Wildlife in the Matrix: Spatio-Temporal Patterns of Herbivore Occurrence in Karnataka, India
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Wildlife reserves are becoming increasingly isolated from the surrounding human-dominated landscapes particularly in Asia. It is imperative to understand how species are distributed spatially and temporally in and outside reserves, and what factors influence their occurrence. This study surveyed 7500 km2 landscape surrounding five reserves in the Western Ghats to examine patterns of occurrence of five herbivores: elephant, gaur, sambar, chital, and pig. Species distributions are modeled spatio-temporally using an occupancy approach. Trained field teams conducted 3860 interview-based occupancy surveys in a 10-km buffer surrounding these five reserves in 2012. I found gaur and wild pig to be the least and most wide-ranging species, respectively. Elephant and chital exhibit seasonal differences in spatial distribution unlike the other three species. As predicted, distance to reserve, the reserve itself, and forest cover were associated with higher occupancy of all species, and higher densities of people negatively influenced occurrence of all species. Park management, species protection, and conflict mitigation efforts in this landscape need to incorporate temporal and spatial understanding of species distributions. All species are known crop raiders and conflict prone locations with resources (such as water and forage) have to be monitored and managed carefully. Wildlife reserves and adjacent areas are critical for long-term persistence and habitat use for all five herbivores and must be monitored to ensure wildlife can move freely. Such a large-scale approach to map and monitor species distributions can be adapted to other landscapes to identify and monitor critical habitats shared by people and wildlife.
KeywordsBiodiversity Detection India Occupancy People Protected areas Wildlife
I am grateful to K. U. Karanth, P. M. Muthanna, D. V. Girish, B. M. Akarsha, S. Hulikere, N. S. Kumar, K. V. Phaniraj, C. U. Santhosh, N. Chapakanda, K. P. Vajepayam, R. Raghuram, Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society-India program for advice and support. I thank the Karnataka Forest Department. I acknowledge the tireless field efforts of N. Ballal, P. Krishnaprasad, S. Dasgupta, A. Arunkumar, and assistance from V. Sankararaman and A. Srivathsa. I appreciate field efforts of the volunteers K. Abhirama, N. Aditya, M. Amarnath, Aparna, Aravind, A. Arun, S. Avinash, Beeresh, Krithika B. K, P. Bharadwaj, M. Bhogananjappa, V. Bode, C. Casiker, C. Ingaleshwar, Gagan, T. Ganesh, S. Girimaji, K. Hareesh, P. S. Harika, D. Hosur, P. Iyer, A. S. Jayalakshmi, T. R. Kumarswamy, M. Kale, K. Kotian, V. Krishnan, M. Kumaraswamy, A. Kumar, C. K. Kumar, H. Kumar, V. Kumar, A. Kulkarni, S. Kuduvalli, S. J. Karkala, P. Kumar, S. Koulagi, K. Poornima, N. J. Lazarus, Madhu, B. R. Madhukar, V. Mohithe, K. Mohan, P. Matada, P. Nag, V. Nagesh, P. Nadikerianda, V. Nataraja, A. Patavardhan, A. Pandey, V. Parameshwara, N. Prakash, V. Pawar, J. Pavan, M. Pasha, A. Prasad, S. Rao, Ramesh, R. S. Rahul, A. Srinivasa, A. Savalagi, A. Seetharam, I. Sreenath, T. Williams, T. Sridhara, R. Varsha for their support in the field. Grants from the National Geographic Society Conservation Trust, Rufford Small Grants and Ramanujan Fellowship supported the project.
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