Monitoring great ape and elephant abundance at large spatial scales: measuring effectiveness of a conservation landscape.

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Stokes, E.J.
Strindberg, S.
Bakabana, P.C.
Elkan, P.W.
Iyenguet, F.C.
Madzoké, B.
Malanda, G.A.F.
Mowawa, B.S.
Moukoumbou, C.
Ouakabadio, F.K.
Journal Article
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Protected areas are fundamental to biodiversity conservation, but there is growing recognition of the need to extend beyond protected areas to meet the ecological requirements of species at larger scales. Landscape-scale conservation requires an evaluation of management impact on biodiversity under different land-use strategies; this is challenging and there exist few empirical studies. In a conservation landscape in northern Republic of Congo we demonstrate the application of a large-scale monitoring program designed to evaluate the impact of conservation interventions on three globally threatened species: western gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants, under three land-use types: integral protection, commercial logging, and community-based natural resource management. We applied distance-sampling methods to examine species abundance across different land-use types under varying degrees of management and human disturbance. We found no clear trends in abundance between land-use types. However, units with interventions designed to reduce poaching and protect habitats - irrespective of land-use type - harboured all three species at consistently higher abundance than a neighbouring logging concession undergoing no wildlife management. We applied Generalized-Additive Models to evaluate a priori predictions of species response to different landscape processes. Our results indicate that, given adequate protection from poaching, elephants and gorillas can profit from herbaceous vegetation in recently logged forests and maintain access to ecologically important resources located outside of protected areas. However, proximity to the single integrally protected area in the landscape maintained an overriding positive influence on elephant abundance, and logging roads – even subject to anti- poaching controls - were exploited by elephant poachers and had a major negative influence on elephant distribution. Chimpanzees show a clear preference for unlogged or more mature forests and human disturbance had a negative influence on chimpanzee abundance, in spite of anti-poaching interventions. We caution against the pitfalls of missing and confounded co-variables in model-based estimation approaches and highlight the importance of spatial scale in the response of different species to landscape processes. We stress the importance of a stratified design-based approach to monitoring species status in response to conservation interventions and advocate a holistic framework for landscape-scale monitoring that includes smaller-scale targeted research and punctual assessment of threats.

Subject Keywords
Animal biodiversity, Biodiversity, Conservation
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