, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 582–591 | Cite as

Ecological carryover effects complicate conservation

  • Constance M. O’Connor
  • Steven J. Cooke


Ecological carryover effects occur when an individual’s previous history and experiences explain their current performance. It is becoming clear that ecological carryover effects are a common phenomenon across taxa, and have the potential to play an important role in governing individual fitness and population dynamics. Carryover effects may reduce the success of conservation efforts aimed at slowing or reversing biodiversity loss. Failure to consider carryover effects might lead to erroneous conclusions about the effectiveness of conservation measures. We suggest that carryover effects are considered explicitly in threat assessment and conservation planning, in order to understand the long-term consequences of stressors, target efforts more effectively, and ensure that the success or failure of conservation efforts is tracked more accurately. We encourage proactive research focused on the proximate mechanisms underlying carryover effects, so that predictive measures of carryover effects in wild populations can be developed and refined. Finally, we suggest that in some cases, positive carryover effects could be exploited for conservation benefit. We conclude that the failure to consider carryover effects in conservation science and practice may put imperiled populations at further risk.


Stress Fisheries Wildlife Management Latent effect Delayed effect 



CMO is supported by the NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship. SJC is supported by the Canada Research Chairs program, the NSERC Discovery Grant program, and Carleton University.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Aquatic Behavioural Ecology Lab, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and BehaviourMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Lab, Department of Biology and Institute of Environmental ScienceCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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