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Li Y, Li X, Song Z, Ding C.2016. Conservation guidelines for the endangered Brown-eared pheasant based on the geographic information system and the MaxEnt model. PeerJ Preprints4:e2018v1https://doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.2018v1
We analyzed the synchronous relationship between forest cover and species distribution to explain the contraction in the distribution range of the brown-eared pheasant (Crossoptilon mantchuricum) in China. We consulted ancient texts to determine this pheasant’s historical distribution from 25 to 1947 CE. Based on this species’ habitat selection criteria, the history of the forests, ancient climate change records, and fossil data, we determined that the brown-eared pheasant’s historical distribution included the three provinces of Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Hebei. It once inhabited an area of about 320,000 km2, as calculated by the minimum convex polygon method (MCP) in ArcGIS 10.0. The current species distribution covers 46,800 km2 of the Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Hebei provinces, as well as Beijing city, while Shanxi remains the center of the distribution area. This pheasant’s distribution range has decreased by 85% over the past 2,000 years. We used the Mean Decrease Accuracy (MDA) index to assess the importance of the evaluation of 13 environmental factors using the Random Forests (RF) measure from the R 3.0.2 software platform. The results showed that vegetation is the most important determinant influencing distribution. We built a corresponding correlative relationship between the presence/absence of brown-eared pheasant and forest coverage and found that forest coverage in the north, northeast, central, and southeast areas of the Shanxi province were all less than 10% at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1911 CE). Our MaxEnt model indicated that the brown-eared pheasant had retreated to the western regions of Shanxi (AUC = 0.753) and that the historical distribution area had reduced synchronously with the disappearance of local forest cover in Shanxi. Wild brown-eared pheasant populations are stable in the Luliang Mountains, where forest coverage reached 13.2% in 2000. Consequently, we concluded that the distribution of this species is primarily determined by vegetation conditions and that forest cover was the most significant determining factor. To guarantee stable growth in the population and consistent distribution of the brown-eared pheasant, we suggest that forest coverage should be at least 48% in the natural reserves where the brown-eared pheasant is currently distributed.