Population viability analysis: using a modeling tool to assess the viability of tapir populations in fragmented landscapes

Authors

  • Emília Patrícia MEDICI,

    1. Lowland Tapir Conservation Initiative, IPÊ–Institute for Ecological Research, Nazaré Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil
    2. IUCN/SSC Tapir Specialist Group (TSG), Gland, Switzerland
    3. Escola Superior de Conservação Ambiental e Sustentabilidade (ESCAS/IPÊ), Nazaré Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil
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  • Arnaud Leonard Jean DESBIEZ

    1. Escola Superior de Conservação Ambiental e Sustentabilidade (ESCAS/IPÊ), Nazaré Paulista, São Paulo, Brazil
    2. IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG), Brazil Network, Campo Grande, MS, Brazil
    3. Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland
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Correspondence: Emília Patrícia Medici, IPÊ Pantanal, Rua Licuala, 622, Damha 1, Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul CEP: 79046-150, Brazil. Email: epmedici@uol.com.br; medici@ipe.org.br

Abstract

A population viability analysis (PVA) was conducted of the lowland tapir populations in the Atlantic Forest of the Pontal do Paranapanema region, Brazil, including Morro do Diabo State Park (MDSP) and surrounding forest fragments. Results from the model projected that the population of 126 tapirs in MDSP is likely to persist over the next 100 years; however, 200 tapirs would be required to maintain a viable population. Sensitivity analysis showed that sub-adult mortality and adult mortality have the strongest influence on the dynamics of lowland tapir populations. High road-kill has a major impact on the MDSP tapir population and can lead to population extinction. Metapopulation modeling showed that dispersal of tapirs from MDSP to the surrounding fragments can be detrimental to the overall metapopulation, as fragments act as sinks. Nevertheless, the model showed that under certain conditions the maintenance of the metapopulation dynamics might be determinant for the persistence of tapirs in the region, particularly in the smaller fragments. The establishment of corridors connecting MDSP to the forest fragments models resulted in an increase in the stochastic growth rate, making tapirs more resilient to threats and catastrophes, but only if rates of mortality were not increased when using corridors. The PVA showed that the conservation of tapirs in the Pontal region depends on: the effective protection of MDSP; maintenance and, whenever possible, enhancement of the functional connectivity of the landscape, reducing mortality during dispersal and threats in the unprotected forest fragments; and neutralization of all threats affecting tapirs in the smaller forest fragments.

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