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Responses of an endangered brown bear population to climate change based on predictable food resource and shelter alterations

AuthorsPenteriani, Vincenzo ; Zarzo-Arias, Alejandra; Novo-Fernández, Alís; Bombieri, Giulia; López-Sánchez, Carlos A.
KeywordsBrown bear, Climate change, Forested landscapes, Geographic range, Endangered populations, Trophic resources, Shelter, Ursus arctos
Issue Date2019
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
CitationGlobal Change Biology 25: 1133- 1151 (2019)
AbstractThe survival of an increasing number of species is threatened by climate change: 20%–30% of plants and animals seem to be at risk of range shift or extinction if global warming reaches levels projected to occur by the end of this century. Plant range shifts may determine whether animal species that rely on plant availability for food and shelter will be affected by new patterns of plant occupancy and availability. Brown bears in temperate forested habitats mostly forage on plants and it may be expected that climate change will affect the viability of the endangered populations of southern Europe. Here, we assess the potential impact of climate change on seven plants that represent the main food resources and shelter for the endangered population of brown bears in the Cantabrian Mountains (Spain). Our simulations suggest that the geographic range of these plants might be altered under future climate warming, with most bear resources reducing their range. As a consequence, this brown bear population is expected to decline drastically in the next 50 years. Range shifts of brown bear are also expected to displace individuals from mountainous areas towards more humanized ones, where we can expect an increase in conflicts and bear mortality rates. Additional negative effects might include: (a) a tendency to a more carnivorous diet, which would increase conflicts with cattle farmers; (b) limited fat storage before hibernation due to the reduction of oak forests; (c) increased intraspecific competition with other acorn consumers, that is, wild ungulates and free-ranging livestock; and (d) larger displacements between seasons to find main trophic resources. The magnitude of the changes projected by our models emphasizes that conservation practices focused only on bears may not be appropriate and thus we need more dynamic conservation planning aimed at reducing the impact of climate change in forested landscapes.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14564
Identifiersdoi: 10.1111/gcb.14564
issn: 1365-2486
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