Forest cover outside protected areas plays an important role in the conservation of the Vulnerable guiña Leopardus guigna
Gálvez N., Hernández F., Laker J., Gilabert H., Petitpas R., Bonacic C., Gimona A., Hester A., MacDonald DW.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are affecting populations of forest dwelling mammalian carnivores worldwide. In southern Chile, a biodiversity hotspot, anthropogenic activities have resulted in high loss of native forest cover. The guiña, or kodkod cat, Leopardus guigna is a small forest-dwelling felid with a narrow range in the temperate forest of southern Chile. The few existing studies of the species have suggested that it is almost exclusively restricted to large tracts of native forest. This paper reports a study in the temperate forest within a fragmented Andean piedmont landscape which demonstrates that smaller forest fragments in the farmland matrix are playing a key role in the persistence of the guiña. We estimated occupancy in both continuous native forest and remnant forest fragments and, with single-species/single-season models, evaluated the extent to which forest cover, habitat type and proximity to protected areas have a modulating effect on occupancy. A continuous survey during 2008-2009, in three seasons of 90-100 days each, accumulated 6,200 camera trap days and returned 47 photographs of guiña. Total detection in fragments was higher than in continuous forests, with detection confirmed in almost 70% of studied fragments. We found that probability of a site being occupied significantly increased with forest cover (adult/secondary forest, scrubland) and probability was low (< 0.2) in sites with < 50% of surrounding forest cover. Our study highlights the importance of remnant forest fragments in the mosaic of extensive agriculture for the spatial dynamics of a guiña population and hence for the future conservation of the species. Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2013.