Assessing the Effects of Tropical Land Use Change: A Camera Trapping Study of Terrestrial Peruvian Mammals
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Previous research shows that most mammals are reduced in fragmented forests, particularly species averse to human-modified landscapes. Since felids are elusive, sometimes nocturnal, and usually inhabit interior forest away from human activity, they can be difficult to study through in-person field observations. One effective approach to study felids is through camera trapping, where the captured images can be used to identify individuals of certain tropical felid species by their spots and bot fly warbles. To better understand the impacts of forest fragmentation on felids, the presence and distribution of both felids and their prey species were studied across a modified tropical forest gradient in the Piedras region of Madre de Dios, Peru. The goal of this study was to compare and relate species abundance and species diversity data for captured Peruvian mammals in response to land use and land cover changes (LUCC), specifically for jaguar, puma, and ocelot. Jaguar home range, distribution, and density estimates were also made using the program Camera Base. Twenty-three terrestrial mammal species were identified and assigned capture frequencies ranging from .04 to 80.7 (number of photos/1000 camera stations nights). Density of jaguars was estimated using the 8 individuals identified and data analysis in both Camera Base and DENSITY. The Jackknife Mh estimator with MMDM (mean maximum distance moved) was used to estimate jaguar density at approximately 5.05 jaguars/100 sq km. Results of this research indicate healthy populations of jaguar and ocelot, and support the theory that felids are using human modified areas for movement, habitat, and hunting. In addition, seasonally used and minimally fragmented forests in the Piedras hold abundant biodiversity and can act as corridors between core habitat and protected areas for medium and large-sized mammals. Given the demonstrated diversity and vulnerability of the Piedras region, and that it represents one of the largest unprotected and largely intact tropical rainforests in Peru, this research shows both the importance of the region in supporting robust felid populations and the urgency needed to increase the protection of the region’s species and forests. The vast majority of studies looking at felids occur in protected areas like national parks, so monitoring felids in unprotected areas as a comparison is also vital.
- Forestry