, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 1691-1702

Using historical accounts to set conservation baselines: the case of Lynx species in Spain

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Abstract

The knowledge of the historical range of organisms is necessary to understand distribution dynamics and their drivers as well as to set reference conditions and conservation goals. We reviewed written sources documenting the presence of lynxes in Spain between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, trying to infer whether Lynx records referred to the Iberian (Lynx pardinus) or the Eurasian (Lynx lynx) species. We compiled 151 spatially specific, non-redundant Lynx records, dating between 1572 and 1897. Records appeared split in two neatly separated areas, North and South. Arguably, all historical records from the South area correspond to Iberian lynx, since almost all of them fall within the estimated range of the species in the 1950s. This suggests that the core distribution area of the species remained relatively stable for centuries, until the second half of the twentieth century. The reported range in the 1950s is thus an appropriate scenario to set conservation goals for this critically endangered species. The North area extended from Galicia and northern Portugal to the Mediterranean, mainly occupying the Atlantic-climate area of northern Iberia. Reported direct measurements and the accumulation of indirect evidences suggest that most, if not all, northern Lynx records refer to the Eurasian lynx, which had been previously detected in archaeological sites of the area. This species was apparently present in the Iberian Peninsula until the early-nineteenth century. Our results provide an objective, baseline distribution of Lynx species in Spain useful to guide conservation efforts both at the Iberian and European levels.