Receding hare lines: climate change impacts on lagomorphs

Species distribution models are frequently used to predict the impact of climate change on individual species’ bioclimatic niches, but this study uses a novel framework to assess the bioclimatic future of an entire mammalian order (Lagomorpha) comprising hares, rabbits and pikas.

Data resources used via GBIF : 139,000 species occurrences
Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus)

Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus) by James Bailey via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Species distribution models are frequently used to predict the impact of climate change on individual species’ bioclimatic niches, but this study uses a novel framework to assess the bioclimatic future of an entire mammalian order (Lagomorpha) comprising hares, rabbits and pikas. Using a total of 139,000 occurrences mostly from the GBIF network, they modelled future distributions for 58 species, finding that by 2080, nearly one third of the Earth’s area will experience loss of lagomorph species. On average, all three families will exhibit 1.1° shifts towards the poles and 165-meter increases in elevation by 2100. With their limited ability to move, species living on islands or in high altitudes are likely to suffer greater impacts. The study finally calls for minimizing gaps in our knowledge of Lagomorpha in order to predict and possibly prevent future extinctions.

Citations

Leach K, Kelly R, Cameron A, Montgomery WI and Reid N (2015) Expertly Validated Models and Phylogenetically-Controlled Analysis Suggests Responses to Climate Change Are Related to Species Traits in the Order Lagomorpha. PLOS ONE. Public Library of Science (PLoS), e0122267. Available at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0122267.

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