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Biodiversity. Confronting amphibian declines and extinctions.

by Marco Girardello, Matteo Griggio, Mark J. Whittingham, Stephen P. Rushton
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ()
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Abstract

The relationships between the distribution of animal species and climatic variables is not only important for understanding which factors govern species distribution but also for improving our ability to predict future ecological responses to climate change. In the context of global climate change, amphibians are of particular interest because of their extreme sensitivity to the variation of temperature and precipitation regimes. We analyzed speciesclimate relationships for 17 amphibian species occurring in Italy using species distribution data at the 10  10 km resolution. A machine learning method, Random Forests, was used to model the distribution of amphibians in relation to a set of 18 climatic variables. The results showed that the variables which had the highest importance were those related to precipitation, indicating that precipitation is an important factor in determining amphibian distribution. Future projections showed a complex response of species distributions, emphasizing the potential severity of climate change on the distributions of amphibians in Italy. The species that will decrease the most are those occurring in mountainous and Mediterranean areas. Our results provide some preliminary information that could be useful for amphibian conservation, indicating if future conservation priorities for some species should be enhanced.

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