Conservation Physiology is an online only, fully open access journal published on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.

Description

Biodiversity across the globe faces a growing number of threats associated with human activities. Conservation Physiology publishes research on all taxa (microbes, plants and animals) focused on understanding and predicting how organisms, populations, ecosystems and natural resources respond to environmental change and stressors. Physiology is considered in the broadest possible terms to include functional and mechanistic responses at all scales. We also welcome research towards developing and refining strategies to rebuild populations, restore ecosystems, inform conservation policy, and manage living resources.

latest article added on July 2015

ArticleFirst AuthorPublished
Development and evaluation of three mortality prediction indices for cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii)Stacy, N. I.2013

Development and evaluation of three mortality prediction indices for cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii)

Keywords

Blood gas, chemistry, cold-stunning, Kemp's ridley sea turtle, mortality, prognosis

Abstract

Cold-stunned sea turtles can be affected by severe physiologic derangements, which if not treated appropriately, can lead to mortality. Clinically useful blood gas and chemistry analytes were selected to develop mortality prediction indices to improve diagnosis, medical treatment and prognosis during rehabilitation of cold-stunned sea turtles. Kemp's ridley sea turtle is an endangered species found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the east coast of the USA. Cold-stunned Kemp's ridley turtles are often found stranded on beaches of Massachusetts and New York in November and December each year. When found alive, turtles are transported to rehabilitation centres for evaluation and treatment. Blood gas and chemistry analytes of major clinical relevance in sea turtles were selected to develop mortality prediction indices (MPI)s. Testing the diagnostic performance of various combinations of blood gas and chemistry analytes by receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analysis resulted in the development of three mortality prediction indices. The sensitivity and specificity of the best performing MPI (based on three blood analytes: pH, pO2, and potassium) was 88 and 80%, respectively. Using ROC analysis, the area under the curve = 0.896 (95% confidence interval = 0.83–0.94). The use of validated MPIs based on four blood analytes (pH, pCO2, pO2, and potassium) could be useful for better diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of cold-stunned sea turtles when admitted to rehabilitation facilities.

Authors

Stacy, N. I., Innis, C. J. and Hernandez, J. A.

Year Published

2013

Publication

Conservation Physiology

Locations
DOI

10.1093/conphys/cot003

This article contributed by:

Oxford University Press

Integrating oxidative ecology into conservation physiologyBeaulieu, Michaël2013

Integrating oxidative ecology into conservation physiology

Keywords

Antarctica, demography, oxidative balance, penguins, population decline, seabirds

Abstract

Given that oxidative balance acts on fitness components, its measurement may be valuable to conservationists to assess population health. We show that antioxidant defences reflect population trends in penguin colonies. These preliminary results suggest that oxidative balance could be used to assess the health of animal populations in their habitat. Ecologists have recently shown great interest in using physiological markers as indicators of the health of animal populations. In this context, the measurement of markers of oxidative balance, such as antioxidant defences and oxidative damage, may be a valuable tool. Indeed, at the individual level, antioxidant defences are positively associated with fertility and survival probability, while elevated oxidative damage during reproduction or growth may negatively affect recruitment and survival. Therefore, variation in oxidative balance is likely to influence demographic processes. This suggests that conservationists may be able to use oxidative markers to monitor population health. Yet, the connection between these markers and demographic parameters first needs to be established. We present here preliminary results obtained in colonies of breeding Gentoo (Pygoscelis papua) and Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), showing that antioxidant defences strongly reflect population trends. However, population trend was not related to oxidative damage. This suggests that in the context of the emerging field of conservation physiology, antioxidant defences may represent a key parameter to monitor population health. We therefore exhort other research teams to assess the generality of this finding in other biological models, especially in species of conservation concern.

Authors

Beaulieu, Michaël, Thierry, Anne-Mathilde, González-Acuña, Daniel and Polito, Michael J.

