International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Research Paper

Degree Name

Master of Science in GIS for Development and Environment (GISDE)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Florencia Sangermano


Gold mining activity is highly prevalent in the Madre de Dios region, Peru. This activity poses large environmental impacts including deforestation, sedimentation of rivers, and pollution from mercury used during extraction. Mining activity is a major threat to the endangered giant otter as it destroys its preferred riverine habitat. Moreover, mercury used during gold extraction bio-accumulates in fish, which constitutes the entirety of their diet. In order to conserve the giant otter, it is necessary to identify conservation priority areas. In a reactive conservation planning approach, the objective of this work was to prioritize areas suitable as giant otter habitat and vulnerable to mining activity. This study utilizes a habitat suitability model (Maxent) and a connectivity model (Circuitscape) to identify suitable habitats for giant otter. Vulnerable areas were identified through the combination of vulnerability to mining from a land change model (Terrset-LCM) and current protection status information. Highly suitable giant otter habitat was concentrated on the eastern portion of Madre de Dios, and was largely unprotected with over 69% of highly suitable habitat outside of protected and conservation areas. Movement pathway models identified low connectivity between protected areas. Areas of highest connectivity were concentrated along the Madre de Dios and Inambari rivers between the Tambopata National Reserve, Manu National Park, and Los Amigos Conservation Concession, which was also found vulnerable to deforestation from mining. Priority areas for giant otter conservation overlap with the Malinowsky and Castaña corridors proposed by the Amazon Conservation Association, providing support for implementation of these corridors.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.