Title: Implications of landscape genetics and connectivity of snow
leopard in the Nepalese Himalayas for its conservation.
Authors: Shrestha, B., Kindlmann, P.
Abstract: The snow leopard is one of the most endangered large mammals.
Its population, already low, is declining, most likely due to the
consequences of human activity, including a reduction in the size and
number of suitable habitats. With climate change, habitat loss may
escalate, because of an upward shift in the tree line and concomitant
loss of the alpine zone, where the snow leopard lives. Migration between
suitable areas, therefore, is important because a decline in abundance
in these areas may result in inbreeding, fragmentation of populations,
reduction in genetic variation due to habitat fragmentation, loss of
connectivity, bottlenecks or genetic drift. Here we use our data
collected in Nepal to determine the areas suitable for snow leopards, by
using habitat suitability maps, and describe the genetic structure of
the snow leopard within and between these areas. We also determine the
influence of landscape features on the genetic structure of its
populations and reveal corridors connecting suitable areas. We conclude
that it is necessary to protect these natural corridors to maintain the
possibility of snow leopards’ migration between suitable areas, which
will enable gene flow between the diminishing populations and thus
maintain a viable metapopulation of snow leopards.