Synthesizing habitat connectivity analyses of a globally important human-dominated tiger-conservation landscape

Schoen, Jay Michael; Neelakantan, Amrita; Cushman, Samuel A.; Dutta, Trishna; Habib, Bilal; Jhala, Yadvendradev V.; Mondal, Indranil; Ramakrishnan, Uma; Reddy, P. Anuradha; Saini, Swati; Sharma, Sandeep; Thatte, Prachi; Yumnam, Bibek; DeFries, Ruth S.

As ecological data and associated analyses become more widely available, synthesizing results for effective communication with stakeholders is essential. In the case of wildlife corridors, managers in human-dominated landscapes need to identify both the locations of corridors and multiple stakeholders for effective oversight. We synthesized five independent studies of tiger (Panthera tigris) connectivity in central India, a global priority landscape for tiger conservation, to quantify agreement on landscape permeability for tiger movement and potential movement pathways. We used the latter analysis to identify connectivity areas on which studies agreed and stakeholders associated with these areas to determine relevant participants in corridor management. Three or more of the five studies’ resistance layers agreed in 63% of the study area. Areas in which all studies agree on resistance were of primarily low (66%, e.g., forest) and high (24%, e.g., urban) resistance. Agreement was lower in intermediate resistance areas (e.g., agriculture). Despite these differences, the studies largely agreed on areas with high levels of potential movement: >40% of high average (top 20%) current-flow pixels were also in the top 20% of current-flow agreement pixels (measured by low variation), indicating consensus connectivity areas (CCAs) as conservation priorities. Roughly 70% of the CCAs fell within village administrative boundaries, and 100% overlapped forest department management boundaries, suggesting that people live and use forests within these priority areas. Over 16% of total CCAs’ area was within 1 km of linear infrastructure (437 road, 170 railway, 179 transmission line, and 339 canal crossings; 105 mines within 1 km of CCAs). In 2019, 78% of forest land diversions for infrastructure and mining in Madhya Pradesh (which comprises most of the study region) took place in districts with CCAs. Acute competition for land in this landscape with globally important wildlife corridors calls for an effective comanagement strategy involving local communities, forest departments, and infrastructure planners.

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Conservation Biology

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Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Published Here
May 6, 2022