Assessing spatiotemporal changes in tiger habitat across different land management regimes


Neil Carter, Bhim Gurung, Andrés Viña, Henry Campa, Jhamak Karki, Jianguo Liu

Journal or Book Title: Ecosphere

Keywords: camera trap; community-based management; habitat change; N-mixture; Panthera tigris; protected areas; tiger

Volume/Issue: Vol. 4

Page Number(s): Article 124

Year Published: 2013



Human-induced habitat loss and degradation are increasing the extinction probability of
many wildlife species worldwide, thus protecting habitat is crucial. The habitat of thousands of imperiled
wildlife species occurs in a variety of land management regimes (e.g., protected areas, multiple-use areas), each exerting differing effects. We used the globally endangered tiger (Panthera tigris) to examine the relationships between habitat change and land management in Nepal’s Chitwan district, a global
biodiversity hotspot. We evaluated the effects of environmental and human factors on tiger habitat based
on data acquired by motion-detecting cameras and space-borne imaging sensors. Spatiotemporal habitat
dynamics in Chitwan National Park and a multiple-use area outside the park were then evaluated in three
time periods (1989, 1999, and 2009). Our results indicate that tigers preferred areas with more grasslands
and higher landscape connectivity. The area of highly suitable habitat decreased inside the park over the
entire 20 year interval, while outside the park habitat suitability increased, especially from 1999 to 2009.
The loss of highly suitable habitat inside the park may be associated with an increasing trend of
unauthorized resource extraction by a rapidly growing human population, coupled with natural processes
such as flooding and forest succession. In contrast, community-based management of natural resources
and the prohibition of livestock grazing since the late 1990s likely improved tiger habitat suitability outside
the park. Results of this study are useful for evaluating habitat change and guiding conservation actions
across the tiger range, which spans 13 countries. Moreover, quantitatively assessing habitat change across different land management regimes in human-dominated areas provides insights for conserving habitat of other imperiled wildlife species around the world.

DOI: 10.1890/ES13-00191.1

Type of Publication: Journal Article