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Adapted conservation measures are required to save the Iberian lynx in a changing climate


The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) has suffered severe population declines in the twentieth century and is now on the brink of extinction1. Climate change could further threaten the survival of the species2, but its forecast effects are being neglected in recovery plans3,4. Quantitative estimates of extinction risk under climate change have so far mostly relied on inferences from correlative projections of species’ habitat shifts5. Here we use ecological niche models coupled to metapopulation simulations with source–sink dynamics6,7 to directly investigate the combined effects of climate change, prey availability and management intervention on the persistence of the Iberian lynx. Our approach is unique in that it explicitly models dynamic bi-trophic species interactions in a climate change setting. We show that anticipated climate change will rapidly and severely decrease lynx abundance and probably lead to its extinction in the wild within 50 years, even with strong global efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. In stark contrast, we also show 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. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, why considering prey availability, climate change and their interaction in models is important when designing policies to prevent future biodiversity loss.

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Figure 1: Forecast lynx abundance in the Iberian Peninsula from 2015 to 2090 under three climate change scenarios.
Figure 2: The effect of management intervention on the persistence of Iberian lynx.
Figure 3: Forecast location of lynx populations in the Iberian Peninsula in 2090.

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This research was initiated in a workshop at the National Museum of Natural Sciences, Madrid, led by M.B.A. and funded by FP6-MACIS SSP/STREP/0778. Australian Research Council (ARC) supported D.A.F., B.W.B. and M.J.W. (LP0989420, DP1096427, FT100100200 and FS110200051); NASA NNX09AK19G and NSF DEB-1146198 supported H.R.A.; FCT PTDC/AAC-AMB/98163/2008, Integrated Program of IC&DT No 1/SAESCTN/ALENT-07-0224-FEDER-001755, and Danish NSF supported M.B.A.; Spanish Research Council (CSIC; grant 200830I195) and the Andalusian Department of Innovation and Science (P06-RNM-01903) supported A.R. E. Virgós and C. Ferreira provided further expert advice on rabbit distribution and abundance. C. Mellin and N. Clisby generated the figures.

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The design of this project was the result of discussions involving all authors. M.B.A generated the ENMs. D.A.F., H.R.A., A.R., P.C.A, E.C. and M.T. coupled the ENMs to metapopulation simulations. D.A.F., H.R.A., B.W.B. and M.J.W. performed the analysis. D.A.F. and M.B.A. wrote the initial draft of the manuscript; and all authors contributed to the writing of the final version of the paper. All authors discussed the results and commented on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to M. B. Araújo.

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Fordham, D., Akçakaya, H., Brook, B. et al. Adapted conservation measures are required to save the Iberian lynx in a changing climate. Nature Clim Change 3, 899–903 (2013).

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