Multi-scale niche modeling of three sympatric felids of conservation importance in central Iran
Carnivores in the central Iranian plateau have experienced considerable declines in their populations during the last century. Ecological niche models can inform conservation efforts aimed at increasing the suitability of carnivore habitat by providing valuable information on the scale-dependent relationships between species and their environment.
We used a multiscale modeling framework to predict habitat suitability and investigate the influence of spatial scale on species-environment relationships for three sympatric felids, chosen as surrogate species, including Asiatic cheetah (Acynonix jubatus), Persian leopard (Panthera pardus), and sand cat (Felis margarita) with the aim of informing conservation efforts for these species and other Iranian carnivores more widely.
We used opportunistically collected occurrence data and a presence-only, multiscale MaxEnt approach whilst exploring the impact of spatial filtering and data partitioning on model predictions and performance.
Scaling optimization showed that the performance of models was associated with variables at multiple spatial scales, with relationships tending to be strongest at the largest scales (4–8 km). Our findings showed that landscape composition generally have stronger influences on occurrence of the studied species than configuration. The comparison among models showed distinct patterns of habitat selection, implying niche partitioning between species.
Our knowledge of scale-dependent relationships between three sympatric felids and their spatial niches facilitates effective conservation of habitat connectivity for multiple carnivore species by prioritizing predicted key suitable patches inside and outside of protected areas which have significant contribution in maintaining landscape connectivity in Iran.
KeywordsCarnivores Ecological niche models Multiscale species distribution models Spatial filtering Spatial scale
We are grateful to Isfahan and Yazd provincial DOE for permission to enter to PAs. Also, we are extremely grateful for the support from the Isfahan University of Technology. This research was financially supported by a postdoctoral scholarship from the Iran's National Elites Foundation.
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