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Standing between Life and Extinction

Ethics and Ecology of Conserving Aquatic Species in North American Deserts

North American deserts—lands of little water—have long been home to a surprising diversity of aquatic life, from fish to insects and mollusks. With European settlement, however, water extraction, resource exploitation, and invasive species set many of these native aquatic species on downward spirals. In this book, conservationists dedicated to these creatures document the history of their work, the techniques and philosophies that inform it, and the challenges and opportunities of the future.

A precursor to this book, Battle Against Extinction, laid out the scope of the problem and related conservation activities through the late 1980s. Since then, many nascent conservation programs have matured, and researchers have developed new technologies, improved and refined methods, and greatly expanded our knowledge of the myriad influences on the ecology and dynamics of these species. Standing between Life and Extinction brings the story up to date. While the future for some species is more secure than thirty years ago, others are less fortunate. Calling attention not only to iconic species like the razorback sucker, Gila trout, and Devils Hole pupfish, but also to other fishes and obscure and fascinating invertebrates inhabiting intermittent aquatic habitats, this book explores the scientific, social, and political challenges of preserving these aquatic species and their habitats amid an increasingly charged political discourse and in desert regions characterized by a growing human population and rapidly changing climate.

496 pages | 90 color plates, 22 halftones | 8-1/4 x 11

Biological Sciences: Conservation, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Natural History


"Many see the arid lands of western North America as a stretch of dry, flyover territory, the setting for shoot-'em-up cowboy movies and the venue for arguments over water rights. This volume edited by Propst, Williams, Bestgen, and Hoagstrom will completely shatter those supercilious projections. Conservation of desert fishes was introduced in Battle against Extinction,edited by W. L. Minckley and James Deacon. A group of passionate experts in biodiversity, conservation, history, hydrology, and politics expand the subject in this excellent exploration of the land-water-bioconservation ethic for both sides of the RioGrande. Adding to its attraction as a textbook, a deep dive by researchers will reward with new lines of inquiry. The photographs are striking and instructive, tables are crisp, and the writing style is inviting. In particular, candid photographs of habitats and workers in the field offer readers an authentic view of the people, topics, and challenges the volume addresses. The index is extensive, and each chapter includes its own list of cited literature. This reviewer could not ask for more in a textbook for use in advanced classes, or as a reference work to be added to his personal bookshelf. . . . Highly recommended"


“This book should appeal to anyone broadly interested in conservation and management of water resources, and specifically to conservation scientists, natural resource managers, and fish biologists. There are strong historical threads woven throughout the chapters, and it serves both as a tribute to pioneering legends of early desert fish conservation and a synthesis of ongoing work that reveals successes, failures, and challenges in the face of human populations expanding into arid regions, the increasing conflicts over exploitation of water and land, and the overriding and worsening impacts of human-mediated climate change. The breadth of topics presented and synthesis of complex research outcomes as applied to conservation challenges are impressive. A valuable addition to the conservation literature that will be read widely and cited extensively.”

Michael S. Parker, Southern Oregon State University

Table of Contents

Senator Tom Udall

Edwin P. (Phil) Pister

Section 1. Engaging the Battle

1 The Battle to Conserve Aquatic Species in Lands of Water Scarcity Continues
Jack E. Williams and David L. Propst

2 The Protagonists

2a Carl Leavitt Hubbs and Robert Rush Miller
Robert J. Edwards

2b W. L. Minckley
Chuck O. Minckley

2c Salvador Contreras-Balderas
María de Lourdes Lozano-Vilano and Armando Jesús Contreras-Balderas

2d James E. Deacon
Cindy Deacon Williams

2e Clark Hubbs
Gary P. Garrett

2f Robert J. Behnke
Kevin R. Bestgen and Kurt D. Fausch

2g Edwin P. (Phil) Pister
Kathryn Boyer

3 Biodiversity, Biogeography, and Conservation of North American Desert Fishes
Christopher W. Hoagstrom, Derek D. Houston, and Norman Mercado-Silva

