Modelling hypothetical habitat networks for Eurasian Lynx in Scotland
The eradication of ‘key stone’ species in Scotland has resulted in an ecosystem over-populated by deer with increased environmental degradation. The reintroduction of Eurasian Lynx has been considered as a strategy to conserve and enhance biodiversity. Prior to any reintroduction, a comprehensive assessment of their habitat requirements and connectivity is carried out to minimise risks to human interests, the environment, and animal welfare. This study aimed to (1) Identify and quantify suitable habitat for Eurasian Lynx using a spatially explicate model, (2) Identify connectivity networks between and through these identified habitat patches and (3) to make recommendations regarding the strategic placement of new woodland to improve connectivity for Eurasian Lynx. A GIS-based Multi Criteria Analysis was applied using up-to-date datasets to identify and quantify key habitat patches. Circuit theory, using Circuitscape, was then applied to investigate the functional connectivity between identified patches. Connectivity using future woodland scenarios was compared to the current landscape to make recommendations regarding the strategic placement of new woodland. The results show Scotland has an area of 21,181km2 of potential lynx habitat. This is split into two areas: The Highlands (20,000km2) and Southern Uplands (5,500km2). An assessment of connectivity across the Scottish landscape identified that the two main habitat areas were isolated due to the busy transport network in Scotland’s Central Belt. The results from the analysis could be useful for placement and installation of alternative crossing structures. 100km2 of new woodland were identified which were shown to improve connectivity throughout the landscape.