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Title: Conservation of Wildlife Populations
Author(s): L Scott Mills
Date of Publication: 2007 Publisher: Blackwell Publishing
Pages:xiv + 407 ISBN: 1 4051 2146 7
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Educator







Content: 1 – The big picture: human population dynamics meets applied population biology; 2 - Designing studies and interpreting population biology data: how do we know what we know? 3 - Genetic concepts and tools to support wildlife population biology; 4 - Estimating population vital rates; 5 - The simplest way to describe and project population growth: exponential and geometric growth; 6 - Density-dependent population change; 7- Accounting for age- and sex- specific differences: population-projection models; 8 - Predation and wildlife models; 9 - Genetic variation and fitness of wildlife populations; 10 - Dynamics of multiple populations; 11 - Human perturbations: deterministic factors leading to population decline; 12 - Predicting the dynamics of small and declining populations; 13 - Bridging applied population and ecosystem ecology with focal species concepts; 14 - Population biology of harvested populations.

Review: Subtitled 'demography, genetics and management' this volume seeks to bring the more standard work of population ecology into the less predictable world of applied demography in often small populations. As such it adds to an increasing body of knowledge which attempts to make the conservation process more rigorous and successful.

The aim is to divide the text into three sections loosely based on the subtitle. Part one is a study of applied population biology with a focus on wildlife. The second part looks at the population processes (including genetic variation) which can be used as a basis for management. The third brings these two together in a synthesis using actual cases to reinforce key points. Thus chapter one starts with a great overview of the development of the human population and the development of other species particularly in regards to species loss and extinction. Chapter two forms a very good overview of the scientific method as applied to wildlife ecology. It covers all key concepts from design and sampling to errors and analysis. Chapter three turns the attention to genetics where the reader gets a brief introduction to the key principles involved as they impact wildlife. This is especially important as many populations are beneath what one might regard as the genetic threshold. Chapter four continues this introductory theme with a look at basic demography. Here the ground covered is broad with investigations into sampling techniques and estimations as well as considerations such as the impact of sex ratios. These four chapters constitute part one - a brief but very comprehensive overview of the basic components of wildlife demography. Part two starts with an investigation into population growth in a most Malthusian way - exponential and geometric rates of change. Chapter six moves on to density dependent factors. The aim here is to show that the usual demographic ideas don't always work due to low population numbers thus introducing an amount of non-linear responses into the mix. Chapter seven turns to a more mathematical treatment of population projections and the factors both theoretical and practical that can cause the estimations to vary in accuracy. As the author rightly notes, this is a key area because population numbers is often what it's all about. As much as we'd like to reduce this, predation is a fact of ecology whether wildlife or not. The added problem here is introduced species e.g. feral cats which often disturb the population dynamics of small species. Chapter 9 brings up the problem of maintaining (or perhaps reducing the loss of) genetic diversity. This is no simple matter as the complex world of zoo breeding records attests. So far the implicit assumption is of a single population. Chapter 10 breaks this by looking at the impact of multiple populations including the joining of small disparate groups of the same species. The aim here is for connectivity between areas and species but there are also other factors at play such as human impact. This leads nicely into chapter 11, the first of part three. Here, the focus is on human populations and what has happened to the wildlife with the usual litany of habitat loss, fragmentation, pollution etc. Chapter 12 turns to the estimation of survival of small species and what should be done, when. This involves more than just demography because it also falls into the remit of conservation management with their own criteria. Chapter 13 moves onto the more elusive topic of special species - those who can stand as proxy for a range of species or even ecosystem - think of the keystone or flagship species. Ironically, this tends away from the careful line laid down in this book and goes towards a more pragmatic solution (if all else fails - go for the proxy). Finally, there's a nod towards conserving species that we also hunt for food etc.

This is a very useful text for educators. It covers a large area succinctly but mentioning all the key ideas at the same time. This is no mean feat and it makes the book far more useful as a result. The blend of theory and practice (along with some guessing) is still a factor in practical conservation and it's useful to see it being acknowledged. Overall, a very good introduction to the topic.





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