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Integrating subsistence practice and species distribution modeling: assessing invasive elodea’s potential impact on Native Alaskan subsistence of Chinook salmon and whitefish

Abstract

Alaska has one of the most rapidly changing climates on earth and is experiencing an accelerated rate of human disturbance, including resource extraction and transportation infrastructure development. Combined, these factors increase the state’s vulnerability to biological invasion, which can have acute negative impacts on ecological integrity and subsistence practices. Of growing concern is the spread of Alaska’s first documented freshwater aquatic invasive plant Elodea spp. (elodea). In this study, we modeled the suitable habitat of elodea using global and state-specific species occurrence records and environmental variables, in concert with an ensemble of model algorithms. Furthermore, we sought to incorporate local subsistence concerns by using Native Alaskan knowledge and available statewide subsistence harvest data to assess the potential threat posed by elodea to Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and whitefish (Coregonus nelsonii) subsistence. State models were applied to future climate (2040–2059) using five general circulation models best suited for Alaska. Model evaluations indicated that our results had moderate to strong predictability, with area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve values above 0.80 and classification accuracies ranging from 66 to 89 %. State models provided a more robust assessment of elodea habitat suitability. These ensembles revealed different levels of management concern statewide, based on the interaction of fish subsistence patterns, known spawning and rearing sites, and elodea habitat suitability, thus highlighting regions with additional need for targeted monitoring. Our results suggest that this approach can hold great utility for invasion risk assessments and better facilitate the inclusion of local stakeholder concerns in conservation planning and management.

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Notes

  1. Betts and Wolfe (1992), Fall (1999), Moncrieff (2003), Holen (2004), Davis (2005),Langdon (2006), Carothers (2010), Loring and Gerlach (2010), Brown (2012), Fall (2012b), McNeeley (2012), Carothers (2013), Fall (2013), Reedy-Maschner (2013), Brinkman et al. (2014).

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Acknowledgments

We wish to acknowledge the U.S. Geological Survey Fort Collins Science Center for use of their Resource for Advanced Modeling facilities. Special thanks to the Native Alaskan community members and Alaska land mangers whose insights, experiences, and stories helped shape the questions and goals of this research. Additional thanks to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and Alaska Natural Heritage Program for providing critical elodea survey data and to the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council for facilitating part of this study at their 2013 biennial summit. We wish to also acknowledge Dr. Christina Kuroiwa for assisting with informal interview data collection at the summit. Additional thanks to the two anonymous reviewers, John Morton and Mark Bertram from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Helen Sofaer of the U.S. Geological Survey for providing important feedback, which has greatly improved this manuscript. Funding for this research was provided by the National Needs Fellowship program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado State University’s Graduate Degree Program in Ecology Small Grants for Graduate Research Award. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government or Colorado State University.

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Correspondence to Matthew W. Luizza.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Research Integrity and Compliance Review Office at Colorado State University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Luizza, M.W., Evangelista, P.H., Jarnevich, C.S. et al. Integrating subsistence practice and species distribution modeling: assessing invasive elodea’s potential impact on Native Alaskan subsistence of Chinook salmon and whitefish. Environmental Management 58, 144–163 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-016-0692-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-016-0692-4

Keywords

  • Alaska
  • Aquatic invasion
  • Elodea spp.
  • Ensemble modeling
  • SNAP climate data
  • Subsistence