Addressing Threatened and Endangered Species on DoD Lands

August 20, 2020

Addressing Threatened and Endangered Species on DoD Lands

This webinar from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program and the Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (SERDP and ESTCP) will present tools to assess conservation efforts and endangered species communities on Department of Defense (DoD) installations. Specifically, investigators will discuss SERDP-funded efforts to evaluate cross-boundary habitat crediting programs and summarize experiments using environmental DNA as a method of documenting pollinator communities.

“A Multi-Disciplinary Assessment of Habitat Crediting Programs for Threatened and Endangered Species” by Dr. Liba Pejchar, associate professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University

DoD has been extraordinarily successful in conserving threatened and endangered species (TES) on installations, yet conservation activities can conflict with training. Cross-boundary conservation could reduce regulatory burden, but successes and shortcomings of such strategies are not well documented. To address this gap, we conducted a limited-scope assessment of cross-boundary habitat crediting programs. We synthesized existing information and surveyed experts to characterize the attributes of current programs, to report how outcomes are measured and perceived, and to evaluate whether programs account for ongoing environmental change. We identified nine habitat crediting programs in the United States and found that these programs have potential to provide regulatory relief and a positive return on investment, but not in all contexts. As will be discussed in this presentation, economic and institutional challenges include disagreement over whether contracts should be short-term or in perpetuity and involve high initial costs. As a result of the assessment, we found most programs monitor habitat amount and quality, but few measure species abundance, survival or reproduction. This multidisciplinary synthesis could inform DoD’s engagement in and assessment of cross-boundary habitat mitigation. In this presentation, we will provide recommendations for building on this synthesis to provide evidence-based guidance on cross-boundary programs to optimize DoD’s conservation investments and ensure that these activities support its core mission.

“BeeDNA: Microfluidics and Metabarcoding Reveal Pollinator Communities from a Single Flower” by Dr. Mark Davis, director of the Collaborative Ecological Genetics Laboratory at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate, spanning habitats, ecosystems and geopolitical boundaries with extinction rates exceeding those of the last five mass extinction events. Consequently, numerous pollinators have been added to the Federal Register as threatened or endangered, signaling the vital importance to pollinators to North American ecosystems and economies. Rapid, efficient, and accurate assessment of pollinator communities is a conservation imperative to inform adaptive management strategies and stanch pollinator losses. As part of this SERDP-funded effort, we assessed the efficacy of environmental DNA (eDNA) to document pollinator communities. In a controlled greenhouse experiment, we provided three flower species to the Common Eastern Bumble Bee (Bombus impatiens). eDNA was sampled and pollinator presence was assessed via microfluidic metabarcoding. Also, we sampled flowers in the field to validate the method. Our results revealed that microfluidic metabarcoding of flower-derived eDNA is an effective means of documenting pollinator communities. Sampling and eDNA extraction method choice, flower morphology, bioinformatic pipeline choice and other factors were shown to influence the pollinator community that is detected. In this presentation, we will discuss how emerging eDNA chemistry and technology can be leveraged to improve measuring and monitoring of pollinator biodiversity in the Anthropocene.