The Role of Guesswork in Conserving the Threatened Sand Skink

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Because we possess little understanding of what constitutes optimal habitat for the threatened sand skink, any individual charged with choosing among habitat fragments to promote recovery of the species will need to employ some guesswork. We examined the relative values of employing two kinds of guesswork, “uneducated guesswork,” from literature descriptions of optimal habitat, and “educated guesswork,” from expert judgments of optimal habitat. The rank order of seven areas of scrub habitat in central Florida based on abundance of the sand skink (Neoseps reynoldsi) was compared with the rank order of the areas based on literature descriptions and on expert judgments. Ranks of areas based on expert judgments predicted ranks of areas based on sand skink abundance much better than did ranks of areas based on literature descriptions. Our results show, on the one hand, how uneducated guesswork could challenge recovery of the sand skink and, on the other hand, how educated guesswork could support its recovery.

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Conservation Biology, v. 13, issue 1, p. 190-194