Reconciling biome-wide conservation of an apex carnivore with land-use economics in the increasingly threatened Pantanal wetlands

Fernando R. Tortato, Rafael Hoogesteijn, Allison L. Devlin, Howard B. Quigley, Fábio Bolzan, Thiago J. Izzo, Katia M. P. M. B. Ferraz, Carlos A. Peres

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Conservation of carnivores involves finding solutions to minimize habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict. Understanding the nature of land-use economics can allow us to mitigate both threats. In the Pantanal, the two main economic activities are cattle ranching and ecotourism, each of which directly and indirectly affect the persistence of jaguars (Panthera onca). To understand how the geography of these economic activities is related to jaguar populations, we developed a jaguar distribution model (JDM), livestock density model, and ecotourism lodge density model for the Pantanal. Due to the recent wildfires within the Pantanal, we also assess the impact of burnt areas that are suitable for jaguars, cattle ranching, and tourism. Our JDM indicate that 64% of the Pantanal holds suitable habitat for jaguars. However, jaguar habitat suitability was positively correlated with ecotourism, but negatively correlated with areas most suitable for intensive cattle-ranching. This demonstrates a biome-wide scenario compatible with jaguar conservation. Of particular concern, recent wildfires overlap most suitable areas for jaguars. If wildfires become increasingly frequent, this would represent a serious threat to jaguars and many other wildlife populations. We emphasize the global importance of the Pantanal wetland ecoregion as a key stronghold for long-term jaguar conservation.
Original languageEnglish
Article number22808
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2021

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