Tracking mammals in a Lebanese protected area using environmental DNA-based approach
Authors: Liliane Boukhdoud, Carole Saliba, Rhea Kahale, Magda Bou Dagher Kharrat
Abstract: Mediterranean forest mammals are still poorly known, and few localities have been properly studied in the East Mediterranean Region (EMR). According to the IUCN Red List, many recorded species in this region are listed as threatened or endangered. Despite all threats, better management and more investments in species monitoring would surely improve the efficiency of biodiversity conservation projects to protect Mediterranean forest mammals. Protected reserves are of utmost importance for the conservation of native flora and fauna. Hereby, we provide a survey of mammals through a noninvasive technique based on environmental DNA extracted from scats. Samples were collected over 1 year covering all seasons from an important site for biodiversity conservation and scientific researches, the Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve. A total of 18 vertebrate species were recorded, many of them are endemic for the region and/or threatened especially in Lebanon. The use of noninvasive sampling method combined with genetic analysis of scats proved to be a powerful tool for species detection in a highly biodiverse protected area and can be easily replicated in any region around the world to rapidly assess species richness and therefore to apply direct conservation and management strategies toward species of interest.