Modeling the habitat suitability for sympatric small and medium sized felids and investigating the spatiotemporal niche overlapping in Maduru Oya National Park, Sri Lanka
Keywords:Felidae, MaxEnt modeling, ecological niche, resource partitioning, small carnivores
Habitat suitability modeling and identification of spatiotemporal niches helps in understanding the ecological requirements of faunal guilds. Small and medium sized felids of wild Sri Lanka include three cat species; fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), jungle cat (Felis chaus) and, rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus). These felids are hyper-carnivorous elusive predators that play important ecological roles in a variety of habitats. We conducted this study to identify the habitat associations of sympatric small and medium sized felids and model the habitat suitability of Maduru Oya National Park (MONP), Sri Lanka. Spatiotemporal niche overlapping and partitioning was also investigated. Species occurrence data were obtained based on the camera trap capture events, direct observations and roadkill records. Modeling was conducted based on the maximum entropy algorithm (MaxEnt) using the software package Maxent (version 3.4.3). The predictive accuracies (ROC) of the selected models were evaluated to be greater than 0.80 (AUC). Distance to water resources (44.9%), Bio1-mean annual temperature (33.6%), and habitat type (Dense dry-mixed forest; 79.8%) were identified as the most important variables contributing to habitat suitability for fishing cat, jungle cat and rusty-spotted cat respectively. We further identified that spatial variation in habitat use facilitates these three species to coexist in MONP despite the significant temporal (activity) overlapping. The outcome of this research will contribute towards future conservation and management. The findings will be useful in comparative studies in Sri Lanka as well as elsewhere in the world.
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