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Type of publication: Journal Article
Type of document: Full Paper

Year: 2011

Authors: Kaczensky, P; Kuehn, R; Lhagvasuren, B; Pietsch, S; Yang, W; Walzer, C

Title: Connectivity of the Asiatic wild ass population in the Mongolian Gobi.

Source: Biol Conserv. 2011; 144(2):920-929

Authors Vetmeduni Vienna:

Kaczensky Petra
Walzer Christian

Vetmed Research Units
Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology

Project(s): Landscape level research for the conservation of Asiatic wild ass in Mongolia

Long-distance migrations of wildlife have been identified as important biological phenomena, but their conservation remains a major challenge. The Mongolian Gobi is one of the last refuges for the Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) and other threatened migratory mammals. Using historic and current distribution ranges, population genetics, and telemetry data we assessed the connectivity of the wild ass population in the context of natural and anthropogenic landscape features and the existing network of protected areas. In the Mongolian Gobi mean biomass production is highly correlated with human and livestock density and seems to predict wild ass occurrence at the upper level. The current wild ass distribution range largely falls into areas below the 250 gC/m(2)/year productivity isoline, suggesting that under the present land use more productive areas have become unavailable for wild asses. Population genetics results identified two subpopulations and delineated a genetic boundary between the Dzungarian and Transaltai Gobi for which the most likely explanation are the mountain ranges separating the two areas. Home ranges and locations of 19 radiomarked wild asses support the assumed restricting effects of more productive habitats and mountain ranges and additionally point towards a barrier effect of fences. Furthermore, telemetry data shows that in the Dzungarian and Transaltai Gobi individual wild ass rarely ventured outside of the protected areas, whereas in the southeast Gobi asses only spend a small fraction of their time within the protected area network. Conserving the continuity of the wild ass population will need a landscape level approach, also including multi-use landscapes outside of protected areas, particularly in the southeast Gobi. In the southwest Gobi, allowing for openings in the border fence to China and managing the border area as an ecological corridor would connect three large protected areas together covering over 70,000 km(2) of wild ass habitat.

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