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Impact of Future Land Use Change on Large Carnivores Connectivity in the Polish Carpathians

Kaim, Dominik, Ziółkowska, Elżbieta, Szwagrzyk, Marcin, Price, Bronwyn, Kozak, Jacek
Land 2019 v.8 no.1
Canis lupus, Lynx lynx, carnivores, habitat connectivity, land use change, landscapes, planning, wildlife, wolves, Europe
The Polish Carpathians, like many mountain areas in Europe, are currently facing dynamic land use changes that will shape their future landscapes. As there are many different possible scenarios of potential change, we compared three different land use scenarios up until the year 2060 and assessed their impact on the potential habitat connectivity of two large carnivores—wolf (Canis lupus) and lynx (Lynx lynx). We first analysed the main directions of change within and outside the pan-European wildlife corridor located in the western part of the Polish Carpathians. Then we calculated and compared least-cost paths among randomly selected points for each land use scenario separately. Our results showed that the main direction of change—forest cover increase—may positively influence habitat connectivity for both wolf and lynx. However, due to the future spread of settlements, this positive impact might be locally limited. Therefore, to realise the potential conservation opportunities resulting from on-going land use changes, adequate orientation of spatial planning towards habitat connectivity is crucial.