Assessment of Habitat Suitability and Potential Corridors for Bengal Tiger in Valmiki Tiger Reserve, India

Tigers have seen significant population losses due to the degradation and fragmentation of their habitat ranges worldwide. Thus, habitat suitability assessment of such predators is essential for restoring their numbers and devising strategies for their protection. This paper aims to assess the habitat suitability and potential corridors for Bengal tiger species (Panthera tigris tigris) in the Valmiki Tiger Reserve (VTR) located in the West Champaran district of Bihar, India. Nine suitability conditioning factors (tree cover, prey richness, drainage density, vegetation types, elevation, slope, aspect, temperature, and rainfall) and seven threatening factors (forest fragmentation, land use land cover, distance from roads, railway tracks, settlement, range offices, and forest fire points) were selected for emphasizing species-environment association in VTR. The spatial layers of all the factors and presence location data of tigers were integrated into the MaxEnt model to prepare a habitat suitability map. The model was validated utilizing the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve (0.822), which was found in good agreement. The least-cost corridor modeling based on surface resistance was utilized to identify the cost-effective pathways and prioritize dispersal routes and potential corridors for this species. The findings revealed that the largest area of the Reserve was found to be moderately suitable (41.92%), followed by low suitable (22.98%), highly suitable (19.34%), and unsuitable areas (15.76%). The potential causes for low suitability and unsuitable habitats included human-induced disturbances, especially in the buffer zone of VTR. The core habitats and their connectivity, particularly in the eastern and central parts of the Reserve, facilitated the dispersal of the Bengal tiger population. This study offers significant insights for identifying crucial habitats and establishing corridors between them. The study calls for suitable measures for restricting human encroachment and increasing predator movements from the adjacent corridors of the protected reserves of Nepal and Uttar Pradesh. The findings may help forest managers and stakeholders for suggesting suitable conservation and restoration practices as well as regulating strategies for the self-sustenance of reintroduced tigers in the Reserve.

Roshani, Rahaman, M.H., Masroor, M. et al. Assessment of Habitat Suitability and Potential Corridors for Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) in Valmiki Tiger Reserve, India, Using MaxEnt Model and Least-Cost Modeling Approach. Environ Model Assess (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10666-024-09966-w

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