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Assessing the vulnerability of Australian skinks to climate change

Abstract

A framework for assessing species vulnerability to climate change was developed and applied to the largest family of reptiles in Australia, the scincid lizards (skinks). This framework integrated the projections of environmental niche models (ENMs) with an index of vulnerability based on the species’ ecological traits. We found vulnerability to be highly variable among species, suggesting that responses to climate change will be idiosyncratic, and identified a number of species that by virtue of their ecological traits and model projections may be at risk of significant range contractions in the near future. Importantly, we also found that extrinsic vulnerability (as measured by the degree of range change) and intrinsic vulnerability (based on species traits) were not correlated, highlighting the importance of considering both types of information. This framework provides a transparent and objective tool for assessing climate change vulnerability and can provide a basis upon which to develop conservation strategies.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Western Australian Museum, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service for access to their reptile locality records. Thanks to P. Wilson, L. Beaumont, D. Duursma and M. Steel for help with the environmental niche modelling. We are indebted to R. Shine, J. Webb, M. Bull, E. Wapstra, M. Thomson, H. Heatwole, N. Mitchell and A. Stow for their participation in the Delphi process and to H. Cogger for his encouragement and advice. The comments of two anonymous reviewers greatly improved an earlier draft of this manuscript. This research was funded by a Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship to AC.

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Correspondence to Abigail L. Cabrelli.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Online Resource 1

Table of trait values and projected change in climatic range size for each species, and the vulnerability group to which they were assigned. (XLSX 43 kb)

Online Resource 2

Species trait scores plotted against their projected change in range size. Each species has been assigned to one of six biogeographic zones based on their realised distributions: tropical / subtropical (86 species), temperate (39 species), arid / semi-arid (122 species), eastern (26 species), Mediterranean (17 species) and multiregional (25 species) (PDF 92 kb)

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Cite this article

Cabrelli, A.L., Hughes, L. Assessing the vulnerability of Australian skinks to climate change. Climatic Change 130, 223–233 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1358-6

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Keywords

  • Litter Size
  • Multivariate Adaptive Regression Spline
  • Boost Regression Tree
  • Trait Score
  • Climatic Range