No place to hide: Limited forest cover hampers the availability of suitable habitat for lynx in the Netherlands

In Europe, centuries-long of overharvesting and hunting of large herbivores and carnivores has resulted in extinctions of large mammals, such as the lynx (Lynx lynx). With the expansion of lynx distributions via recolonisation and reintroduction programmes, it is possible that the lynx will again recolonise the Netherlands. This study identified the most important predictors for lynx habitat suitability in the Netherlands and areas in the Netherlands where the ecological requirements of the lynx are met. The habitat suitability model showed that forest cover is the most important factor limiting the potential for the lynx in the Netherlands. The model shows that only four patches with suitable habitat of sufficient size to support at least one female lynx. Only one patch, covering the Veluwe, has enough room for four female territories and one male territory. The total range of suitable lynx habitat in the Netherlands amounts to 1054 square kilometres, although these patches are disconnected. While the species’ selectiveness
for forest might decrease over time through increased plasticity, the Netherlands has a very limited of amount of forestland, which is highly fragmented. We therefore conclude that the Netherlands’ fragmented forests are not suitable for sustaining a viable lynx population at this moment.