MODELLING FINE SCALE MOVEMENT CORRIDORS FOR THE TRICARINATE HILL TURTLE
Keywords: Habitat connectivity, Fine Scale, Tricarinate Hill-turtle, Circuit theory, Geographical Information Systems, India
Abstract. Habitat loss and the destruction of habitat connectivity can lead to species extinction by isolation of population. Identifying important habitat corridors to enhance habitat connectivity is imperative for species conservation by preserving dispersal pattern to maintain genetic diversity. Circuit theory is a novel tool to model habitat connectivity as it considers habitat as an electronic circuit board and species movement as a certain amount of current moving around through different resistors in the circuit. Most studies involving circuit theory have been carried out at small scales on large ranging animals like wolves or pumas, and more recently on tigers. This calls for a study that tests circuit theory at a large scale to model micro-scale habitat connectivity. The present study on a small South-Asian geoemydid, the Tricarinate Hill-turtle (Melanochelys tricarinata), focuses on habitat connectivity at a very fine scale. The Tricarinate has a small body size (carapace length: 127–175 mm) and home range (8000–15000 m2), with very specific habitat requirements and movement patterns. We used very high resolution Worldview satellite data and extensive field observations to derive a model of landscape permeability at 1 : 2,000 scale to suit the target species. Circuit theory was applied to model potential corridors between core habitat patches for the Tricarinate Hill-turtle. The modelled corridors were validated by extensive ground tracking data collected using thread spool technique and found to be functional. Therefore, circuit theory is a promising tool for accurately identifying corridors, to aid in habitat studies of small species.