reference (see Prologue) to a parallel between the restoration of the Giant Canada Goose and that of the Trumpeter Swan.
In I:CAGO, whether you prefer a positive or negative spin on the outcome, you should appreciate the enormity of the effort put forward, largely by state and federal government wildlife managers, to bring about the recovery of an endangered (once declared extinct) subspecies. The intensity of the effort matched the perceived threat. These were early days in government sponsored conservation efforts in North America. There was a lot of trial and error. Indeed until the annunciation of a set of principles for Conservation Biology in 1985 by Michael Soule and others, managers had only their own experiences and those that came before them for guidance. Through the 1980's, a foundation for an interdisciplinary approach to conservation biology was being laid, new techniques and tools being tested, and case studies revealing what did or did not work were now published in such new journals as Conservation Biology and Biological Conservation. This literature differed from that previously seen in the likes of Journal for Wildlife Management in attacking, to a greater degree, the broader issues of the consequences or to borrow from August's post "the impact of choices made" across multiple disciplines from ecology to genetics, populations to ecosystems.
His other questions . . .
What is the desired future condition of our state's avifauna? Is the effort directed towards the reintroduction of high-profile species effort which could produce greater benefit if directed elsewhere?
. . . are also very much on the minds of many of the authors of
conservation biology research.
[as an aside - I strongly urge the reader to examine a copy of Conservation Biology to get a feel for this topic, especially the February 2000 issue.]
Back to August's questions, the goose and the swan.
Hindsight is 20/20 and the use of it should be limited to learning from the process and nothing said here should be taken to be my pointing a finger at anyone nor should the reader feel in a position to do so on the basis of anything stated herein.
With the Giant Canada Goose, captive and wild populations were estimated in 1962-63 at about 55,000. Might sound like a lot but a small enough number to pursue vigorous conservation efforts. And small enough that genetic heterozygosity* very likely was neglible. I don't have my allelic** diversity tables at hand otherwise I would tell you exactly where the subspecies stands relatively to other geese. I can only say my recollection of a 1991 review I undertook of the Class Aves for an Ohio University course in evolutionary genetics indicated surprisingly low allelic diversity. Ok enough with the technical spiel.
To sum up: In the 1960s, managers took a then
. . . selecting a form ready for prime time in the suburbs.
I wish to interject a personal note onto what I have kept a matter of literature citation. As I said before, finger-pointing does nothing to solve anything. While wildlife managers have borne the brunt of that unsavory attention, increasingly the public has been on the receiving end. In 1989 I returned to the park, indeed the very lake (Green Lake - about a mile from here) where as a 12 year-old I had started my first bird inventory (of the migrant Canada Geese visiting in winter - 10% banded), only to discover a sign. The sign read to the effect that through a city ordinance, and by order of the health department, the feeding of ducks would be no longer permitted, having determined that this activity encouraged the geese to stay and generally make a mess of things. For 8 years leading up to the first Shaker Lakes nesting in 1982, I fed those wintering geese corn bringing them in close enough to read their bands - the birds arriving in November and departing in February. Eight years in which the 100 (growing to 300) birds rarely touched the adjacent golfcourse, a property adjoining that of my parents. And within 7 years a community had concluded they were a pest going so far as to ban a public past-time. Another 10 years on we are told to blame the golf-course managers. Just how did that happen?
What's done is done. Now we deal with the consequences and move on. We learn and do a better job next time. So what are the parallels with the restoration of the Trumpeter Swan.
Those are the parallels but it would be unfair to suggest the restorations are that much alike. The approach taken with Trumpeters is slower, more cautious. Lessons learned. As a practical matter, wildlife managers have deemed this restoration workable not merely in the immediate technical sense but manageable over the long haul. And yet it could still fail - these things are never easy - it only looks that way when they succeed. I view this restoration in the context of a conservation ethic and overall strategic plan of the Ohio Division of Wildlife. And so what if the restoration involves an introduction by my interpretation. Does the introduction of an exotic into a region, so drastically altered as to be now suitable for the species, invalidate the restoration of an endangered species? No. The sources of invalidation lay in the fundamental biology of the species and its compatibility with the system within which you hope to see it thrive.
Time will tell.
With regard to the Introduction/Re-introduction question, I expect to agree to disagree with my peers within the Ohio Division of Wildlife. I have glimpsed something of life on the front lines for wildlife managers these past few years and its a tough business. I do not begrudge them the positive PR from the "restoration of Ohio's biodiversity", as I view the state's effort as biologically valid on its face - as part of an overall plan for the restoration of the Trumpeter Swan.
As to "Candidates for Re-introduction" these issues will be dealt with separately in Introductions: Biological Problems
As to the concerns expressed by August Froehlich . . . including Mike Zuilhof's response "charismatic species as nature's emissaries", see "Introductions: Epilogue"
_____________________________________ * thought to be linked to a species' capacity for weathering selective forces (be they forces associated with natural selection or artificial selection). The less variable your genome the more susceptible (at the population level) you are to a selection pressure. Want to breed a "better" cocker spaniel, don't mess around with a half-breed (with all those allelic variants from some mutt) go with a pure-bred, better yet go with a not too distant cousin. The more restricted the bloodline, the more homogeneous the genotype, the less variation in the phenotype (what you see looking at the animal). The resulting offspring are therefore a departure from the ancestral stock.
** protein variants; allelic diversity is a course-grain approach to measuring relative genetic diversity, as opposed to the fine-grain approach of working directly with the genome (DNA analyses).
[for all the academics out there - yes I am fully aware of the gross simplification but feel free to offer a better basic explanation intended for the general public]
Victor W. Fazio, III
Ohio Birds & Natural History, //aves.net/magazine/
18722 Newell St., Floor 2
Shaker Hts., OH 44122