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Non-invasive genetic monitoring of large carnivores in the Iranian Caucasus: a pilot study

Mohammadi Moqanaki, Ehsan (2013) BIOP32 20121
Degree Projects in Biology
Abstract
Abstract

Aim- Brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Asia are highly endangered, but very few efforts have been made to study their population demographics which are critical first step for proper species conservation planning. In this pilot study, we investigated the efficiency of non-invasive faecal-DNA sampling for molecular monitoring of a wild Syrian brown bear (U. a. syriacus) population in Iran.

Location- Arasbaran Biosphere Reserve, north-western Iran

Methods- We opportunistically collected brown bear faecal-DNA in a single-session sampling framework to identify individuals and estimate the size of this population using rarefaction indices.

Results- We identified 31 individual bears (19 males: 11 females: 1 unknown sex) using a... (More)
Abstract

Aim- Brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Asia are highly endangered, but very few efforts have been made to study their population demographics which are critical first step for proper species conservation planning. In this pilot study, we investigated the efficiency of non-invasive faecal-DNA sampling for molecular monitoring of a wild Syrian brown bear (U. a. syriacus) population in Iran.

Location- Arasbaran Biosphere Reserve, north-western Iran

Methods- We opportunistically collected brown bear faecal-DNA in a single-session sampling framework to identify individuals and estimate the size of this population using rarefaction indices.

Results- We identified 31 individual bears (19 males: 11 females: 1 unknown sex) using a panel of seven authosomal and one sex determination microsatellite loci. Population estimates ranged between 36.8 and 61.7 individual bears. However, very large confidence intervals showed that more sampling efforts are required to obtain precise estimates of population size for this bear population.

Main conclusions- Our study demonstrates that in presence of low amplification success and relatively high genotyping error rates, DNA-based population estimators still provide valuable information about population demographics of elusive or rare species. (Less)
Abstract
Popular science summary:

Non-invasive genetic monitoring of large carnivores

Proper conservation planning of endangered wildlife populations is closely tied to availability of scientifically-sound abundance and distribution data. However, inquiring high quality data for rare or elusive carnivore species inhabiting remote habitats is extremely challenging. Non-invasive collection of DNA sources (such as faeces, hairs, feathers) are nowadays promising tools for monitoring wildlife populations, and this approach lets conservationists have access to a wealth of demographic and evolutionary information. In this pilot study, I investigated the efficiency of non-invasive faecal-DNA sampling for molecular monitoring of the endangered Persian... (More)
Popular science summary:

Non-invasive genetic monitoring of large carnivores

Proper conservation planning of endangered wildlife populations is closely tied to availability of scientifically-sound abundance and distribution data. However, inquiring high quality data for rare or elusive carnivore species inhabiting remote habitats is extremely challenging. Non-invasive collection of DNA sources (such as faeces, hairs, feathers) are nowadays promising tools for monitoring wildlife populations, and this approach lets conservationists have access to a wealth of demographic and evolutionary information. In this pilot study, I investigated the efficiency of non-invasive faecal-DNA sampling for molecular monitoring of the endangered Persian leopard and brown bears in north-western Iran.

I opportunistically collected carnivore faeces from five protected areas in Iran. DNA was extracted from the faecal samples to assign the species of origin to each sample and to evaluate presence of leopards and bears in each site. Using this data I provided an updated, preliminary assessment of the leopard status on these reserves. I found very few reliable leopard records and my findings suggested that the leopard status in this region is much more worrisome than what was thought before. I argued that prompt conservation actions are required to save leopards in this region. Moreover, I presented some recommendations for future molecular surveys of leopards in my study sites.

I also used data from nuclear DNA of brown bear samples from one of the study sites to identify individual bears and assign their sex. Accordingly, I identified 31 individual bears from my samples (19 males: 11 females: 1 unknown sex). Three different population models were then employed to assess size of this population. The population estimates ranged between 36.8 and 61.7 individual bears based on the model used.

Conclusion

I concluded that molecular monitoring of large carnivores is an effective method for providing
critical population data for conservation planning of endangered carnivores. Nonetheless, more efforts are required to provide precise population estimations for rare species using poor
quality molecular data. My study established a basis for future large-scale studies.

Advisor: Staffan Bensch
Master´s Degree Project 60 credits in Animal Ecology, 2013
Department of Biology, Lund University (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Mohammadi Moqanaki, Ehsan
supervisor
organization
course
BIOP32 20121
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
4216229
date added to LUP
2013-12-18 11:01:04
date last changed
2013-12-18 11:01:04
@misc{4216229,
  abstract     = {Popular science summary:

Non-invasive genetic monitoring of large carnivores

Proper conservation planning of endangered wildlife populations is closely tied to availability of scientifically-sound abundance and distribution data. However, inquiring high quality data for rare or elusive carnivore species inhabiting remote habitats is extremely challenging. Non-invasive collection of DNA sources (such as faeces, hairs, feathers) are nowadays promising tools for monitoring wildlife populations, and this approach lets conservationists have access to a wealth of demographic and evolutionary information. In this pilot study, I investigated the efficiency of non-invasive faecal-DNA sampling for molecular monitoring of the endangered Persian leopard and brown bears in north-western Iran.

I opportunistically collected carnivore faeces from five protected areas in Iran. DNA was extracted from the faecal samples to assign the species of origin to each sample and to evaluate presence of leopards and bears in each site. Using this data I provided an updated, preliminary assessment of the leopard status on these reserves. I found very few reliable leopard records and my findings suggested that the leopard status in this region is much more worrisome than what was thought before. I argued that prompt conservation actions are required to save leopards in this region. Moreover, I presented some recommendations for future molecular surveys of leopards in my study sites.

I also used data from nuclear DNA of brown bear samples from one of the study sites to identify individual bears and assign their sex. Accordingly, I identified 31 individual bears from my samples (19 males: 11 females: 1 unknown sex). Three different population models were then employed to assess size of this population. The population estimates ranged between 36.8 and 61.7 individual bears based on the model used.

Conclusion

I concluded that molecular monitoring of large carnivores is an effective method for providing
critical population data for conservation planning of endangered carnivores. Nonetheless, more efforts are required to provide precise population estimations for rare species using poor
quality molecular data. My study established a basis for future large-scale studies.

Advisor: Staffan Bensch
Master´s Degree Project 60 credits in Animal Ecology, 2013
Department of Biology, Lund University},
  author       = {Mohammadi Moqanaki, Ehsan},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Non-invasive genetic monitoring of large carnivores in the Iranian Caucasus: a pilot study},
  year         = {2013},
}