Published on Thu Aug 19 2021

Range-wide habitat use and Key Biodiversity Area coverage for a lowland tropical forest raptor across an increasingly deforested landscape

Sutton, L. J., Anderson, D. L., Franco, M., McClure, C. J., Miranda, E. B., Vargas, F. H., Vargas-Gonzalez, J. d. J., Puschendorf, R.

Quantifying habitat use is important for understanding how animals meet their requirements for survival and provides useful information for conservation planning. Currently, assessments of range-wide habitat use that delimit species distributions are incomplete for many taxa. The harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja) is a raptor of conservation concern, widely distributed across Neotropical lowland forests, that currently faces threats from increasing habitat loss and fragmentation. Here, we use a logistic regression modelling framework to identify habitat resource selection and predict habitat suitability based on a new method developed from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Area of Habitat range metric. From the habitat use model, we performed a gap analysis to identify areas of high habitat suitability in regions with limited coverage in the Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) network. Range-wide habitat use indicated that harpy eagles prefer areas of 70-75 % evergreen forest cover, low elevation, and high vegetation heterogeneity. Conversely, harpy eagles avoid areas of >10 % cultivated landcover and mosaic forest, and topographically complex areas. Our habitat use model identified a large continuous area across the pan-Amazonia region, and a habitat corridor from the Choco-Darien ecoregion of Colombia running north along the Caribbean coast of Central America. Little habitat was predicted across the Atlantic Forest biome, which is now severely degraded. The current KBA network covered 18 % of medium to high suitability harpy eagle habitat exceeding the target representation (10 %). Four major areas of high suitability habitat lacking coverage in the KBA network were identified in the Choco-Darien ecoregion of Colombia, western Guyana, and north-west Brazil. We recommend these multiple gaps of habitat as new KBAs for strengthening the current KBA network. Modelled area of habitat estimates as described here are a useful tool for large-scale conservation planning and can be readily applied to many taxa.