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Keywords:

  • conservation;
  • large carnivores;
  • large-scale approach;
  • Lynx lynx;
  • movement;
  • spatially explicit individual-based model;
  • species reintroduction

Summary

  • 1
    Although many reintroduction schemes for the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx in Germany have been discussed, the implications of connectivity between suitable patches have not been assessed.
  • 2
    We introduce an individual-based, spatially explicit dispersal model to assess the probability of a dispersing animal reaching another suitable patch in the complex heterogeneous German landscape, with its dense transport system. The dispersal model was calibrated using telemetric data from the Swiss Jura and based on a map of potential lynx dispersal habitat.
  • 3
    Most suitable patches could be interconnected by movements of dispersing lynx within 10 years of reintroduction. However, when realistic levels of mortality risks on roads were applied, most patches become isolated except along the German–Czech border. Consequently, patch connectivity is limited not so much by the distribution of dispersal habitat but by the high mortality of dispersing lynx. Accordingly, rather than solely investing in habitat restoration, management efforts should try to reduce road mortality.
  • 4
    Synthesis and applications. Our approach illustrates how spatially explicit dispersal models can guide conservation efforts and reintroduction programmes even where data are scarce. Clear limits imposed by substantial road mortality will affect dispersing lynx as well as other large carnivores, unless offset by careful road-crossing management or by the careful selection of release points in reintroduction programmes.