Population viability analysis of the Danube sturgeon populations in a Vortex simulation model

Abstract

Populations of six sturgeon species in the Danube River (beluga, Russian sturgeon, stellate sturgeon, sterlet, ship sturgeon and Atlantic sturgeon) have experienced severe decline during the last several decades, mostly due to the unsustainable fishery, river fragmentation and water pollution. Present lack of knowledge on basic sturgeon demography, life history and relative effects of different negative factors is further hindering implementation of efficient policy and management measures. In the present study, population viability analysis in a Vortex simulation model has been conducted in order to assess the state of the six Danube sturgeon species, their future risk of extinction and to determine the most suitable conservation and management measures. Population viability analysis has revealed a large sensitivity of the Danube sturgeon populations to changes in the natural mortality, fecundity, age at maturity and spawning frequency. It was also confirmed that the sturgeons are highly susceptible to even moderate levels of commercial fishery, and that their recovery is a multi-decadal affair. Stocking with adult individuals was shown to produce considerably greater effect on population persistence than stocking with juveniles, but the latter approach is probably still preferable since it avoids many inherent problems of aquaculture cultivation. This study represents the first population viability analysis of the Danube sturgeons.

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Acknowledgments

This study represents a part of activities within the Project No. 143045, funded by Ministry of Science of Republic Serbia, as well as within the Master Programme in Management of Biological Diversity, organized by the Swedish Biodiversity Centre (CBM) and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The authors would like to thank Dr Neculai Patriche, Dr Jorga Valentin, Dr Radu Suciu, Dr Ion Navodaru, Dr Milen Vassilev, Dr Tania Hubenova, Dr Ivan Dobrovolov, Dr Angel Tsekov and Dr Patrick Williot for their help in resolving different questions of sturgeon life history, as well as two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments and suggestions.

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Jarić, I., Ebenhard, T. & Lenhardt, M. Population viability analysis of the Danube sturgeon populations in a Vortex simulation model. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 20, 219–237 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-009-9151-0

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Keywords

  • Acipenser
  • Huso
  • PVA
  • Extinction risk
  • Life history
  • Modelling