Identifying Habitat Connectivity for Isolated Populations of Lion-Tailed Macaque (Macaca silenus) in Valparai Plateau, Western Ghats, India

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The endangered and endemic lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) of the rainforest fragments of Valparai plateau in the Western Ghats Hotspot (India) are facing serious threats to their survival due to anthropogenic pressures and habitat degradation. In this study, we identify potential wildlife corridors between the rainforest fragments and adjacent more extensive forest areas so as to connect isolated lion-tailed macaque populations. Satellite datasets were used to delineate the forest fragments and assess the conditions of the surrounding landscape. The corridors were selected on the basis of minimal impact on human settlements, agricultural areas and other infrastructure, as well as to enhance ecosystem services. The results show that a minimum area of 156 ha is required to connect three isolated lion-tailed macaque populations to the adjacent forest area. This includes 54 ha of seasonal stream beds (low human-use areas), 99 ha of cultivated area (medium human-use areas) and 3 ha of roads, settlements and built-up areas (high human-use areas). This methodology for identifying wildlife corridors in highly fragmented landscapes of the Western Ghats can also be applied to other human-dominated landscapes, including biodiversity hotspots.

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