Predicting future threats to the long-term survival of Gila trout using a high-resolution simulation of climate change
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- Kennedy, T.L., Gutzler, D.S. & Leung, R.L. Climatic Change (2009) 94: 503. doi:10.1007/s10584-008-9503-0
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Regional climates are a major factor in determining the distribution of many species. Anthropogenic inputs of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere have been predicted to cause rapid climatic changes in the next 50–100 years. Species such as the Gila trout (Oncorhynchus gilae) that have small ranges, limited dispersal capabilities, and narrow physiological tolerances will become increasingly susceptible to extinction as their climate envelope changes. This study uses a regional climate change simulation (Leung et al., Clim Change 62:75–113, 2004) to determine changes in the climate envelope for Gila trout, which is sensitive to maximum temperature, associated with a plausible scenario for greenhouse gas increases. These regional climate changes are downscaled to derive surface temperature lapse rates using regression models. This procedure indicates that suitable, warm season habitat for Gila trout will be reduced by 70% by decreasing the size of their climate envelope. Warmer temperatures coupled with a decrease in summer precipitation would also tend to increase the intensity and frequency of forest fires that are a major threat to their survival. The climate envelope approach utilized here could be used to assess climate change threats to other rare species with limited ranges and dispersal capabilities.