Gauging the impact of management expertise on the distribution of large mammals across protected areas

Authors


Abstract

Aim

The world's network of protected areas (PAs) plays a critical role in biodiversity conservation. The management expertise within PAs is a function of the training, support and depth of the staff tasked with protecting the resources and should be a significant factor determining the distribution of wildlife species. However, there are few measurable linkages between wildlife populations and management effectiveness. Here, we addressed whether the management expertise within a PA is an important covariate explaining the occupancy of large terrestrial mammals, and identify the attributes of mammal species that would be effective for comparative monitoring of management effectiveness within PAs of developing countries.

Location

Six PAs within giant panda region, south-west China.

Methods

We used systematic camera-trapping as the primary field methodology to detect the presence of large mammals and used expert scoring to assess the management level of these PAs. Occupancy modelling and logistic regression were used to determine those mammal species with adequate detections to control for ecological covariates and to compare differences in management level between the sampled PAs.

Results

Thirty-eight mammal species were recorded with a total sampling effort of 16,521 camera-days at 722 sample sites. Among the 14 examined mammals, Takin (Budorcas taxicolor) was the most detected mammal (333 detections at 153 locations), whereas Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) was estimated with the highest occupancy rate (ψ = 0.49) and leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis) was estimated with the highest detection probability (= 0.55). The independently assessed estimate of management expertise was a significant positive predictor for the occupancy of 11 of the 14 mammal species.

Main conclusions

Our results suggest that there are measurable consequences for increasing PA patrolling and that standardized monitoring of large mammals is an adequate comparative measure of management effectiveness across diverse PAs that experience extensive poaching pressure.

Ancillary