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Cur­rent efforts will not save Iber­ian lynx, researchers say

pub­lished 22 July 2013 | mod­i­fied 30 May 2014

Almost 100 mil­lion euros has been spent so far on con­ser­va­tion efforts for the last 250 remain­ing Iber­ian lynxes in the wild. But the charis­matic species is likely to go extinct within 50 years because the cur­rent man­age­ment plans do not account for the effects of cli­mate change. If they did, the pop­u­la­tion might increase instead con­cludes a new inter­na­tional study with par­tic­i­pa­tion from the Cen­tre for Macro­e­col­ogy, Evo­lu­tion and Cli­mate at the Uni­ver­sity of Copen­hagen. The study, pub­lished online on 21 July in Nature Cli­mate Change, is the first of its kind to clearly demon­strate the impor­tance of mod­el­ling cli­mate change, prey avail­abil­ity and their inter­ac­tions in the devel­op­ment of man­age­ment plans.

Iberian lynx“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. The only two pop­u­la­tions cur­rently present, will not be able to spread out or adapt to the changes in time”, explains Miguel Araújo, cor­re­spond­ing author of the article.

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.
Miguel Araújo, Cen­ter for Macro­e­col­ogy, Evo­lu­tion and Cli­mate, Nat­ural His­tory Museum of Den­mark, Uni­ver­sity of Copenhagen »

The Iber­ian lynx is threat­ened by poach­ing, road kills, habi­tat loss and lack of prey fol­low­ing a series of dis­ease out­breaks in the rab­bit pop­u­la­tions. There­fore, sig­nif­i­cant invest­ments are cur­rently made to relo­cate rab­bits, pre­vent dis­eases, reduce threats and improve the lynx’s nat­ural habi­tat. Unfor­tu­nately it is not enough, show new mod­els that inves­ti­gate how cli­mate change will influ­ence the avail­abil­ity of prey and qual­ity of nat­ural areas in the future.

Care­fully planned rein­tro­duc­tions can increase pop­u­la­tion
The sci­en­tists also mod­elled two other sce­nar­ios for the Iber­ian lynx, both based on a future prospect for releas­ing indi­vid­u­als from breed­ing pro­grammes into wild areas. They paint a more opti­mistic pic­ture for the lynx’s sur­vival, but the mod­els clearly show that release pro­grammes, such as the Life Lince project, also need to account for future cli­mate change in order to achieve the best pos­si­ble result.

While Span­ish pol­i­cy­mak­ers are con­sid­er­ing releas­ing lynxes evenly across the country’s autonomous regions, the sci­en­tists’ mod­els pre­dict the most suit­able areas to be in the north­ern half of the Iber­ian Penin­sula. These areas could ulti­mately deliver both prey abun­dance and habi­tat con­nec­tiv­ity in spite of cli­mate change. Accord­ing to the mod­els it may increase the pop­u­la­tion up to nearly 900 indi­vid­u­als by 2090. In com­par­i­son, the geopo­lit­i­cal strat­egy will at best main­tain the pop­u­la­tion around the cur­rent 250 individuals.

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at the Uni­ver­sity of Copen­hagen. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.
(Source: Uni­ver­sity of Copen­hagen news, 21.07.2013)

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