Effects of Anthropogenic Pressure on Large Mammals in the Relict Hyrcanian Forest, Iran
The Hyrcanian forest in northern Iran is a relict broadleaf forest of the global biodiversity hotspot and is hosting many endemic and threatened species. The large mammal populations of the region are rapidly decreasing and suffering from landscape fragmentation and poaching which trigger a cascade of extinctions.
So far, the distribution patterns of Asia’s medium and large sized mammals have been insufficiently studied. Particularly in Iran and its protected areas, the conservation status of forest-dwelling mammals is largely unknown. This problem has been aggravated by the rugged and mountainous terrain which poses logistical constraints for ecological research.
We will implement non-invasive, efficient, cost-effective methodologies and spatially explicit field surveys and robust analytical will be used to understand the status and seasonal trends of the targeted species and their assemblages.
Occupancy modelling approach enables to estimate the occupancy, colonization between seasons, emigration between seasons and presence/absence detection probability of cryptic species from their discrete signs, observations or camera-trap pictures.
Participatory approach to wildlife research and monitoring is well demonstrated to be an efficient tool to increase the capacities of conservation efforts, especially in remote areas where information on large mammals is mostly lacking. Therefore, this ongoing project will involve and train local rangers, volunteers (local student), farmers and local guides during field surveys. We expect that this project could promote conservation status of the large mammals in the selected study sites. The results will allow to address the status of flagship species, prioritize conservation needs and guide conservation strategies.
We will also assess the extent to which the target species depend on habitats outside of protected areas. Small size of local protected areas hinders the viability of mammals, especially larger ones, and forces them to lead risky life on unprotected lands. Also, we will make an attempt to identify plausible threats for mammals and their habitats in the Hyrcanian forest.