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

  • Arjun Thapa
  • Karan Bahadur Shah
  • Chiranjibi Prasad Pokheral
  • Rajan Paudel
  • Dipendra Adhikari
  • Prakash Bhattarai
  • Nicolas James Cruz
  • Achyut Aryal
Original Article

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.

Keywords

Forest change Functionality Habitat use Large mammals Occupancy 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Christian Gortázar, the editor, and one anonymous reviewer for valuable comments on the manuscript. The authors thank Norad’s Program for Master Studies for providing a scholarship to the first author, the University Grant Commission of Nepal for partial funding, Purnram Chaudhary and Shankar Choudhary for assistance during field work, and Professor Tej Bahadur Thapa for image processing and classification guidance.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arjun Thapa
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Karan Bahadur Shah
    • 4
  • Chiranjibi Prasad Pokheral
    • 5
  • Rajan Paudel
    • 5
  • Dipendra Adhikari
    • 2
  • Prakash Bhattarai
    • 2
  • Nicolas James Cruz
    • 6
  • Achyut Aryal
    • 7
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Environmental Management, NOMA Program, Central Department of BotanyTribhuvan UniversityKathmanduNepal
  2. 2.Small Mammals Conservation and Research FoundationKathmanduNepal
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Natural History MuseumTribhuvan UniversityKathmanduNepal
  5. 5.National Trust for Nature ConservationKhumaltar LalitpurNepal
  6. 6.Cummings School of Veterinary MedicineTufts UniversityNorth GraftonUSA
  7. 7.Institute of Natural and Mathematical SciencesMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

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