The jaguar (Panthera onca) is a widely distributed large carnivore and the focal species of a range-wide connectivity initiative known as the jaguar conservation network (JCN). Comprised of ~83 Jaguar Conservation Units (JCUs) and ~75 corridors from northern Mexico to Argentina, the JCN functions as a conduit for jaguar movement and gene flow. Key linkages in the network are imperiled by human population growth, large-scale agriculture, highway expansion, and other infrastructural development. Labeled "corridors of concern," these vulnerable linkages are imperative to the maintenance of connectivity and genetic diversity throughout jaguar distribution. I take a multi-faceted approach to analyze conservation issues and identify potential solutions in three of the most vulnerable connections of the JCN. I estimate densities and assess local residents' perceptions of jaguars in a fragmented JCU in western Mexico, analyze 3 years of data from 275 camera-trap sites to evaluate jaguar habitat use in a corridor of concern in Colombia, and quantify the umbrella value of jaguars for endemic herpetofauna in Nuclear Central America, a ~ 370,000 km2 sub-region of the Mesoamerican biodiversity hotspot. My research produces the first jaguar density estimate in a JCU containing human population densities gt& 50 people/km2 and provides the strongest support for jaguar association with wetlands collected to date. In Nuclear Central America, one of the most important yet vulnerable areas of the JCN, I demonstrate the umbrella value of this wide-ranging felid. I conclude with a discussion on the need to reevaluate extirpation thresholds of jaguars in human-use landscapes, to direct more research on wetlands as keystone habitats for jaguars, and to further assess the utility of umbrella analyses using jaguars as focal species to support holistic conservation planning.
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Figel, Joe, "Cross-Continental Insights into Jaguar (Panthera onca) Ecology and Conservation" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5455.