Evaluating potential of arid and semi-arid regions in maintaining suitable habitats for montane ungulates under climate change Case study: wild sheep (Ovis sp) and wild goat (Capra aegagrus)
Shima Malakoutikhah, Sima Fakheran, Mahmoud Reza Hemami, Josef Senn
Over the last few decades, human threats have imposed widespread negative impacts on populations of ungulates in Iran. While, climate change may also additionally increase vulnerability of the ungulates through changing current environmental conditions in future. In this study, impact of future climate change on distribution of two vulnerable ungulates of wild sheep (Ovis sp) and wild goat (Capra aegagrus) and changes in their current distribution along altitudinal and latitudinal gradients were investigated. Future predictions were made using an ensemble modelling approach and climate data prepared by five global circulation models based on RCP 8. 5. Future range shifts by 2070 were also estimated by calculating the difference between mean elevation and difference of geographic distance between centroids of current and future distribution ranges, respectively. Results indicated that as a result of climate change, more than 68% and 75% of suitable habitats for wild sheep and wild goat may become lost by 2070, respectively mostly across low elevations of southern (south Khorasan, Yazd and Fars) and central (east of Isfahan) parts. Climate change also resulted in proportions of currently unsuitable habitats to become suitable expansion of which was limited to northern part (Semnan province). Result of evaluations also revealed that current distributions of wild sheep and wild goat may change as much as 27 and 150 m and; 167 and 124 km along elevational and latitudinal gradients, respectively.