Evaluating Landscape Connectivity for Puma concolor and Panthera onca Among Atlantic Forest Protected Areas
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Strictly Protected Areas and riparian forests in Brazil are rarely large enough or connected enough to maintain viable populations of carnivores and animal movement over time, but these characteristics are fundamental for species conservation as they prevent the extinction of isolated animal populations. Therefore, the need to maintain connectivity for these species in human-dominated Atlantic landscapes is critical. In this study, we evaluated the landscape connectivity for large carnivores (cougar and jaguar) among the Strictly Protected Areas in the Atlantic Forest, evaluated the efficiency of the Mosaics of Protected Areas linked to land uses in promoting landscape connectivity, identified the critical habitat connections, and predicted the landscape connectivity status under the implementation of legislation for protecting riparian forests. The method was based on expert opinion translated into land use and land cover maps. The results show that the Protected Areas are still connected by a narrow band of landscape that is permeable to both species and that the Mosaics of Protected Areas increase the amount of protected area but fail to increase the connectivity between the forested mountain ranges (Serra do Mar and Serra da Mantiqueira). Riparian forests greatly increase connectivity, more than tripling the cougars’ priority areas. We note that the selection of Brazilian protected areas still fails to create connectivity among the legally protected forest remnants. We recommend the immediate protection of the priority areas identified that would increase the structural landscape connectivity for these large carnivores, especially paths in the SE/NW direction between the two mountain ranges.
KeywordsCarnivore conservation Cougars Jaguars Permeability Riparian Forest Environmental planning
The authors acknowledge the support received from FAPESP (Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São) in the form of scholarship and financial support (process 2011/10.791-0) and to the Secretaria do Meio Ambiente do Estado de São Paulo-SMA for allowing the use of satellite images. We also thank Agustín J. Paviolo, Ph.D.; Beatriz M. Beisiegel, Ph.D.; Carlos D. De Angelo, Ph.D.; Peter G. Crawshaw Jr., Ph.D.; Renata A. Miotto, Ph.D.; Rogério C. de Paula, M.Sc. and Ronaldo G. Morato, Ph.D. for participating as consultant specialists.
Funding: This study was funded by Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo - FAPESP (Grant Number 2011/10.791-0).
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Studies with Human Participants or Animals
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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