Alpine glacial relict species losing out to climate change: The case of the fragmented mountain hare population (Lepus timidus) in the Alps

Rehnus, Maik; Bollmann, Kurt; Schmatz, Dirk R.; Hackländer, Klaus; Braunisch, Veronika (2018). Alpine glacial relict species losing out to climate change: The case of the fragmented mountain hare population (Lepus timidus) in the Alps. Global Change Biology, 24(7), pp. 3236-3253. Wiley 10.1111/gcb.14087

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Alpine and Arctic species are considered to be particularly vulnerable to climate change, which is expected to cause habitat loss, fragmentation and—ultimately—ex- tinction of cold-adapted species. However, the impact of climate change on glacial relict populations is not well understood, and specific recommendations for adaptive conservation management are lacking. We focused on the mountain hare (Lepus timidus) as a model species and modelled species distribution in combination with patch and landscape-based connectivity metrics. They were derived from graph-the- ory models to quantify changes in species distribution and to estimate the current and future importance of habitat patches for overall population connectivity. Models were calibrated based on 1,046 locations of species presence distributed across three biogeographic regions in the Swiss Alps and extrapolated according to two IPCC scenarios of climate change (RCP 4.5 & 8.5), each represented by three down- scaled global climate models. The models predicted an average habitat loss of 35% (22%–55%) by 2100, mainly due to an increase in temperature during the reproduc- tive season. An increase in habitat fragmentation was reflected in a 43% decrease in patch size, a 17% increase in the number of habitat patches and a 34% increase in inter-patch distance. However, the predicted changes in habitat availability and connectivity varied considerably between biogeographic regions: Whereas the great- est habitat losses with an increase in inter-patch distance were predicted at the southern and northern edges of the species’ Alpine distribution, the greatest increase in patch number and decrease in patch size is expected in the central Swiss Alps. Finally, both the number of isolated habitat patches and the number of patches crucial for maintaining the habitat network increased under the different variants of climate change. Focusing conservation action on the central Swiss Alps may help mitigate the predicted effects of climate change on population connectivity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Ecology and Evolution (IEE) > Conservation Biology

UniBE Contributor:

Braunisch, Veronika

Subjects:

500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)

ISSN:

1354-1013

Publisher:

Wiley

Language:

English

Submitter:

Olivier Roth

Date Deposited:

05 Jun 2019 15:25

Last Modified:

24 Oct 2019 20:27

Publisher DOI:

10.1111/gcb.14087

PubMed ID:

29532601

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.126990

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/126990

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