Livestock-driven land use change to model species distributions: Egyptian vulture as a case study

  • Mateo-Tomas P
  • Olea P
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Abstract

Species distribution models (SDMs) are increasingly used to predict species ranges and their shifts under future scenarios of global environmental change (GEC). SDMs are thus incorporating key drivers of GEC (e.g. climate, land use) to improve predictions of species' habitat suitability (i.e. as an indicator of species occurrence). Yet, most SDMs incorporating land use only consider dominant land cover types, largely ignoring other key aspects of land use such as land management intensity and livestock. We developed SDMs including main land use components (i.e. land cover, livestock and its management intensity) to assess their relative importance in shaping habitat suitability for the Egyptian vulture, an endangered raptor linked to livestock presence. We modelled current and future (2020 and 2050) habitat suitability for this vulture using an organism-centred approach. This allowed us to account for basic species' habitat needs (i.e. nesting cliff) while gaining insight into our variables of interest (i.e. livestock and land cover). Once nest-site requirements were fulfilled, land use variables (i.e. openland and sheep and goat density) were the main factors determining species' habitat suitability. Current suitable area could decrease by up to 6.81{%} by 2050 under scenarios with rapid economic growth but no focus on environmental conservation and rural development. Local solutions to environmental sustainability and rural development could double current habitat suitability by 2050. Land use is expected to play a key role in determining Egyptian vulture's distribution through land cover change but also through changes in livestock management (i.e. species and stocking density). Change in stocking densities (sheep and goats/km(2)) becomes thus an indicator of habitat suitability for this vulture in our study area. Abandonment of agro-pastoral practises (i.e. below similar to 15-20 sheep and goats/km(2)) will negatively influence the species distribution. Nonetheless, livestock densities above these values will not further increase habitat suitability. Given the widespread impacts of livestock on ecosystems, the role of livestock and its management intensity in SDMs for other (non-livestock-related) species should be further explored. (C) 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • biodiversity
  • biomod2
  • birds
  • conservation
  • declines
  • extinction
  • habitat
  • land management intensity
  • management
  • neophron percnopterus
  • neophron-percnopterus
  • prediction
  • scenarios
  • sheep and goat
  • species distribution model

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Authors

  • P Mateo-Tomas

  • P P Olea

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