Using ensemble modelling to predict breeding habitat of the red-listed Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocepahlus) in the Western Himalayas of Pakistan
Quantifying a species geographic range is a necessary requirement for targeted and effective conservation management and planning. The Western Tragopan (Tragopan melanocephalus) is a globally threatened Galliformes, endemic to the Western Himalayas. The breeding habitat of the species is believed to be exposed to increased anthropogenic pressures. There is a general lack of empirically-based approaches to protect the breeding habitat of this species. To this end, we used recent records of breeding tragopan to develop an ensemble model of the breeding habitat in Pakistan for this Vulnerable species. The model predicted a total area of 10,410 km2 as potential breeding habitat for the species nationally. Of this, 2979 km2 (28.6%) were potentially highly suitable (P > 0.4), 2544 km2 (24.4%) were moderately suitable (0.2 >P < 0.4), and 4887 km2 (46.9%) were of low suitability (P < 0.2). The breeding sites of the species were recorded with mean global human modification gradient of 0.33 ± 0.06 which implies that habitat suitability for the Tragopan now appears associated with areas of moderate land modification. Therefore, the predicted highly suitable area (core breeding area) was only 79 km2 (or 2.6%) of the total predicted area suitable for breeding. Hence, the potential breeding habitat of this species may be degraded owing to human habitat interference. We propose that the remaining pockets of high suitability for breeding which remain free from human impacts are declared as protected areas with immediate effect. Areas of high suitability with already existing human disturbance should receive high attention by conservation managers and policy makers, attempting to reduce further human impact. Our model further suggests that more detailed studies at a landscape level should be carried out urgently to successfully protect this globally threatened species from further habitat deterioration.