DELINEATING ECO-SENSITIVE ZONES USING GEOSPATIAL METHODS – A TEST CASE OF JHILMIL JHEEL CONSERVATION RESERVE
Most of the protected areas (PAs) in India have a hard boundary; very rarely having a transition zone to minimise the negative human wildlife interface. With increasing anthropogenic pressures, areas surrounding PAs are becoming integral for conservation. Government of India introduced a concept of Eco-sensitive Zones (ESZ) around PAs to minimise anthropogenic pressures and regulate rapid development in these areas. However, delineation of ESZs is a complex process and may take a long time. In this paper, a novel geospatial approach has been presented to delineate ESZ using a species centric approach. A case study using Swamp deer ( Rucervus duvaucelli duvaucelli) as focal species was explored for its potential to delineate ESZ around protected area Jhilmil Jheel Conservation Reserve (JJCR) located in Uttarakhand India. Maximum entropy or Maxent model was used to identify habitat suitability. Normalised difference vegetation index (NDVI), altitude, land cover and distance to roads were used as co-variates. Seasonal variations for habitat suitability were also considered. In this study habitat suitability map of swamp deer was further rationalised based on habitat fragmentation and management limitations and proposed as ESZ of JJCR. This approach for delineation of ESZ can be very useful for PAs in India which have focal species and are yet to declare their ESZ.