Year Published

2013

Publication

Conservation Physiology

Locations
DOI

10.1093/conphys/cot004

This article contributed by:

Oxford University Press

Characterization of Na+ uptake in the endangered desert pupfish, Cyprinodon macularius (Baird and Girard)Brix, Kevin V.2013

Characterization of Na+ uptake in the endangered desert pupfish, Cyprinodon macularius (Baird and Girard)

Keywords

Carbonic anhydrase, Cyprinodon macularius, Na+–H+ exchanger, osmoregulation

Abstract

This study investigated the mechanism of Na+ uptake in freshwater by the endangered pupfish, Cyprinodon macularius. Cyprinodon macularius exhibits a low-affinity uptake system and appears to be relatively inflexibile with respect to mechanisms of Na+ uptake compared with most freshwater species. This study provided an initial characterization of Na+ uptake in saline freshwater by the endangered pupfish, Cyprinodon macularius. This species occurs only in several saline water systems in the southwestern USA and northern Mexico, where salinity is largely controlled by water-management practices. Consequently, understanding the osmoregulatory capacity of this species is important for their conservation. The lower acclimation limit of C. macularius in freshwater was found to be 2 mM Na+. Fish acclimated to 2 or 7 mM Na+ displayed similar Na+ uptake kinetics, with Km values of 4321 and 3672 μM and Vmax values of 4771 and 3602 nmol g−1 h−1, respectively. A series of experiments using pharmacological inhibitors indicated that Na+ uptake in C. macularius was not sensitive to bumetanide, metolazone, or phenamil. These results indicate the Na+–K+–2Cl− cotransporter, Na+–Cl− cotransporter, and the Na+ channel–H+-ATPase system are likely not to be involved in Na+ uptake at the apical membrane of fish gill ionocytes in fish acclimated to 2 or 7 mM Na+. However, Na+ uptake was sensitive to 1 × 10−3 M amiloride (not 1 × 10−4 or 1 × 10−5 M), 5-(N-ethyl-N-isopropyl)-amiloride (EIPA), and ethoxzolamide. These data suggest that C. macularius relies on a low-affinity Na+–H+ exchanger for apical Na+ uptake and that H+ ions generated via carbonic anhydrase-mediated CO2 hydration are important for the function of this protein.

Authors

Brix, Kevin V. and Grosell, Martin

Year Published

2013

Publication

Conservation Physiology

Locations
    DOI

    10.1093/conphys/cot005

    This article contributed by:

    Oxford University Press

    Elevated CO2 enhances aerobic scope of a coral reef fishRummer, Jodie L.2013

    Elevated CO2 enhances aerobic scope of a coral reef fish

    Keywords

    aerobic scope, climate change, coral reef fish, ocean acidification

    Abstract

    The uptake of anthropogenic CO2 by the ocean has been suggested to impact marine ecosystems by decreasing the respiratory capacity of fish and other water breathers. We investigated the aerobic metabolic scope of the spiny damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia when exposed for 17 days to CO2 conditions predicted for the end of the century (946 μatm CO2). Surprisingly, resting O2 consumption rates were significantly lower and maximal O2 consumption rates significantly higher in high-CO2-exposed fish compared with control fish (451 μatm CO2). Consequently, high-CO2-exposed fish exhibited an unexpected increase in absolute (38%) and factorial aerobic scopes (47%). Haematological and muscle water changes associated with exercise were not affected by CO2 treatment. Thus, contrary to predictions, our results suggest that elevated CO2 may enhance aerobic scope of some fish species. Long-term experiments are now required to assess the response to elevated CO2 further, because developmental and transgenerational effects can be dramatic in fish. Ultimately, understanding the variability among species regarding the effects of CO2 on aerobic scope will be critical in predicting the impacts of ocean acidification on marine communities and ecosystems.

    Authors

    Rummer, Jodie L., Stecyk, Jonathan A. W., Couturier, Christine S., Watson, Sue-Ann, Nilsson, Göran E. and Munday, Philip L.

    Year Published

    2013

    Publication

    Conservation Physiology

    Locations
    DOI

    10.1093/conphys/cot023

    This article contributed by:

    Oxford University Press

    Vulnerability of larval and juvenile white sturgeon to barotrauma: can they handle the pressure?Brown, Richard S.2013

    Vulnerability of larval and juvenile white sturgeon to barotrauma: can they handle the pressure?

