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ŠUMARSKI LIST 7-8/2022 str. 72     <-- 72 -->        PDF

taxonomic revision of the Felidea family (Kitchener et al. 2017). The subspecies of leopard living in Türkiye is the Anatolian leopard (P. p. tulliana Valenciennes, 1856) (Kumerloeve 1956; Kumerloeve 1975; Borner 1977; Ulrich and Riffel 1993; Kitchener et al. 2017).
Determining the factors affecting the distribution of species is important for wildlife sustainability and protection. One of the first steps in this process is to identify a species and determine the habitats where it is distributed. Also, understanding the relationships between wildlife and habitat will help us anticipate habitat changes in animal populations that may occur and the probable effects of certain policies (Baºkaya et al. 2011; Arpacık et al. 2017). Modelling studies aimed at revealing the relationships between a location where a species is known to occur and that location’s ecological and environmental conditions have gained significant momentum in recent years (Pearson and Dawson 2003; Peterson et al. 2006). With these models, the potential distributions of the species are determined using data on the presence of species in sample lands. This approach yields results that are significant for understanding the geographical characteristics and distribution of species’ habitats (Svenning and Skov 2004). Habitat suitability models are of great importance for predicting the potential distribution of wild animals in response to changes in their habitats (Harte et al. 2008; Süel 2014; Ertuğrul et al. 2017; Evcin 2018). ENM is used extensively not only in determining the geographical distribution of species, but also in understanding biogeographic characteristics, finding unknown populations of species, predicting the results of species moving to new areas, determining conservation areas and in predicting the effects of environmental changes (Holt and Gaines 1992; Kawecki 1995; Karacaoğlu 2013).
One of the many species distribution modelling approaches is the Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) approach. MaxEnt is a software that models the distribution of species only from existing records of that species (Elith et al. 2010). Also, MaxEnt is known for the good performance and reliability of its statistical modelling in the context of “presence only” data. The MaxEnt approach examines the characteristics of the present locations of a target species and evaluates factors that affect that species’ distribution in these areas to estimate a suitability level for the entire area (Baldwin 2009). Since the MaxEnt method gives more accurate results with less data than other methods that use presence data, it is preferred over modelling studies (Hernandez et al. 2006; Wisz et al. 2008). The MaxEnt method is used to determine species’ habitat preferences, methods of protection future potential distribution areas (endemic species and endangered species), and the potential spread of invasive species, and actual and potential distribution of disease-causing microorganisms (Pearson et al. 2007; DeMatteo and Loiselle 2008; Suárez-Seoane et al. 2008; Yost et al. 2008; Süel 2014; Mert and Kıraç 2017).
The number of studies conducted using ENM to determine the suitable habitats for many species with incomplete data has increased in recent years, in both Türkiye and the rest of the world (Zimmermann et al. 2007; Swanepoel et al. 2012; Karacaoğlu 2013; Mondal et al. 2012; Gül et al. 2015; Per et al. 2015; Wilting et al. 2016; Miroğlu and Demirtaº 2017). Zimmermann et al. (2007) identified suitable habitats for leopards in the Caucasus ecological region using the MaxEnt program with ENM, suggesting that this region is potentially suitable for leopard habitats and that more research should be done on the eastern borders of Türkiye. Swanepoel et al. (2012) used ENM to identify habitats in South Africa potentially suitable for protecting leopards whose habitats were shrinking with the increasing population; the study stated that these areas are at least as important as the existing areas. In Western India, Mondal et al. (2012) identified potential habitats for the leopard by ENM using data collected from camera trap images and stated that these areas should be protected to avoid conflicts between humans and leopards. In Türkiye, on the other hand, there are few studies using ENM, and these studies are generally on insect and bird species (Karacaoğlu 2013; Süel 2014; Gül et al. 2015; Per et al. 2015; Yılmaz et al. 2015; Ertuğrul et al. 2017; Mert and Kıraç 2017; Miroğlu and Demirtaº 2017). Evcin (2018) and Evcin et al. (2019) used ENM to identify habitats in Kastamonu/Türkiye potentially suitable for roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) which is a mammalian species.
In Türkiye, no study has been conducted to date to model the distribution of the Anatolian leopard, which 1) is at the top of the food pyramid, 2) may be a key species in conservation studies, 3) has been able to survive to date without any conservation activities, and 4) is known to settle in multiple and distant habitats. The present study is the first to create a habitat suitability model for the Anatolian leopard in Türkiye using an ENM approach.
Distribution data on leopards in Türkiye between 1971-2021 years were gathered by searching for literature and author’s previous field surveys (Sarı 2018; Sarı et al. 2020). Ninety-seven points were selected, especially considering the presence data of the last 50 years. The data older than 50 years old were discarded to remain consistent with the climatological data used for modeling. Another reason for choosing these 97 points is that the climate data of the last 50 years are more reliable. A total of 148 occurrence records in these studies were aggregated: 46 shootings, ten camera trap pictures, six thermal video camera images, twelve