Protected area network in Iran face a variety of challenges, including habitat loss and habitat fragmentation caused by transportation infrastructure in and around the national parks and wild life refuges. Road construction in sensitive habitats and protected areas has been expanding during the past decades and had deleterious effects on natural habitats in this semi-arid landscape of central Iran. Habitat fragmentation and loss of connectivity between different habitat patches are some of the disadvantages of the linear infrastructures. Monitoring and quantifying landscapes pattern changes due to road networks and other human activities in surrounding of protected areas are critical issue for protected area management and could also provide information on the "road less areas" for conservation planning in the future.
The aims of this study were to quantify the impacts of road networks on fragmentation of protected areas that are located in the western part of Isfahan province and to determine the valuable road less areas for designation and involvement in protected areas network.
The study area includes Ghamishlo National Park and wildlife refuge, Dalankouh Protected area, Mouteh wildlife refuge, and Palang-galoon prohibited hunting area, that in total covers an area of 13694 km2.
For quantifying habitat fragmentation, first; one Landsat 8 image was processed to prepare land cover map, then the road layer was added to land cover map and incorporate in urban class. Then the effective mesh size analysis was done and several other fragmentation metrics including Splitting Index and Degree of Division were also calculated for the study area. The results showed decreasing in Effective Mesh Size about 10.86%, indicated landscape fragmentation in the study area, caused by roads and human footprint. Increasing in Splitting Index and Degree of Division was around 12% and 57.4%, respectively.
Our results provided quantitative data on landscape fragmentation in western part of Isfahan province and indicated negative impacts of the roads on connectivity between habitat patches in this region, which presents a concern for the conservation and management of natural habitats in this vulnerable semi-arid landscape.
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