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Planning for megafauna recovery in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra

Lubis, Muhammad I., Lee, Janice S. H., Rahmat, U. M., Tarmizi, Ramadiyanta, Eka, Melvern, Dewi, Suryometaram, Sasha, Trihangga, Ahtu, Isa, Muhammad, Yansyah, Dedy, and others. (2023) Planning for megafauna recovery in the tropical rainforests of Sumatra. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 11 . Article Number 1174708. ISSN 2296-701X. (doi:10.3389/fevo.2023.1174708) (KAR id:102804)


Human-induced forest loss has had devastating impacts on biodiversity. Mammal populations in the tropics have been hit particularly hard by the resulting habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, as well as by overhunting which often goes hand-in-hand. While declines in these populations are generally well documented, few studies offer a pathway for their recovery. Here, we test the association between changes in forest habitat and occupancy trends of Sumatran megafauna (elephant and tiger) and key tiger prey species (wild boar and sambar) in the Leuser Ecosystem: a large forest landscape on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. For elephant and tiger, we develop additional occupancy models to predict their respective spatial distribution under different scenarios of forest loss and gain (through restoration and increased connectivity) to provide a blueprint for avoiding future species loss and assisting with their population recovery. From 2000 to 2019, 254,722 ha (6.7%) of natural forest was converted, primarily to plantations and shrubs. The species-specific responses over the study period revealed that the occurrence of elephant declined along the west, with a range shift to the northeast of Leuser, whereas wild boar underwent a dramatic widespread decline and although sambar experienced losses around the forest edge, it remained widespread in the interior forest, while tiger occupancy remained stable. Modelling habitat loss and fragmentation led to an unsurprising demise of Sumatran megafauna, whereas strategic investments that reconnected several forest patches provided disproportionately large benefits for their recovery through the recolonization of former parts of their range. Indonesia has achieved six consecutive years of declining forest loss rates, and our study’s findings can build off this conservation success by supporting improved provincial spatial planning and field-based restoration efforts that avoid declines of threatened megafauna species and act as a catalyst for rewilding a landscape of global importance.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.3389/fevo.2023.1174708
Uncontrolled keywords: tropical forest loss, occupancy, tiger, extinction risk, rewilding, large mammal conservation, landscape connectivity
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2023 16:36 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2024 10:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Ardiantiono, A..

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