Author (Your Name)

Tiffany Wu, Colby CollegeFollow

Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis (Colby Access Only)

Department

Colby College. Environmental Studies Program

Advisor(s)

Philip Nyhus

Second Advisor

Manny Gimond

Third Advisor

Justin Becknell

Abstract

Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) populations have declined since the 1900s, with current estimates of 30,000 to 48,000 wild elephants remaining. A major threat to Asian elephant populations is habitat loss and fragmentation, through deforestation, agricultural expansion, and urban development. Using Maximum Entropy (Maxent) modeling and land use change data, my research aims to understand how Asian elephant habitat has changed from 1700 and 2015 and how it is projected to change in the next century across different climate and socioeconomic scenarios.

My results showed severe historical habitat loss of 64% since 1700 in the 15 study regions, especially in India and China, that had or currently have the largest elephant populations. My model also projected large habitat loss from now until 2099, with a large variation across climate and socioeconomic scenarios, ranging from over 80% loss in the worst-case scenario to 12% loss in the best-case scenario. My results also show the potential for regions to support larger elephant populations in the future, even if they do not have large populations now. These projections can aid in assessing conservation strategies for Asian elephants, including consideration of protected areas, human-elephant conflict, and local perspectives on elephants.

Keywords

Asian elephant, habitat modeling, Maxent, land use change, Representative Concentration Pathways, Shared Socioeconomic Pathways

Available for download on Tuesday, May 19, 2020

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