Assessing spatiotemporal changes in tiger habitat across different land management regimes

Publication Abstract

Carter, Neil H., Bhim Gurung, Andrés Viña, Jhamak B. Karki, and Jianguo Liu. 2013. "Assessing spatiotemporal changes in tiger habitat across different land management regimes." Ecosphere 4(10):art124.

Human-induced habitat loss and degradation are increasing the extinction probability of many wildlife species worldwide, thus protecting habitat is crucial. The habitat of thousands of imperiled wildlife species occurs in a variety of land management regimes (e.g., protected areas, multiple-use areas), each exerting differing effects. We used the globally endangered tiger (Panthera tigris) to examine the relationships between habitat change and land management in Nepal's Chitwan district, a global biodiversity hotspot. We evaluated the effects of environmental and human factors on tiger habitat based on data acquired by motion-detecting cameras and space-borne imaging sensors. Spatiotemporal habitat dynamics in Chitwan National Park and a multiple-use area outside the park were then evaluated in three time periods (1989, 1999, and 2009). Our results indicate that tigers preferred areas with more grasslands and higher landscape connectivity. The area of highly suitable habitat decreased inside the park over the entire 20 year interval, while outside the park habitat suitability increased, especially from 1999 to 2009. The loss of highly suitable habitat inside the park may be associated with an increasing trend of unauthorized resource extraction by a rapidly growing human population, coupled with natural processes such as flooding and forest succession. In contrast, community-based management of natural resources and the prohibition of livestock grazing since the late 1990s likely improved tiger habitat suitability outside the park. Results of this study are useful for evaluating habitat change and guiding conservation actions across the tiger range, which spans 13 countries. Moreover, quantitatively assessing habitat change across different land management regimes in human-dominated areas provides insights for conserving habitat of other imperiled wildlife species around the world.

DOI: 10.1890/ES13-00191.1