Living on the edge: regional distribution and retracting range of the jaguar (Panthera onca)

Cuyckens, G. A. E.  Perovic, P. G.  Herrán, M. 


To preserve biodiversity we need to understand how species are distributed and which aspects of the environment determine these distributions. Human–induced changes in land–cover and loss of habitat threaten many species, particularly large carnivores, in many parts of the world. Differentiating the influence of climate and human land use on the distribution of the jaguar (Panthera onca) is important for the species’ conservation. Historically distributed from the United States to southern Argentina, the jaguar has seen its distribution range decreased at regional and local scales. Here we predict the species’ distribution range using historical records of its presence, climate variables, and MaxEnt predictive algorithms. We focus especially on its southernmost limit in Argentina to indicate the historical limits of this species, and describe its present niche in these edge populations. To estimate the effect of human activity we used a raster of land cover to restrict the jaguar’s distribution. We collected a large amount of presence records through the species’ historical range, and estimated a historical regional distribution ranging from Patagonia up to latitude –50°S. Our findings show the range of the jaguar is decreasing severely in its southern limit and also in its northern limit, and that changes in land cover/use are threats to the species. After subtracting non–suitable land–cover from the studied niche, we found the environmentally suitable area for the jaguar in the study area has decreased to 5.2% of its original size. We thus warn of the high extinction risk of the jaguar in Argentina.

Key words

Habitat suitability, Land–cover, MaxEnt, Species distribution models (SDM), Ecological Niche Factor Analysis (ENFA)

Reception date: 2 III 15  |   Acceptation date: 5 X 16  |   Publication date: 2 II 17

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Índex de Volume 40.1 (2017)