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Effects of climate change on habitat and connectivity for populations of a vulnerable, endemic salamander in Iran

May 17, 2019

Habitat loss and fragmentation are among the biggest threats to amphibian populations and anthropogenic climate change may exacerbate these. The response of Iran's amphibians to climate change is uncertain and yet making an accurate prediction of how the species will respond is critical for conservation. We assessed how expected future climate scenarios before the years 2050 and 2070 might influence the geographic distribution and habitat connectivity of the Lorestan Mountain Newt (Neurergus kaiseri). We examined presence data (2010–2018) of the species according to environmental and anthropogenic factors, and created an ensemble model of habitat suitability based on eight species distribution models (SDMs). Then, we used the concept of circuit theory to estimate potential linkages between the habitat patches. We applied the ensemble calibrated models and quantified spatial connectivity to assess the influence of climate change on the species range for the years 2050 and 2070 under four representative concentration pathways (RCPs) of three general circulation models (GCMs). Models using current climate predicted that 6.8% of the 267,609 km2 study area has suitable conditions for the species, but only about 7% of these climatically suitable landscapes are covered by conservation areas. Temperature and precipitation-related climatic variables made the largest contribution to the distribution model. Under projected climate conditions, we found a decline of 56–98% of the suitable habitat and predicted a potential for distributional shifts towards higher elevations by 2050 and 2070. Although there is relatively good connectivity between many habitat patches today, models predict that suitable areas available to the newt will become increasingly fragmented under projected climate change scenarios. Our findings support the hypothesis that projected climatic shifts will negatively influence suitable habitats of amphibians and likely cause upward shifts in elevation in range of some species. Identifying potentially suitable habitats and important linkages between habitat patches under different climate scenarios are crucial steps in conservation planning for the Lorestan Mountain Newt.

Publication Year 2019
Title Effects of climate change on habitat and connectivity for populations of a vulnerable, endemic salamander in Iran
DOI 10.1016/j.gecco.2019.e00637
Authors Mohammad Reza Ashrafzadeh, Ali Asghar Naghipour, Maryam Haidarian, Szilvia Kusza, David S. Pilliod
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Ecology and Conservation
Index ID 70204004
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosys Science Center; Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center