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An evaluation of central Iran’s protected areas under different climate change scenarios (A Case on Markazi and Hamedan provinces)

Abstract

Global climate change poses a new challenge for species and can even push some species toward an extinction vortex. The most affected organisms are those with narrow tolerance to the climatic factors but many large mammals such as ungulates with a wider ecological niche are also being affected indirectly. Our research mainly used wild sheep in central Iran as a model species to explore how the suitable habitats will change under different climatic scenarios and to determine if current borders of protected areas will adequately protect habitat requirements. To create habitat models we used animal-vehicle collision points as an input for species presence data. We ran habitat models using MaxEnt modeling approach under different climatic scenarios of the past, present and future (under the climatic scenarios for minimum (RCP2.6) and maximum (RCP8.5) CO2 concentration trajectories). We tried to estimate the overlap and the width of the ecological niche using relevant metrics. In order to analyze the effectiveness of the protected areas, suitable maps were concerted to binary maps using True Skill Statistic (TSS) threshold and measured the similarity of the binary maps for each scenario using Kappa index. In order to assess the competence of the present protected areas boundary in covering the distribution of species, two different scenarios were employed, which are ensemble scenario 1: an ensemble of the binary maps of the species distribution in Mid-Holocene, present, and RCP2.6; and ensemble scenario 2: an ensemble of binary suitability maps in Mid-Holocene, present, and RCP8.5. Then, the borders of modeled habitats with the boundaries of 23 existing protected areas in two central provinces in Iran were compared. The predicted species distribution under scenario 1 (RCP2.6) was mostly similar to its current distribution (Kappa = 0.53) while the output model under scenario 2 (RCP8.5) indicated a decline in the species distribution range. Under the first ensemble scenario, current borders of the protected areas in Hamedan province showed better efficiency to cover the model species distribution range. Analyzing MaxEnt spatial models under the second climatic scenario suggested that protected areas in both Markazi and Hamedan provinces will not cover “high suitability” areas in the future. Modeling the efficiency of the current protected areas under predicted future climatic scenarios can help the related authorities to plan conservation activities more efficiently.

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Karami, P., Rezaei, S., Shadloo, S. et al. An evaluation of central Iran’s protected areas under different climate change scenarios (A Case on Markazi and Hamedan provinces). J. Mt. Sci. 17, 68–82 (2020) doi:10.1007/s11629-019-5418-7

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Keywords

  • Climatic Scenarios
  • Species Distribution Modeling
  • Protected area
  • Niche modeling
  • Wild Sheep