U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


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Mahoney, J.L., P.E. Klug, and W.L. Reed. 2018. An assessment of the US endangered species act recovery plans: using physiology to support conservation. Conservation Physiology 6(1):coy036.

doi: 10.1093/conphys/coy036


This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US.


Applying physiology to help solve conservation problems has become increasingly prominent. It is unclear, however, if the increased integration into the scientific community has translated into the application of physiological tools in conservation planning. We completed a review of the use of animal physiology in the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Endangered Species Act (ESA) recovery plans released between 2005 and 2016. Over those 11 years, 135 of the 146 recovery plans mentioned physiology, with 56% including it as background information on the natural history of the species and not as part of the recovery process. Fish and bird species had the lowest proportion of recovery plans to include physiology beyond the description of the natural history. When considering multiple sub-disciplines of physiology, immunology and epidemiology were incorporated as part of the recovery process most often. Our review suggests a disconnect between available physiological tools and the potential role of physiology in developing conservation plans. We provide three suggestions to further guide conservation scientists, managers and physiologists to work synergistically to solve conservation problems: (1) the breadth of knowledge within a recovery plan writing team should be increased, for example, through increased training of federal scientists in new physiology methodologies and tools or the inclusion of authors in academia that have a background in physiology; (2) physiologists should make their research more available to conservation scientists and federal agencies by clearly linking their research to conservation and (3) communication should be enhanced between government conservation scientists and physiologists.

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