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Evaluating habitat quality of vertebrates using conservation physiology tools

Homyack, Jessica A.
Wildlife research 2010 v.37 no.4 pp. 332-342
biodiversity, biologists, body condition, ecologists, fecundity, habitat destruction, habitats, hormones, metabolism, physiologists, population density, vertebrates, wildlife
Studies examining how wildlife populations perceive and respond to habitat are common, and many attempt to understand how the quality of available habitats influences population processes such as survival and recruitment. Traditional methods to estimate habitat quality (e.g. population density) have not led to great advancement in our understanding of relationships between habitat and fitness in recent years. Metrics from the discipline of conservation physiology could help researchers to address these difficulties and to meet the challenges that habitat alteration poses to biodiversity. Incorporating physiological metrics that relate energetics or environmental stress to habitats may be powerful measures of habitat quality. By quantifying field metabolic rates, body condition, or concentrations of stress hormones in individual organisms, researchers may identify mechanisms associated with habitat that underlie observed patterns in vital rates (survival and fecundity). Physiological metrics offer useful tools that may identify mechanisms of habitat quality and detect the causes of declines in biodiversity. However, integration among physiologists, ecologists and conservation biologists will require new partnerships and approaches to respond to complex ecological issues.