lynx reintroduction to scotland-2

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Lynx reintroduCtion to scotland

Introduction Ecology and HabitatDistribution The Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx) is a solitary mammal which was hunted to extinction in the UK for its fur in 500-700 AD. It has a broad distribution in Southeastern and Central Europe and from Northern and Eastern Europe through to the Boreal forests of Russia, down into Central Asia and the Tibetan plateau (IUCN redlist, 2016). The status of this species is stable however it varies within its different ranges. The Eurasian lynx is found in a wide range of climatic zones from Temperate to Boreal forests from the far Atlantic in Western Europe to the Pacific coast in the Russian Far East (IUCN redlist, 2016). Figure 1: Map of Scotland showing the typography of the area (Hetherington et al., 2008)

Habitat and RangeThe lynx has a wide home range of 100km2 to over 1000km2, and male home ranges encompass 1-2 females territories, depending on the terrain and climate conditions (Hetherington et al., 2008). The minimum viable population of Lynx needed to survive in a new environment is 50-100 (Hetherington et al., 2008) meaning the minimum dynamic area (the total area that is required for reproduction, the amount of resources required and the dispersion of the species) is 5000km2 to 100,000km2 with small habitat patches that are close in connectivity, up to 1.2km, to ensure gene flow. Lynx are being considered for reintroduction in Scotland because of Scotlands unique typography (fig. 1) large coniferous forests, and lack of infra-structure (Hetherington et al., 2008). Lynx can survive in all types of woodland, coniferous, broadleaved and mixed leaved. Increased reforestation in the Scottish highlands has increased the population of woodland deer which are suitable prey for lynx populations. Their breeding season is confined to February to March and they feed on small ungulates such as roe deer and small hares (WWF, 2016). Threats and ConservationLynx are threatened by illegal hunting for fur, habitat loss and fragmentation due to creation of roads and infrastructure, conflicts with hunters due to mortality of livestock, poor management and poaching. The Eurasian lynx is listed on the Appendix II of CITES, prohibiting the international trade in the species without a license (Arkive.org, 2016).Methods Lynx reintroduction requires habitat evaluation to assess its viability. Candidate networks (fig.2) for the reintroduction of Lynx to protected areas have been based on data sets supplied by Scottish National Heritage, protected areas being the best places for any reintroduction as they are less likely to have the cause of the original extinction, and a degraded landscape. Satellite images were looked at to allow a greater understanding of the habitats in candidate areas. Data, such as that on main roads to the Scottish boundary, was clipped to give a more specific view of potential sites as well as showing buffer zones that are needed because of the presence of roads. A greater understanding of potential sites was achieved by making sure they are as connected as possible, merging the small areas together creating a larger protected area and making sure the correct habitats are within each site. By overlapping layers of data on factors that influence successful reintroduction with candidate network sites for the release, it was possible to assess which sites were the most suitable for reintroduction.Discussion Protected areasThe networks that are big enough to hold at least one pair of Lynx (fig.2) are near to protected areas such as SSSIs and National Parks. Having areas that are already managed and protected is beneficial because the current management is already in place within these specific areas.Figure 2: Candidate networks showing the protected areas in light blue. Authors own 2016.

Roads and settlementsRoads are a barrier for the movement of Lynx especially motorways and dual carriageways because they have a disruptive effect on the movement of species across landscapes (Hetherington et al., 2008). It is therefore important to consider this when looking at these potential habitat areas. The main motorways shown in blue (fig. 3) are clustered in the Central Lowlands between Glasgow and Edinburgh and dissect the Southern Uplands. The settlements within the likely areas need to be considered. Lynx can be introduced close to smaller settlements as research from Lynx introduction in Europe shows that Lynx do not visit small settlements (Hetherington et al., 2008). Therefore it would be preferable to have a reintroduction site north of the Central Lowlands.Figure 3: Candidate networks showing the main motorways in blue. Produced by author, 2016

Sheep densitiesHuman-wildlife conflict between Lynx and farmers needs to be minimised if Lynx reintroduction is to be successful. Sheep farming is an important part of the economy in Scotland. The areas with the highest densities of sheep are in southern Scotland, closer to the more established settlements (fig 5). These areas have already been shown to be less suitable for the potential reintroduction of Lynx because they are close to motorways and dual carriageways. However, the largest candidate area, Inverness, has a small density of sheep, 0.1-

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