, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 621-637
Date: 14 Mar 2014

Climate change and landscape fragmentation jeopardize the population viability of the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)

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Abstract

The Amur tiger, a flagship species of the boreal forest ecosystem in Russian Far East and northeastern China, has declined dramatically in population and geographic distribution due to human caused habitat fragmentation and poaching over the past century. The fate of this largest feline species will also be influenced by the worsening impacts of climate change. In this paper we assess the possible effects of climate change (three scenarios from the 2007 IPCC Report) on the Amur tiger by integrating species distribution modeling (SDM) and population viability analysis (PVA). We projected the potential and realized suitable habitat distributions to examine the impacts from anthropogenic factors, and evaluated the changes of suitable habitat and extinction risk for 100 years under climate change. The realized suitable habitat was projected to be more severely fragmented than the potential suitable habitat because of human-related factors. The potential suitable habitat would expand northward under all climate change scenarios considered. However, the tiger population would suffer the largest decline and highest extinction risk in the next 100 years under the worst climate change scenario (A1B) even though the size of potential habitat would be greatest. Under climate change, the tiger population could persist for the next century only if the size and quality of current habitat patches would remain intact. In addition, our study demonstrated that using SDM alone could grossly overestimate the geographic distribution of the Amur tiger, and that coupling SDM and PVA could provide important insights into conservation planning to mitigate the effects of climate change.