Leopards and mesopredators as indicators of mammalian species richness across diverse landscapes of South Africa
McManus, Jeannine S.
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The rapid extinction of species over the past few decades has created a biodiversity crisis. Factors contributing to recent extirpations are linked to increased human population growth, habitat loss and fragmentation, and over-exploitation of wildlife. Only decisive, effective action to combat biodiversity loss can reverse these trends. The use of indicator species as surrogates for biodiversity provides a way to identify areas with high biodiversity so that conservation efforts can be accelerated and supported in those areas. Predators are considered important indicators of healthy, biodiverse ecosystems due to their high trophic level and their direct and indirect interaction with other species. Using camera trap data from 221 cameras set across five vegetation types and five land use zones in South Africa, we evaluated carnivores as potential surrogates for biodiversity.