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Minimum viable population size: A meta-analysis of 30 years of published estimates


Traill, LW and Bradshaw, CJA and Brook, BW, Minimum viable population size: A meta-analysis of 30 years of published estimates, Biological Conservation, 139, (1-2) pp. 159-166. ISSN 0006-3207 (2007) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2007 Elsevier Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2007.06.011


We present the first meta-analysis of a key measure in conservation biology: minimum viable population (MVP) size. Our analysis is based on studies published since the early 1970s, and covers 141 sources and 212 species (after filtering 529 sources and 2202 species). By implementing a unique standardization procedure to make reported MVPs comparable, we were able to derive a cross-species frequency distribution of MVP with a median of 4169 individuals (95% CI = 3577-5129). This standardized database provides a reference set of MVPs from which conservation practitioners can generalize the range expected for particular species (or surrogate taxa) of concern when demographic information is lacking. We provide a synthesis of MVP-related research over the past 30 years, and test for ‘rules of thumb’ relating MVP to extinction vulnerability using well-known threat correlates such as body mass and range decline. We find little support for any plausible ecological and life history predictors of MVP, even though correlates explain >50% of the variation in IUCN threat status. We conclude that a species’ or population’s MVP is context-specific, and there are no simple short-cuts to its derivation. However, our findings are consistent with biological theory and MVPs derived from abundance time series in that the MVP for most species will exceed a few thousand individuals.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:MVP, minimum viable population, extinction correlates, population viability, generalised linear mixed-effects models, meta-analysis
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Population ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Other environmental management
Objective Field:Other environmental management not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Brook, BW (Professor Barry Brook)
ID Code:116321
Year Published:2007
Web of Science® Times Cited:253
Deposited By:Biological Sciences
Deposited On:2017-05-05
Last Modified:2017-09-15

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