    Keywords

    Barotrauma, hydropower, hydroturbine, larvae, swim bladder, white sturgeon

    Abstract

    Techniques were developed to determine when fish are vulnerable to barotrauma when rapidly decompressed during hydroturbine passage. Sturgeons were decompressed in early life-stages and X-ray radiographs were taken to determine when gas was present in the swim bladder. Barotrauma was observed on day 9 and greater than 75 days after hatching. Techniques were developed to determine which life stages of fish are vulnerable to barotrauma from expansion of internal gases during decompression. Eggs, larvae, and juvenile hatchery-reared white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus; up to 91 days post hatch; d.p.h.) were decompressed to assess vulnerability to barotrauma and identify initial swim bladder inflation. Barotrauma-related injury and mortality were first observed 9 d.p.h., on the same day as initial exogenous feeding. However, barotrauma-related injury did not occur again until swim bladder inflation 75 d.p.h. (visible at necropsy and on radiographs). Swim bladder inflation was not consistent among individuals, with only 44% being inflated 91 d.p.h. Additionally, swim bladder inflation did not appear to be size dependent among fish ranging in total length from 61 to 153 mm at 91 d.p.h. The use of a combination of decompression tests and radiography was validated as a method to determine initial swim bladder inflation and vulnerability to barotrauma. Extending these techniques to other species and life-history stages would help to determine the susceptibility of fish to hydro turbine passage and aid in fish conservation.

    Authors

    Brown, Richard S., Cook, Katrina V., Pflugrath, Brett D., Rozeboom, Latricia L., Johnson, Rachelle C., McLellan, Jason G., Linley, Timothy J., Gao, Yong, Baumgartner, Lee J., Dowell, Frederick E., Miller, Erin A. and White, Timothy A.

    Year Published

    2013

    Publication

    Conservation Physiology

    Locations
    DOI

    10.1093/conphys/cot019

    This article contributed by:

    Oxford University Press

    Shotgun proteomics as a viable approach for biological discovery in the Pacific oysterTimmins-Schiffman, Emma2013

    Shotgun proteomics as a viable approach for biological discovery in the Pacific oyster

    Keywords

    Crassostrea gigas, Pacific oyster, proteomics, tandem mass spectrometry

    Abstract

    The oyster gill proteome (expressed proteins) was sequenced using shotgun proteomics. This effort represents the first time that a global, non-gel based approach has been used to characterize proteins from oyster gill. The data provide insight into the dynamic functions of this tissue and demonstrate the viability of this approach. Shotgun proteomics offers an efficient means to characterize proteins in a complex mixture, particularly when sufficient genomic resources are available. In order to assess the practical application of shotgun proteomics in the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas), liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry was used to characterize the gill proteome. Using information from the recently published Pacific oyster genome, 1043 proteins were identified. Biological samples (n = 4) and corresponding technical replicates (three) were similar in both specific proteins identified and expression, as determined by normalized spectral abundance factor. A majority of the proteins identified (703) were present in all biological samples. Functional analysis of the protein repertoire illustrates that these proteins represent a wide range of biological processes, supporting the dynamic function of the gill. These insights are important for understanding environmental influences on the oyster, because the gill tissue acts as the interface between the oyster and its environment. In silico analysis indicated that this sequencing effort identified a large proportion of the complete gill proteome. Together, these data demonstrate that shotgun sequencing is a viable approach for biological discovery and will play an important role in future studies of oyster physiology.

    Authors

    Timmins-Schiffman, Emma, Nunn, Brook L., Goodlett, David R. and Roberts, Steven B.

