Ecological indicators for protection impact assessment at two scales in the Bozin and Marakhil protected area, Iran

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Official protection can play a major role in biodiversity conservation, but it may have unintended effects on habitats at multiple scales. We evaluated the effects of this protection designation on forest area and structure at two spatial scales in Bozin and Marakhil protected area. We classified Landsat-5 TM images from 2001 and 2009, covering protected and unprotected areas and used for broad scale analysis, and IKONOS and GeoEye images from 2001 and 2009 for fine scale analysis. We used landscape structure metrics and the models that fit patch size distribution as the ecological indicators of protection impact. The protection effect was scale dependent, with significant habitat loss and fragmentation at the fine scale but not at the broad scale. Protection increased the number of large patches inside the park, as indicated by a shift from a truncated power law to a power law distribution of patch sizes. The habitat structural maintenance and aggregation inside the park, and fragmentation outside the park boundaries, signal a potential shift of human pressure from inside to directly outside of the park. This study indicates the need for spatial analyses on both sides of protection boundaries at multiple scales using complementary indicators to understand the impacts of protection on habitat structure.

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© 2012 Elsevier Ltd. Publisher’s version of record: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2012.09.011

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Ecological Indicators