Applying Species Distribution Models to identify areas of high conservation value for terrestrial mammals: A case study in Cusuco National Park, Honduras

Hannah Hoskins, Oliver Burdekin, Niall P. McCann, Merlijn Jocque, Neil Reid*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Terrestrial mammals are important ecosystem engineers in rainforest but threaten by deforestation and hunting even in areas with the highest level of designated protection e.g. National Parks. Species Distribution Models (SDMs) can be used to identify priority areas for vulnerable species informing the spatial allocation of conservation resources. Local SDMs do not rely on defining positive relationships that determine a species’ optimal environmental niche but the negative relationships describing parochial species absence. Using species-specific field tracks and signs data from 2006 to 2017 for mammals in Cusuco National Park, Merendón mountain range, Honduras, we built local SDMs for each species extrapolating the probability of occurrence throughout unsurveyed areas. We pooled predicted probabilities within species groups for i) low abundance, large-bodied, hunted species (e.g. tapir, deer or peccaries), ii) high abundance, small-bodied hunted species (e.g. paca or agouti) and iii) unhunted species (e.g. mustelids or wild cats). Results suggest that that despite the highest level of protected area designation local terrestrial mammal distribution was driven by local anthropogenic disturbance; specifically, deforestation within 2km, distance to the National Park boundary and distance to human populations i.e. villages, ecotourism camps and research stations. Local villages were ranked in descending order of their likely impact on large hunted mammals such that local Government departments, forestry managers, conservation organisations and patrolling wardens can use this information to target protection efforts (patrols, legislative enforcement and prosecutions) to maximise the efficacy of National Park designation and stem ongoing defaunation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Mesoamerican Biology
Publication statusAccepted - 28 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • Anthropogenic disturbance
  • Bushmeat
  • Deforestation
  • Endangered species
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Illegal hunting
  • Maxent
  • Tapirus bairdii
  • GIS

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