Habitat suitability modelling for the Caspian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caspius), as a typical high-montane species

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Department of Fisheries and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Natural Resources and Earth Sciences, Shahrekord University, Shahrekord, Iran

2 Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Provincial Office of Department of Environment, Shahrekord, Iran


As a sedentary bird, the Caspian Snowcock is a typical high-mountain and alpine species. The bird is distributed in the mountainous regions of north, northwest and western parts of Iran. In this respect, in recent years, the populations of this species are declining due to habitat destruction, unregulated hunting, overgrazing, etc. Therefore, conserving the relatively large patches of habitat is very important in order to support the species’ vital requirements. In this study, the habitat suitability of Caspean Snowcock in Charmahal and Bakhtiari Province (as a region containing mountainous landscapes) has been investigated. According to the results, elevation (44.3%), annual precipitation (19%), slope (17.2%) and human footprint (8.5%) contributed the largest percents to the habitat suitability model. Potentially, the Caspian Snowcock can occurs in habitats with elevation of 1700 to 4150 m above sea level. However, only 0.81% of suitable habitats fell within elevation of 1700 to 2000 m. The estimated suitable habitats of the species cover approximately 19.4% of this province, but only about 15.8% of these areas are officially protected. On the other hand, human disturbances such as residential locations, roads, overgrazing and collecting of medicinal and aromatic plants could lead to accelerating the habitat degradation and fragmentation. To further assess the impacts of habitat fragmentation on the Caspian Snowcock, it is suggested to survey the dispersal capacity of this species as well. In addition, considering ecological niches, the Caspian Snowcock can be regarded as an umbrella or flagship species in the high altitude mountains of this area.


Bennett, A.F., 1999. Linkages in the landscape: the role of corridors and connectivity in wildlife conservation. Volume 1. IUCN
Berger, J., Young, J.K., Berger, K.M., 2008. Protecting migration corridors: challenges and optimism for Mongolian saiga. PLoS biology 6, e165
Bird Life International, 2016. Bird species distribution maps of the world. Version 6.0. Available at http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/requestdis
Bird Life International, 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg
Brito, J., Fahd, S., Geniez, P., Martínez-Freiría, F., Pleguezuelos, J., Trape, J-F., 2011. Biogeography and conservation of viperids from North-West Africa: an application of ecological niche-based models and GIS. Journal of Arid Environments 75, 1029-1037
Brown, J.L., 2014. SDMtoolbox: a python‐based GIS toolkit for landscape genetic, biogeographic and species distribution model analyses. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 5, 694-700
CITES, 2017. Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora. 25 September 2017. Available at http://www.cites.org
Crooks, K.R., Sanjayan, M., 2006. Connectivity conservation. Volume 14. Cambridge University Press
Del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., 1994. Handbook of the birds of the world. Volume 2. New world vultures to guinea fowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona
Dixon, J.D., Oli, M.K., Wooten, M.C., Eason, T.H., McCown, J.W., Cunningham, M.W., 2007. Genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation and loss: the case of the Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus). Conservation Genetics 8, 455-464
Ficetola, G.F., Bonardi, A., Sindaco, R., Padoa‐Schioppa, E., 2013. Estimating patterns of reptile biodiversity in remote regions. Journal of Biogeography 40, 1202-1211
Forest, Range and Watershed Management Organization of Iran [FRWMO], 2010. Iranian forests, range and watershed management organization national land use/land cover map. Forest, Range and Watershed Management Organization of Iran, Tehran, Iran. Available at http://frw.org.ir/00/En/. Accessed 20 Jul 2014
Fuller, R.A., Garson, P.J., 2000. Pheasants: status survey and conservation action plan 2000-2004. Volume 51. IUCN
Hijmans, R.J., Cameron, S.E., Parra, J.L., Jones, P.G., Jarvis, A., 2005. Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. International journal of climatology 25, 1965-1978
Hilty, J.A., Lidicker, Jr. W.Z., Merenlender, A., 2012. Corridor ecology: the science and practice of linking landscapes for biodiversity conservation. Island Press
Keane, A., Brooke, M.D.L., McGowan, P., 2005. Correlates of extinction risk and hunting pressure in gamebirds (Galliformes). Biological Conservation 126, 216-233
Kopatz, A., Eiken, H.G., Aspi, J., Kojola, I., Tobiassen, C., Tirronen, K.F., Danilov, P.I., Hagen, S.B., 2014. Admixture and Gene Flow from Russia in the Recovering Northern European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos). PLoS ONE 9(5), e97558
McGowan, P.J.K., 1994. Caspian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caspius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A., de Juana, E. (Eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona
McGowan, P.J.K., Dowell, S.D. Carroll, J.P., Aebischer, N.J., 1995. Partridges, quails, francolins, snowcocks and guineafowl: status survey and conservation action plan 1995-1999. International Union for Nature Conservation and Natural Resources, Cambridge, United Kingdom
McGowan, P.J., Zhang, Y.Y., Zhang, Z.W., 2009. Galliformes–barometers of the state of applied ecology and wildlife conservation in China. Journal of applied ecology 46, 524-526
McGowan, P.J.K., Kirwan, G.M., Boesman, P., 2015. Caspian Snowcock (Tetraogallus caspius). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A., de Juana, E. (Eds.), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona
Nazeri, M., Kumar, L., Jusoff, K., Bahaman, A.R., 2014. Modeling the potential distribution of sun bear in Krau wildlife reserve, Malaysia. Ecological informatics 20, 27-32
Nelli, L., 2015. Habitat suitability models and carrying capacity estimations for rock ptarmigans in a protected area of the Italian Alps. Rivista Italiana di Ornitologia 85, 23-30
Noss, R.F., Quigley, H.B., Hornocker, M.G., Merrill, T., Paquet, P.C., 1996. Conservation biology and carnivore conservation in the Rocky Mountains. Conservation Biology 10 949-963
Phillips, S.J., Anderson, R.P., Schapire, R.E., 2006. Maximum entropy modeling of species geographic distributions. Ecological modelling 190, 231-259
Porter, R., Aspinall, S., 2013. Birds of the Middle East. Bloomsbury Publishing
Rowland, M.M., Wisdom, M.J., Suring, L.H., Meinke, C.W., 2006. Greater sage-grouse as an umbrella species for sagebrush-associated vertebrates. Biological Conservation 129, 323-335
Sanderson, E.W., Jaiteh, M., Levy, M.A., Redford, K.H., Wannebo, A.V., Woolmer, G., 2002. The human footprint and the last of the wild. BioScience 52, 891-904
Shepard, D., Kuhns, A., Dreslik, M., Phillips, C., 2008. Roads as barriers to animal movement in fragmented landscapes. Animal Conservation 11, 288-296
Tucker, G., Heath, M., 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status–Birdlife, Conservation Series. No 3. Bird Life International, Cambridge, UK, 342-343
Wang, B., Xu, Y., Ran, J., 2017. Predicting suitable habitat of the Chinese monal (Lophophorus lhuysii) using ecological niche modeling in the Qionglai Mountains, China. PeerJ 5, e3477
Wikramanayake, E., McKnight, M., Dinerstein, E., Joshi, A., Gurung, B., Smith, D., 2004. Designing a conservation landscape for tigers in human‐dominated environments. Conservation Biology 18, 839-844