Protecting and expanding suitable habitats for wildlife is key to the conservation of endangered species, but owing to climate and land use change the ideal habitats of today may not be fitting in 30 or 50 years.
Protecting and expanding suitable habitats for wildlife is key to the conservation of endangered species, but owing to climate and land use change the ideal habitats of today may not be fitting in 30 or 50 years. An international team of scientists therefore predicted range shifts of Asian elephants in India and Nepal using species distribution models based on distribution data for the elephants and climate projections. While a few regions in the north and northeast of the subcontinent may provide more suitable habitats in the future, overall a heavy loss is probable in all scenarios. The complex effects of environmental change on the distribution of the elephants is elucidated in a paper published in the Journal „Diversity and Distributions”.
It is well known that climate change, land use change, changes in water cycles, and other influencing factors will cause redistribution of species – directly or indirectly. The details of these processes are very complex, however, as effects of global change is manifested very differently on a local scale. In a massive effort, scientists from Spain, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Italy, and Germany worked together in order to assess the combined effects of human pressures and climate change on Asian elephants’ distribution, embedded in the human-dominated landscapes in India and Nepal. „We compiled a large database of more than four thousand elephant occurrences and a large geodatabase of environmental predictor variables covering India and Nepal for this study”, explains Surendra P. Goyal (Wildlife Institute of India). In a first step, this allowed the scientists to predict the current spatial distribution of Asian elephants as a function of environmental variables. „In addition to ongoing human-induced disturbance, especially in the form of land-use change, elephant distribution is influenced by complex local scale interactions among precipitation and temperature, complicated by seasonal monsoon in this region”, explains lead author Rajapandian Kanagaraj from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN) in Madrid (Spain). The scientists estimated that around 256 thousand square kilometres of habitat are suitable for elephants in India and Nepal.
Read more at Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
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