Large mammal diversity and their conservation in the human-dominated land-use mosaic of Sierra Leone

Type Journal Article - Biodiversity and conservation
Title Large mammal diversity and their conservation in the human-dominated land-use mosaic of Sierra Leone
Volume 24
Issue 10
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 2417-2438
Like elsewhere in West Africa, the landscapes of Sierra Leone are strongly
human-dominated with consequences for large mammal distribution and diversity. Sierra
Leone is currently going through a phase of post-war recovery, with accelerating development
of the mining, forestry, agricultural and infrastructure sectors. As environmental
issues are increasingly considered, comprehensive biodiversity information is required.
Here we evaluate spatial patterns of large mammal diversity throughout Sierra Leone to
make inferences about species persistence. We used systematic line transect sampling for
assessing large mammal distribution. GLMs and canonical correspondence analyses were
used to evaluate the relative importance of human impact for every species while controlling
for environmental gradients and to make countrywide spatial model predictions.
We further developed an algorithm to identify core distributional ranges for the most
common species. A total of 562 km of transects were surveyed and 35 large mammal
species encountered. Species diversity was impoverished in the country’s south and center
and strongly increased towards the north and east. Human impact did not determine the
distribution of four species (brushed-tailed porcupine, bushbuck, giant rat, warthog), but
was very influential on chimpanzee and yellow-backed duiker occurrence with U-shaped
and negative responses, respectively. The remaining species showed mixed responses to
human impact and environmental gradients. Predicting species persistence in West African
human-dominated landscapes is complex. Pooling of species for land-use planning is
therefore not recommended. Our study provides key information for land-use planning to
separate areas with post-depletion species assemblages from more diverse regions with
high conservation value.

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