1. The severe and early destruction and fragmentation of woodland habitats due to human activities is thought to have been a leading factor in the extirpation from Britain of several large, forest-dependent mammal species, such as the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx. However, during the 20th century, Scotland in particular has experienced rapid, large-scale reafforestation. In order to assess if this reafforestation has been sufficient to permit the potential restoration of extirpated forest mammal species with large spatial requirements, a Geographical Information System (GIS) analysis of potential habitat of one species, the Eurasian lynx, was performed for the Scottish mainland.
2. A rule-based analysis, incorporating data and expert opinion from Switzerland, an environmentally similar area where lynx now occur, was used to identify patches of suitable lynx habitat in Scotland. A connectivity analysis was used to investigate whether and how these patches are connected to form larger interconnected networks of potential lynx habitat that would allow lynx to sufficiently interact with one another to form a single interbreeding population.
3. Scotland has over 20 000 km(2) of suitable lynx habitat split into two main networks of interconnected patches: the Highlands (c. 15 000 km(2)) and the Southern Uplands (c. 5000 km(2)). A further 800 km(2) of potential habitat, contiguous with the Southern Uplands lynx habitat network, lies across the border in England. Although connectivity between the Highlands and Southern Uplands networks is currently weak, the implementation of measures to mitigate the barrier effects of busy roads in central Scotland could facilitate the movement of lynx between the two areas.
4. Based on the availability of prey resources, Scotland could support around 400 adult and subadult lynx in the Highlands and around 50 in the Southern Uplands. A Scottish population of this size would be the fourth largest lynx population in Europe considering current population estimates.
- habitat connectivity
- habitat networks
- species restoration
- patch connectivity
- fragmented landscapes
- Swiss Alps