US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Whooping Cranes: Biology and Conservation 2019 Published by Elsevier Inc.


U.S. government work.


Understanding the historic range and habitats of an endangered species can assist in conservation and reintroduction efforts for that species. Individuals reintroduced into a species’ historic core range have a higher survival rate compared to individuals introduced near the periphery or outside the historic range (Falk and Olwell, 1992; Griffith et al., 1989). Individuals on the periphery of a species’ range tend to occupy less favorable habitats and have lower and more variable densities than those near the core of their range (Brown, 1984; Brown et al., 1995, 1996). Such conclusions, however, presume that historic habitats have not changed since a species was extirpated from core areas – a difficult assumption for many areas, and particularly for wetland habitat (Prince, 1997). Many endangered species persist only on the periphery of their historic range because of habitat loss or modification in their core range (Channell and Lomolino, 2000), which can bias our understanding of the species’ habitat preferences. Further, habitat models based on locations where species persist necessarily emphasize local conditions rather than historical conditions (Kuemmerle et al., 2011). For example, habitat models for the European bison (Bison bonasus) suggested it was a woodland species, but assessment of the bison’s historic range indicated it preferred mosaictype landscapes and had a more eastern and northern distribution than previously reported (Kuemmerle et al., 2011, 2012). Hence, accurate determination of the historic range and habitat conditions for endangered species can improve our understanding of their ecology and assist in conservation and reintroduction efforts. Examining the historic range from an ecological perspective can also help identify where appropriate habitat still exists that could sustain a population.