4 years ago

Multispecies assessment of core areas and connectivity of desert carnivores in central Iran

Samuel A. Cushman, Rasoul Khosravi, Mahmoud-Reza Hemami
Aim Central Iran is a priority area for biodiversity conservation, which is threatened by encroachment on core habitats and fragmentation by roads. The goal of this study was to identify core areas and connectivity corridors for a set of desert carnivores by predicting habitat suitability and calculating resistant kernel, factorial least-cost path modelling and graph network indices. Location Iran. Methods We used an ensemble model (EM) of habitat suitability methods to predict the potential habitats of leopard, cheetah, caracal, wild cat, sand cat and grey wolf and used resistant kernel and factorial least-cost path modelling to identify important core habitats and corridors between patches. We also used a graph network analysis to quantify the importance of each core patch to landscape connectivity. Results Potential habitats of the studied carnivores appeared to be strongly influenced by prey density, annual precipitation, topographical roughness, shrubland density and anthropogenic factors. Most of the core patches were covered by protected areas and no-hunting areas. This may be attributed to the relatively high resistance outside protected areas leading to isolated occupied patches. Patch importance to connectivity was significantly correlated with patch extent, density of dispersing individuals and probability of occurrence in the core patch. Main conclusions Our findings revealed that prey abundance in core habitat is critically important, and has higher influence than habitat area per se. In addition, our analysis provided the first map of landscape connectivity for multiple species in Iran and revealed that conserving these species requires integrated landscape-level management to reduce mortality risk and protect core areas and linkages among them. These results will assist the development of multispecies conservation strategies to protect core areas for carnivores.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12672

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