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Trans-boundary conservation of Chiru by identifying its potential movement corridors in the alpine desert of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Shi, Jianbin, Li, Xiaowen, Dong, Shikui, Zhuge, Haijing, Mu, Yonglin
Global ecology and conservation 2018 v.16 pp. e00491
Pantholops hodgsonii, anthropogenic activities, conservation areas, conservation status, ecosystems, females, geographic information systems, habitats, models, ungulates, China
The alpine ecosystem of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) provides the world's largest habitats for the endangered Chiru (Pantholops hodgsonii). Most female Chiru populations are seasonal long-distance migrants, but their migration routes (corridors) remain mysterious on the QTP. Three adjacent nature reserves (i.e. Altun, Kekexili, Qiangtang nature reserves) have been established to protect the endangered ungulate species and their habitats on the QTP, but they are delineated and managed according to the administrative boundaries. In this study, we employed a GIS-based model (i.e., Linkage Mapper tool) to identify potential movement corridors of Chiru according to the principle of Least Cost Path. We also examined the impacts of human activities on the spatial patterns and conservation status of the identified movement corridors of Chiru. Our results indicated that only 66% of the movement corridors for Chiru were captured by the existing reserves, whilst 76% of the corridors were disturbed by human activities with a relatively high overall disturbance index. The human disturbance index within the existing reserves was considerably lower than that outside the reserves, indicating the conservation efficacy of the reserves. This research developed the conservation strategy for different categories of the corridors (inside, outside, inter-reserve, opening) for Chiru considering their spatial relationship with the existing nature reserves, and highlighted urgent needs to implement trans-boundary conservation strategy by protecting those corridors connecting the existing nature reserves across the alpine desert of QTP.