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Effects of anthropogenic pressure on large mammal species in the Hyrcanian forest, Iran

Effects of poaching, logging and livestock grazing on large mammals

dc.contributor.advisorWaltert, Matthias Dr.
dc.contributor.authorSoofi, Mahmood
dc.titleEffects of anthropogenic pressure on large mammal species in the Hyrcanian forest, Irande
dc.title.alternativeEffects of poaching, logging and livestock grazing on large mammalsde
dc.contributor.refereeBalkenhol, Niko Prof. Dr.
dc.description.abstractengAnthropogenic activities, such as overexploitation (poaching, logging) and farming (livestock grazing), are the most serious threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services. The effects of these drivers may be synergistic and variable across different species. Many terrestrial large-bodied mammals experience range shrinkage and face extinction risks and population declines across the world. By these activities, humans either directly (prey poaching) or indirectly (logging and livestock grazing) affect the survival rates of large mammal species. Protected areas (PAs) have been the most effective tool to preserve native species. However, the effectiveness of PAs in relation to large mammal distribution or conservation in temperate forests has rarely been assessed, particularly at a large landscape scale. In this study, I assessed the effects of threats to seven native mammal species in the Hyrcanian forest of Iran, namely the Persian Leopard (Panthera pardus saxicolor), grey wolf (Canis lupus), brown bear (Ursus acrtos), bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus), Caspian red deer (Cervus elaphus maral), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and wild boar (Sus scrofa). In addition, I assessed whether there are direct effects of poaching on livestock depredation by large carnivores. I used a novel approach to survey mammal species occupancy over a large landscape (18 protected and non-protected areas) and walked 1204 km distributed randomly over 93 16-km2 cells. Field surveys resulted in 2876 animal signs of the above-mentioned species over three discrete surveys. I used single-season Bayesian occupancy modeling and estimated the occupancy and detection probability rates for each target species across the study sites. The results explicitly showed that grazing had negative and significant impact on the occupancy of the very patchily distributed Persian leopard (β = -1.65, Credibility Interval CI - 2.85 to -0.65), Caspian red deer (β = -1.36, CI -2.34 to -0.45) and roe deer (β = -1.61, CI -2.96 to -0.58) while logging negatively affected red deer (β = -0.82, CI -1.69 to -0.03). The intensities of grazing and logging were correlated (r = 0.59), followed by logging and poaching (r = 0.39), grazing and poaching (r = 0.37) (Chapter2). I estimated the population density of the main wild ungulate species hunted by poachers and Persian leopards using random encounter modelling from camera traps (2777 camera days), fecal standing crop sampling (38 km), direct line transect sampling (186 km) and double-observer point-counts (64 scans) (Chapters 3 and 4). The results suggest that, due to poaching, population densities of the Caspian red deer, bezoar goat and urial have decline by 66-89% compared to the 1970ies. However, wild boar abundance estimates have increased by 58% during the same period. Using wild prey encounter rates (1204 km) and interview data (n = 201), I estimated the effects of forest cover, IUCN category of reserves, distance to villages and livestock encounter rates on livestock depredation rates by Persian leopard and grey wolf. Prey poaching was the most influential predictor of livestock depredation, as an increase in poaching occurrence by one sign/km significantly increased depredation up to three times depending on the combination of livestock and carnivore species. The results also showed that the level of poaching was significantly lower in national parks (cat. II) than in other reserves and non-protected areas, though poaching signs were frequently found in the majority of surveyed cells (58%). The occurrences of Caspian red deer and roe deer were significantly inversely associated with poaching and these species seem to be locally extinct in some of the surveyed sites. Furthermore, using household interview data (n = 162) in 45 villages and wild prey richness, I assessed the species-specific patterns of human-wildlife conflicts in the Hyrcanian forest. Based on multivariate analyses, grey wolf and wild boar were the major conflict species. Crop loss due to wild boars was reported by the majority of the households and was mainly triggered by crop variety. Wolf conflicts were mainly related to depredation on sheep (81%) compared to goats (11%) and cattle (8%). These attacks were positively associated with highlands, villages located in vicinity or inside PAs and lower prey richness. In conclusion, conservation authorities should consider upgrading parts of protected areas and wildlife refuges retaining natural habitats to the category II. PAs require priority actions in assessment of grazing capacities, allocation and enforcement of grazing quotas. Moreover, better cross-sectoral coordination is needed among conservation authorities to avoid further depletion of the mammal community in the Hyrcanian forest and to address sustainable livelihoods near PAs. The poachers' incentives need to be clearly understood and be subject to focused follow-up studies. Mitigating livestock depredation requires a combination of strict law enforcement of anti-poaching measures, upgrading the status of reserves and wild prey recovery plans. The persistence of protection-reliant species depends on their existence outside and inside PAs, ecological requirements and law enforcement measures. Thus, for sustainable wildlife conservation a holistic participatory approach is essential that involves local
dc.contributor.coRefereeMühlenberg, Michael Prof. Dr.
dc.contributor.thirdRefereeHeymann, Eckhard W. Prof. Dr.
dc.subject.engHyrcanian forestde
dc.subject.engLarge mammalsde
dc.subject.englivestock grazingde
dc.subject.englarge carnivoresde
dc.subject.engProtected areasde
dc.affiliation.instituteBiologische Fakultät für Biologie und Psychologiede
dc.subject.gokfullBiologie (PPN619462639)de

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