Abstract: Habitat loss leads to habitat fragmentation. Habitat connectivity, however, could mitigate effects of habitat fragmentation on wildlife populations. This study was carried out to assess habitat suitability and connectivity of a brown bear population located along the Iran-Iraq border in the Zagros Mountains, at the southernmost extreme of the species range. A total of 34 presences of brown bear and seven environmental variables were used for habitat modeling using MaxEnt, and connectivity among habitat patches was assessed by electrical-circuit methods using Circuitscape. Distance from villages, elevation, slope, and distance from roads were respectively the most important variables in habitat modeling of the brown bear in the study area. In total, 33 habitat patches were identified for the brown bear, which covered about 12% of the study area. Results of connectivity revealed high connectivity among habitat patches in the Iran section, whereas in the Iraq section, only low connectivity was observed in areas close to the Iran-Iraq border. Systematic monitoring is recommended to assess potential habitat patches and habitat connectivity of the brown bear in future research as a first step towards cooperative management efforts between wildlife managers of Iran and Iraq. Moreover, establishing a transboundary protected area is highly recommended along the Iran-Iraq border to provide safety and connectivity for the brown bear in this region and reduce the effect of the country border as a separating factor.
1.Environmental Sciences, Department of Nature EngineeringAgricultural Sciences and Natural Resources University of KhuzestanMollasaniIran
2.Department of Environmental SciencesGorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural ResourcesGorganIran
3.Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural ResourcesUniversity of KurdistanSanandajIran