Prioritizing habitat core areas and corridors for a large carnivore across its range
Kaszta None., Cushman SA., Macdonald DW.
© 2020 The Zoological Society of London With increasing loss and fragmentation of habitats driving the emerging global extinction crisis, paired with limited resources for conservation, there is an immense need to identify and prioritize the most important areas for conservation actions. The goal of this study was to measure, map and rank core areas and corridors for mainland clouded leopard (a forest indicator species) across its entire range in Southeast Asia. We used an empirically based landscape resistance model developed from range-wide camera survey data, cumulative resistant kernel analysis to define core areas and least-cost network analysis to identify corridors for long-distance dispersal. We then ranked core areas based on their strength and size, and corridors based on their strength and the strength of core areas they connect. We found that the most important core areas and corridors are concentrated in Southeast Asia, largely in Myanmar, Laos and Malaysia. Myanmar contains nearly the entirety of the first and third highest ranked core areas, as well as the most important network of corridors in SE Asia. Almost the entire territory of Laos constitutes one large potential core area, ranked as the second most important across the clouded leopard's range. A large number (22) of very small (<8000 km2) and fairly isolated core areas are in China. Only 24% of clouded leopard core areas and 17% of corridors are protected. This is the first example of using empirical models to prioritize conservation actions across the full range of a large carnivore. Our analysis identifies the location, size and connectivity of the most important remaining habitats of the clouded leopard across its range, which could provide quantitative guidance in the efforts to maximize the efficacy of regional conservation initiatives to conserve this species and the ecosystems it inhabits.