    Year Published

    2013

    Publication

    Conservation Physiology

    Locations
    DOI

    10.1093/conphys/cot009

    This article contributed by:

    Oxford University Press

    Glucocorticoid stress responses of lions in relationship to group composition, human land use, and proximity to peopleCreel, Scott2013

    Glucocorticoid stress responses of lions in relationship to group composition, human land use, and proximity to people

    Keywords

    Carnivore, glucocorticoid, human–wildlife conflict, Kenya, lion, stress

    Abstract

    Large carnivores are in global decline, particularly outside of government protected areas such as national parks. Much is known about the ecology of lions in protected areas, but little is known about situations in which lions coexist with people and livestock. In the Olkiramatian and Shompole area of Kenya's South Rift, lions move among areas with different land uses to avoid direct interactions with people and livestock. When the separation between lions and people is low, lions mount strong glucocorticoid stress responses. These results confirm that access to areas with low disturbance and little interaction with people is important for the conservation of lions outside of national parks. Large carnivore populations are in global decline, and conflicts between large carnivores and humans or their livestock contribute to low tolerance of large carnivores outside of protected areas. African lions (Panthera leo) are a conflict-prone species, and their continental range has declined by 75% in the face of human pressures. Nonetheless, large carnivore populations persist (or even grow) in some areas that are occupied by humans. Lions attain locally high density in the Olkiramatian and Shompole Group Ranches of Kenya's South Rift region, despite residence by pastoralist Maasai people and their sheep, goats, and cattle. We have previously found that these lions respond to seasonal movements of people by moving away from occupied settlements, shifting into denser habitats when people are nearby, and moving into a protected conservation area when people move into the adjacent buffer zone. Here, we examined lion stress responses to anthropogenic activities, using enzyme-linked immunoassay to measure the concentration of faecal glucocorticoid metabolites in 136 samples collected from five lion groups over 2 years. Faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations were significantly lower for lions in the conservation area than for lions in the human-settled buffer zone, and decreased significantly with increasing distance to the nearest occupied human settlement. Faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations were not detectably related to fine-scaled variation in prey or livestock density, and surprisingly, faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations were higher in the wet season, when regional prey abundance was high. Lions coexist with people and livestock on this landscape by adjusting their movements, but they nonetheless mount an appreciable stress response when conditions do not allow them to maintain adequate separation. Thus, physiological data confirm inferences from prior data on lion movements and habitat use, showing that access to undisturbed and protected areas facilitates human–lion coexistence in a broader landscape that is used by people and livestock.

    Authors

    Creel, Scott, Christianson, David and Schuette, Paul

    Year Published

    2013

    Publication

    Conservation Physiology

    Locations
    DOI

    10.1093/conphys/cot021

    This article contributed by:

    Oxford University Press

    Heat tolerance during embryonic development has not diverged among populations of a widespread species (Sceloporus undulatus)Angilletta, Michael J.2013

    Heat tolerance during embryonic development has not diverged among populations of a widespread species (Sceloporus undulatus)

    Keywords

    Critical thermal maximum, embryo, heart rate, survival, temperature, thermal tolerance

    Abstract

    Animals that develop in shallow soils are susceptible to lethal temperatures during heat waves. We found that developing lizards from four populations entered cardiac arrest at temperatures above 46°C. Since temperatures of natural nests can presently exceed this limit, global warming would further reduce recruitment of young. The frequency and magnitude of heat waves have increased in recent decades, imposing additional stresses on organisms in extreme environments. Most reptilian embryos are regularly exposed to thermal stress because they develop in shallow, warm soils for weeks to months. We studied cardiac performance during warming to infer lethal temperatures for embryonic lizards in the Sceloporus undulatus complex. Embryos from four populations throughout the geographical range (New Jersey, South Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona) were warmed at a rate observed in natural nests. Embryos from all populations exhibited a similar pattern of thermal sensitivity, as follows: heart rate rose between 34 and 41°C, remained stable between 41 and 44°C, and dropped sharply between 44 and 47°C. No embryos recovered from cardiac arrest, indicating that the upper lethal temperature was ≤47°C. Despite the putative selective pressures, the thermal limit to cardiac performance seems to have been conserved during the evolution of this species.

    Authors

    Angilletta, Michael J., Zelic, Maximilian H., Adrian, Gregory J., Hurliman, Alex M. and Smith, Colton D.

