Anticipated climate change will rapidly decrease the number of wild Iberian lynx and may lead to its extinction in the next 50 years, reports a paper published in Nature Climate Change this week. The work suggests that current conservation practices serve only to delay extinction and recommends a programme could avoid loss of the species by taking account of the impacts of climate change.
The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), native to parts of Southern Europe, has suffered a severe population decline due to a reduction in rabbit numbers - their main food source - thanks, in part, to overhunting by humans. Climate change could further threaten the survival of the lynx, however forecast effects of climatic changes are being neglected in recovery plans for the species.
Miguel Araujo and colleagues investigate the combined effects of climate change, prey availability and management intervention on the persistence of the Iberian lynx. They find that climate change will have a rapid and severe negative influence on the abundance of the Iberian lynx, exceeding its ability to adapt or disperse to more climatically favourable regions where prey densities are sufficient to support populations. The authors predict that this will be the case despite a global push to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. They suggest that a carefully planned reintroduction programme, accounting for the effects of climate change, prey abundance and habitat connectivity, could avert extinction of the lynx this century.
This work demonstrates why considering prey availability, climate change and their interaction is important when designing policies to prevent future biodiversity loss.