Assessing the suitability of central European landscapes for the reintroduction of Eurasian lynx.
After an absence of almost 100 years, the Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx is slowly recovering in Germany along the German-Czech border. Additionally, many reintroduction schemes have been discussed, albeit controversially, for various locations. We present a habitat suitability model for lynx in Germany as a basis for further management and conservation efforts aimed at recolonization and population development. We developed a statistical habitat model using logistic regression to quantify the factors that describe lynx home ranges in a fragmented landscape. As no data were available for lynx distribution in Germany, we used data from the Swiss Jura Mountains for model development and validated the habitat model with telemetry data from the Czech Republic and Slovenia. We derived several variables describing land use and fragmentation, also introducing variables that described the connectivity of forested and non-forested semi-natural areas on a larger scale than the map resolution. We obtained a model with only one significant variable that described the connectivity of forested and non-forested semi-natural areas on a scale of about 80 km2. This result is biologically meaningful, reflecting the absence of intensive human land use on the scale of an average female lynx home range. Model testing at a cut-off level of P>0.5 correctly classified more than 80% of the Czech and Slovenian telemetry location data of resident lynx. Application of the model to Germany showed that the most suitable habitats for lynx were large-forested low mountain ranges and the large forests in east Germany. Our approach illustrates how information on habitat fragmentation on a large scale can be linked with local data to the potential benefit of lynx conservation in central Europe. Spatially explicit models like ours can form the basis for further assessing the population viability of species of conservation concern in suitable patches.