Natural and Anthropogenic Influences on a Red-Crowned Crane Habitat in the Yellow River Delta Natural Reserve, 1992–2008

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Habitat change, Habitat fragmentation, Influencing factors, Red-crowned crane, Remote sensing, The Yellow River Delta Nature Reserve

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This study aims to assess the relative importance of natural and anthropogenic variables on the change of the red-crowned crane habitat in the Yellow River Nature Reserve, East China using multitempopral remote sensing and geographic information system. Satellite images were used to detect the change in potential crane habitat, from which suitable crane habitat was determined by excluding fragmented habitat. In this study, a principal component analysis (PCA) with seven variables (channel flow, rainfall, temperature, sediment discharge, number of oil wells, total length of roads, and area of settlements) and linear regression analyses of potential and suitable habitat against the retained principal components were applied to explore the influences of natural and anthropogenic factors on the change of the red-crowned crane habitat. The experimental results indicate that suitable habitat decreased by 5,935 ha despite an increase of 1,409 ha in potential habitat from 1992 to 2008. The area of crane habitat changed caused by natural drivers such as progressive succession, retrogressive succession, and physical fragmentation is almost the same as that caused by anthropogenic forces such as land use change and behavioral fragmentation. The PCA and regression analyses revealed that natural factors (e.g., channel flow, rainfall, temperature, and sediment discharge) play an important role in the crane potential habitat change and human disturbances (e.g., oil wells, roads, and settlements) jointly explain 51.8 % of the variations in suitable habitat area, higher than 48.2 % contributed by natural factors. Thus, it is vital to reduce anthropogenic influences within the reserve in order to reverse the decline in the suitable crane habitat.

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Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, v. 186, issue 7, p. 4013-4028