redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The most endangered species of cat on Earth will die out within the next five decades unless current conservation plans are updated to account for the effects of climate change, researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate claim in a new study.
Approximately $130 million dollars have been spent to date attempting to protect the 250 Iberian lynxes remaining in the wild. However, efforts to prevent their extinction could be enhanced – and the population could potentially even begin to increase – if experts began incorporating climate models into current biodiversity management programs, according to study author Miguel Araujo.
“Our models show that the anticipated climate change will lead to a rapid and dramatic decline of the Iberian lynx and probably eradicate the species within 50 years, in spite of the present-day conservation efforts,” Araujo, a professor at the university who is also affiliated with the Natural History Museum of Denmark, explained in a statement.
“The only two populations currently present, will not be able to spread out or adapt to the changes in time” he added. “Fortunately, it is not too late to improve the outlook for the endangered lynx, if the management plans begin to take account of climate change.”
The Iberian lynx faces a number of threats, including poaching, loss of habitat and a decrease in prey following a recent series of disease outbreaks in rabbit populations, the researchers explain. To combat those issues, great efforts are being made to relocate rabbits, prevent diseases, reduce external threats and strengthen the creatures’ natural habitat – but those efforts are inadequate, according to Araujo’s report.
The study, which appears in a recent edition of the journal Nature Climate Change, considers new models which investigate how global warming will alter the availability of prey and the quality of natural areas in the years ahead. The study concludes that, “carefully planned reintroductions” could result in population increases.
“The scientists also modeled two other scenarios for the Iberian lynx, both based on a future prospect for releasing individuals from breeding programs into wild areas,” the university said. “They paint a more optimistic picture for the lynx’s survival, but the models clearly show that release programs also need to account for future climate change in order to achieve the best possible result.”
Araujo’s team asserts releasing lynxes in the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula would provide them with the best chance of survival, instead of an even redistribution across Spain as some decision makers are said to be considering.
The northern Iberian Peninsula would provide habitat connectivity, even factoring in climate change, while also offering an abundant amount of prey for the critically endangered species of feline. In fact, the models suggest by the year 2090, the population could increase the lynx population to nearly 900 individuals, they claim.