Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Combined land cover changes and habitat occupancy to understand corridor status of Laljhadi-Mohana wildlife corridor, Nepal.

Abstract

Corridor design is a centripetal conservation tool to facilitate movement between fragmented patches. Increases in anthropogenic activity have caused degradation in forest connectivity, influencing animal movement to a small degree. Laljhadi-Mohana wildlife corridor (LMWC), a corridor between Shuklaphanta National Park (Nepal) and Dudhwa National Park (India) created to be used by Panthera tigris and Elephas maximus in western Nepal, is under pressure of anthropogenic change. Using current knowledge, we analyzed land cover changes (LCC) of LMWC between 2002 and 2012. We used ERDAS IMAGINE 9.2 and Arc GIS 9.2 to process satellite images, and occupancy survey to assess status of corridor. We classified land cover into dense forest, sparse forest, cultivation, water bodies, grassland, expose surfaces, and sand bank as structural attributes of the corridor. Our analysis found dense forest area was reduced by 18.35% in a decade while cultivation and sparse forest increased by 10.15% and 8.89%, respectively. Illegal forest encroachment, resource extraction, grazing pressure, invasive species, and flood were major drivers of forest change. The null occupancy model estimated the highest detection probability of Elephas maximus (0.48±0.08) and the lowest of Axis axis (0.20±0.08). Incorporating site covariates improved occupancy estimates of Sus scrofa (0.82), Axis axis (0.76), Elephas maximus (0.76), Boselaphus tragocamelus (0.66), and Panthera pardus (0.55). Distance to cultivation was the most influential covariate, supported by the expansion of cultivated land in the corridor. LMWC is a functional wildlife corridor despite a decline in forest cover. This decline influenced the number and detection rates of large mammals, instigating crop raiding and conflict. Mitigation measures on LCC drivers, particularly forest encroachment, can improve the functional status of LMWC and raise detection rates of large mammals in future studies.