4 Living with Aliens: Nonnative Fishes in the American Southwest
Peter B. Moyle

5 Current Conservation Status of Some Freshwater Species and Their Habitats in México
María de Lourdes Lozano-Vilano, Armando J. Contreras-Balderas, Gorgonio Ruiz-Campos, and María Elena García-Ramírez

6 Ghosts of Our Making: Extinct Aquatic Species of the North American Desert Region
Jack E. Williams and Donald W. Sada

Section 2. Racing to Collapse

7 Running on Empty: Southwestern Water Supplies and Climate Change
Brad Udall

8 Mining Hidden Waters: Groundwater Depletion, Aquatic Habitat Degradation, and Loss of Fish Diversity in the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion of Texas
Gary P. Garrett, Megan G. Bean, Robert J. Edwards, and Dean A. Hendrickson

9 Southwestern Fish and Aquatic Systems: The Climate Challenge
Jonathan T. Overpeck and Scott A. Bonar

10 Novel Drought Regimes Restructure Aquatic Invertebrate Communities in Arid-Land Streams
Kate S. Boersma and David A. Lytle

11 The Exotic Dilemma: Lessons Learned from Efforts to Recover Native Colorado River Basin Fishes
Brandon Albrecht, Ron Kegerries, Ron Rogers, and Paul Holden

Section 3. Improving the Odds

12 Applying Endangered Species Act Protections to Desert Fishes: Assessment and Opportunities
Matthew E. Andersen and James E. Brooks

13 The Value of Specimen Collections for Conserving Biodiversity
Adam E. Cohen, Dean A. Hendrickson, and Gary P. Garrett

14 Conservation Genetics of Desert Fishes in the Genomics Age
Thomas F. Turner, Thomas E. Dowling, Trevor J. Krabbenhoft, Megan J. Osborne, and Tyler J. Pilger

15 Long-Term Monitoring of a Desert Fish Assemblage in Aravaipa Creek, Arizona
Peter N. Reinthal, Heidi Blasius, and Mark Haberstich

16 Human Impacts on the Hydrology, Geomorphology, and Restoration Potential of Southwestern Rivers
Mark C. Stone and Ryan R. Morrison

17 Conservation and Ecological Rehabilitation of North American Desert Spring Ecosystems
Donald W. Sada and Lawrence E. Stevens

Section 4. Searching for Recovery

18 Oases: Finding Hidden Biodiversity Gems in the Southern Sonoran Desert
Michael T. Bogan, Carlos Alonso Ballesteros-Córdova, Scott E. K. Bennett, Michael H. Darin, Lloyd T. Findley, and Alejandro Varela-Romero

19 Recent Discoveries and Conservation of Catfishes, Genus Ictalurus, in México
Alejandro Varela-Romero, Carlos Alonso Ballesteros-Córdova, Gorgonio Ruiz-Campos, Sergio Sánchez-Gonzalez, and James E. Brooks

20 Ecology, Politics, and Conservation of Gila Trout
David L. Propst, Thomas F. Turner, Jerry A. Monzingo, James E. Brooks, and Dustin J. Myers

21 Large-River Fish Conservation in the Colorado River Basin: Progress and Challenges with Razorback Sucker
Kevin R. Bestgen, Thomas E. Dowling, Brandon Albrecht, and Koreen A. Zelasko

22 Assisting Recovery: Intensive Interventions to Conserve Native Fishes of Desert Springs and Wetlands
Sean C. Lema, Jennifer M. Gumm, Olin G. Feuerbacher, and Michael R. Schwemm

23 Restoration of Aquatic Habitats and Native Fishes in the Desert: Some Successes in Western North America
Anthony A. Echelle and Alice F. Echelle

Section 5. Exploring Our Future

24 The Devils Hole Pupfish: Science in a Time of Crises
Kevin P. Wilson, Mark B. Hausner, and Kevin C. Brown

25 Politics, Imagination, Ideology, and the Realms of Our Possible Futures
Christopher Norment

26 Searching for Common Ground between Life and Extinction
Christopher W. Hoagstrom, Kevin R. Bestgen, David L. Propst, and Jack E. Williams
List of Contributors

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