Climate change could drive the Iberian lynx ‒ the world's most threatened cat to extinction within 50 years, despite substantial ongoing conservation efforts, a new international study has found.
Published today in Nature Climate Change, the research team says the impact of climate change must be incorporated in strategies to reintroduce the Iberian lynx to new habitats if the species is to be saved.
"We show that climate change could lead to a rapid and severe decrease in lynx abundance in coming decades, and probably lead to its extinction in the wild within 50 years," says lead author Dr Damien Fordham, from the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute. "Current management efforts could be futile if they don't take into account the combined effects of climate change, land use and prey abundance on population dynamics of the Iberian lynx."
The Iberian lynx is the world's most endangered cat species, with only an estimated 250 individuals surviving in the wild. Recent declines have been associated with sharp regional reductions in the abundance of its main prey, the European rabbit. Only two Iberian lynx populations persist in the wild compared with nine in the 1990s.
Over 90 million has been spent since 1994 to try and save the species, mainly through habitat management, reduction of destructive human activity and, more recently, reintroducing the lynx into suitable areas where they have lived in recent history.
Although there is evidence that lynx numbers have increased in the last ten years in response to intensive management, this study warns that the ongoing conservation strategies could buy just a few decades before the species goes extinct. This study is the most comprehensive conservation-management model yet developed of the effects of climate change on a predator and its prey.
"Models used to investigate how climate change will affect biodiversity have so far been unable to c
|Contact: Dr. Damien Fordham|
University of Adelaide