Habitat suitability modelling of Persian squirrel (Sciurus anomalus) in Zagros forests, western Iran
Keywords:Species distribution model, Habitat Selection, MaxEnt, Oak forests, Zagros Mountains
Habitat is one of the key parameters for species conservation and having adequate knowledge of the habitat requirements of a particular species is inevitable for developing conservation plans. In the current study habitat suitability of the Persian squirrel (Sciurus anomalus) was evaluated in four protected areas in southwestern Iran, using maximum entropy method (MaxEnt). We combined presence-only field data with nine environmental variables including aspect, slope, elevation, distance to river, distance to road, distance to village, climate type, landuse and vegetation types to map the species probability of presence and determine the factors limit its distribution. MaxEnt performed well at predicting the potential suitable habitats of the Persian squirrel with a mean AUC of 0.937. Results of the model indicated that landuse, climate type and distance from roads had the most contribution to the model performance. Persian squirrels have a strong preference for forests, therefore, land cover change due to human activities seems to be an important threat to the squirrel viability. Consequently minimizing anthropologic disturbances is required to maintain the number of Persian squirrels in the region.
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