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Therya

On-line version ISSN 2007-3364

Abstract

MARTINEZ-CALDERAS, Jesús Manuel et al. Potential distribution of margay (Leopardus wiedii, Schinz 1821) in Northeastern Mexico. Therya [online]. 2016, vol.7, n.2, pp.241-255. ISSN 2007-3364.  http://dx.doi.org/10.12933/therya-16-360.

The margay (Leopardus wiedii, Schinz 1821) is a small Neotropical cat that is native with distribution from South America into Northeastern Mexico. This species is now threatened by illegal hunting and habitat destruction and, in Northeastern Mexico, their habitat has been fragmented and population sizes have been dramatically reduced. We use the MaxEnt algorithm to model the potential distribution of this elusive species, based on trustable presence records and information about their habitat condition. The aim of this study was to estimate the potential distribution of margays in Northeastern Mexico. We determined potential distribution in the physiographic subprovinces (PSP) of Llanuras y Lomerios, Gran Sierra Plegada and Carso Huasteco. A model was generated using recent and historical records through the MaxEnt algorithm. We used four records from online databases, 36 from literature and 13 from our own fieldwork, as well as 27 predictive variables: 19 associated with climate, two with land use and vegetation type, four associated with topography and two with anthropogenic effects. Seven variables contributed to over 90% of the distribution model and were highly predictive (AUC = 0.964). The potential distribution of margay represents 9.0% (7,607 km2) of the area, which is highly fragmented. The PSP Gran Sierra Plegada and Carso Huasteco showed the widest distribution range. The four most relevant variables were: precipitation of the most humid quarter, vegetation type, and both altitude and topographic indexes. We applied species distribution modeling by incorporating recent information collected through fieldwork and surveys as well as historical records in order to predict the margay's potential distribution in Northeastern Mexico. We obtained a robust model based on the most relevant bioclimatic and landscape variables. The landscape in this region is highly fragmented and the largest continuous areas were located in the roughest and inaccessible landscape of the mountainous localities of Gran Sierra Plegada and Carso Huasteco, where an important portion of these PSP maintains continuity in the area of the potential distribution of the margay. Very little is known of the status and abundance of the margay and this study complements our current knowledge of this species in Northeastern Mexico and provides important information regarding the quality of the habitat in this portion of the country. There are several current threats that are being caused by changes in land use in Northeastern Mexico and other parts of their distribution, and this information is essential to establish conservation plans for this species and their habitat. More studies assessing potential distribution throughout their range are needed to support adequate conservation efforts.

Keywords : connectivity; habitat fragmentation; MaxEnt; Tropical habitats; Wild felids.

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