The 30-year recovery effort for the Ozark cavefish (Amblyopsis rosae): Analysis of current distribution, population trends, and conservation status of this threatened species
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Here we review the thirty year recovery effort and conservation status of the Ozark cavefish, Amblyopsis rosae. We summarized the historic and current range of the species, and report county range extensions for both A. rosae and its confamilial Typhlichthys subterraneus. Ozark cavefish survey data spanning almost a century were analyzed for temporal trends using the Mann-Kendall Test/Sen’s Slope Estimator Method. Results were inconclusive because variance was high and the majority of data sets were not sufficiently large to detect a trend. However, the two largest populations (Cave Springs Cave and Logan Cave, Benton Co., Arkansas) have stabilizing or increasing survey counts. While the number of active cavefish sites has decreased over 50% since 1990, the number of surveyed individuals has not. Reasons for endangerment were reanalyzed since federal listing; the primary threat has shifted from overcollection to habitat degradation. We analyzed the progress of recovery task implementation, and we critically evaluated the basis of delisting criteria. Recovery Task 1, the hydrogeologic delineation of subterranean habitats, is almost complete. Recovery Task 2 prescribes protection and management for Recovery Caves, and important progress has been made. Recovery Task 3 involves the development and implementation of monitoring programs in Recovery Caves. Several important studies have been performed, and indicate that many cavefish populations are experiencing chronic, low-level exposure to a suite of anthropogenic contaminants. Delisting conditions are largely unattainable as currently worded. We suggest that recovery criteria be amended such that habitat protection goals are attainable, that the list of Recovery Caves can be periodically updated, and that the recovery population goal is increased and distributed between more sites.