, Volume 55, Issue 2, pp 177-192

Habitat suitability, corridors and dispersal barriers for large carnivores in Poland

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Abstract

Carnivores are often particularly sensitive to landscape fragmentation. Ecological corridors may help to connect local populations, ensuring gene flow and retaining viable meta-populations. We aimed to establish habitat suitability models for two large carnivores in Poland, the grey wolf Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758 and the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx Linnaeus, 1758, based on ecological niche factor analysis (ENFA). Secondly, we calculated least cost paths (LCPs) based on cost values obtained from ENFA. Thirdly, we determined structures that might act as barriers, thus diminishing the value of the corridor unless appropriate conservation measures are taken. We compared some of the results with actual dispersal data of four lynx in eastern Poland. Results indicate that both species are highly marginalised. Less habitat that is currently available in Poland is suitable for lynx than for wolves. We determined a total of 76 LCPs. Comparison of these theoretical corridors with actual dispersal routes suggests that the traits of calculated LCPs are mostly within the range of those of real routes. We highlight a variety of features that might act as barriers, such as major roads (including planned highways), urbanized areas, and large un-forested areas. We give suggestions where concerted conservation efforts (eg wildlife passages) might be particularly well-directed.