    Year Published

    2013

    Publication

    Conservation Physiology

    Locations
    DOI

    10.1093/conphys/cot018

    This article contributed by:

    Oxford University Press

    Heart rate responses provide an objective evaluation of human disturbance stimuli in breeding birdsEllenberg, Ursula2013

    Heart rate responses provide an objective evaluation of human disturbance stimuli in breeding birds

    Keywords

    Heart rate telemetry, human disturbance, stress-coping styles, tourism impact, wildlife management, Yellow-eyed penguins

    Abstract

    What humans may consider to be a careful approach can constitute a significant disturbance event for some species. Routine checks to view nest contents affect Yellow-eyed penguins less than prolonged observation from a distance. Evaluating disturbance stimuli via heart rate telemetry provides a reliable basis for effective visitor management. Intuition is a poor guide for evaluating the effects of human disturbance on wildlife. Using the endangered Yellow-eyed penguin, Megadyptes antipodes, as an example, we show that heart rate responses provide an objective tool to evaluate human disturbance stimuli and encourage the wider use of this simple and low-impact approach. Yellow-eyed penguins are a flagship species for New Zealand's wildlife tourism; however, unregulated visitor access has recently been associated with reduced breeding success and lower first year survival. We measured heart rate responses of Yellow-eyed penguins via artificial eggs to evaluate a range of human stimuli regularly occurring at their breeding sites. We found the duration of a stimulus to be the most important factor, with elevated heart rate being sustained while a person remained within sight. Human activity was the next important component; a simulated wildlife photographer, crawling slowly around during his stay, elicited a significantly higher heart rate response than an entirely motionless human spending the same time at the same distance. Stimuli we subjectively might perceive as low impact, such as the careful approach of a ‘wildlife photographer’, resulted in a stronger response than a routine nest-check that involved lifting a bird up to view nest contents. A single, slow-moving human spending 20 min within 2 m from the nest may provoke a response comparable to that of 10 min handling a bird for logger deployment. To reduce cumulative impact of disturbance, any human presence in the proximity of Yellow-eyed penguins needs to be kept at a minimum. Our results highlight the need for objective quantification of the effects of human disturbance in order to provide a sound basis for guidelines to manage human activity around breeding birds.

    Authors

    Ellenberg, Ursula, Mattern, Thomas and Seddon, Philip J.

    Year Published

    2013

    Publication

    Conservation Physiology

    Locations
    DOI

    10.1093/conphys/cot013

    This article contributed by:

    Oxford University Press

    Can physiological stress alter population persistence? A model with conservation implicationsFefferman, Nina H.2013

    Can physiological stress alter population persistence? A model with conservation implications

    Keywords

    Allostasis, conservation endocrinology, conservation physiology, glucocorticoids, reactive scope

    Abstract

    A set of general, abstract models generated hypotheses on how wild animal populations respond to stress. We predicted that stressed populations would rely upon the oldest and fittest individuals to reproduce. Consequently, observations of only physically fit individuals may not be an adequate indicator of population health. Recent research has focused on the role of physiological stress in species conservation and population persistence. However, it is currently unknown how much stress individuals can withstand before negative impacts on population size will be detectable. In order to generate testable predictions to address this lack, we created a set of theoretical models that incorporate current theories of how stress, and specifically allostasis (cumulative increase in the cost of coping with stressors), alters an individual's ability to survive and reproduce. Surprisingly, our models predicted the following three non-intuitive results: first, populations where the average individual was exposed to high levels of stress relied preferentially on the oldest and most physically fit individuals for reproduction and population persistence; second, this reliance on the most physically fit individuals led to the average physical condition being highest in the populations where the average individual experienced the most stress; and third, any transient perturbation in the amount of average stress exposure led to a decrease in population size. The mechanism responsible for this decrease was dependent upon the direction of the perturbation; an increase in average stress exposure directly resulted in fewer reproducing individuals, whereas a decrease in average stress exposure indirectly decreased population size via density-dependent feedback. These results have important conservation implications. They suggest that the average physical condition of individuals in a population may be a poor measure of how much stress the population is experiencing, that any disturbance which affects the oldest and most physically fit individuals could have a disproportionate effect on the population, and that any change in the amount of stress experienced by the average individual is likely to have a short-term detrimental impact on the population size.

    Authors

    Fefferman, Nina H. and Romero, L. Michael

    Year Published

    2013

    Publication

    Conservation Physiology

    Locations
      DOI

      10.1093/conphys/cot012

      This article contributed by:

      Oxford University Press

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