Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 1223–1233 | Cite as

Changes in future potential distributions of apex predator and mesopredator mammals in North America

  • Ranjit PandeyEmail author
  • Monica Papeş
Original Article


Climate change has determined shifts in distributions of species and changing climates are likely to continue to affect species in the future. In this study, we used Maxent, an ecological niche modeling algorithm, to estimate the potential future distributions of apex predator and mesopredator mammals in boreal forest and tundra biomes of North America. We projected the climatic niche models of apex predators and mesopredators on future climate datasets based on three global circulation models (Beijing Climate Center Climate System Model, Hadley Global Environment Model, and Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate Earth System Model) and four greenhouse gas emission scenarios (RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP6, and RCP8.5). Under future climate projections, the potential distributions of most of the predators studied increased by 2050 and 2070. The potential distributions of two apex predators (brown bear, Ursus arctos, and polar bear, U. maritimus) and two mesopredator species (Canadian lynx, Lynx canadensis, and Arctic fox, Vulpes lagopus) were predicted to decline under all emission scenarios, by 2050 and 2070. The only apex predator that was predicted to increase its distribution under all greenhouse gas emission scenarios was U. americanus (American black bear). Similarly, distributions of mesopredators like Mephitis mephitis (striped skunk), and Procyon lotor (raccoon) were predicted to increase greatly under future climate conditions of all four emission scenarios. Predicted expansions of distribution ranges of most mesopredators and contractions of distribution ranges of apex predators included in this study may result in changes of species interactions in North American boreal forests and tundras in the future.


Boreal forest Carnivores Climate change Ecological niche model Maxent Tundra 



We thank E. Smithwick and two anonymous reviewers for suggestions that improved our manuscript. We also thank K. Baum and M. Bolek for the feedback regarding the study design and for the comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10113_2017_1265_Fig3_ESM.gif (231 kb)

Estimated current distribution ranges of North American apex predator and mesopredator mammal species from boreal forest and tundra biomes. Areas predicted suitable with climate niche models in Maxent algorithm are shown in blue, whereas the areas predicted unsuitable are shown in yellow. The orange dots represent occurrences used to generate the climate niche models. The diagonal line pattern represents the IUCN range map of the species. (GIF 231 kb)

10113_2017_1265_MOESM1_ESM.tif (5.4 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 5556 kb)
10113_2017_1265_Fig4_ESM.gif (359 kb)

Estimated changes in ranges of North American apex predator and mesopredator mammal species from boreal forest and tundra biomes, form current to 2070. Only mean potential distributions are shown, averaged over five model replicates, three general circulation models, for the two medium stabilization scenarios (RCP4.5 and RCP6). Yellow areas represent no change (suitable or unsuitable), red areas represent loss in potential distribution (predicted as suitable under current climate and unsuitable under climate scenarios for 2070), and blue areas represent gain in potential distribution (predicted unsuitable under current climate and suitable under climate scenarios for 2070). The diagonal line pattern shows the IUCN range map of species. (GIF 359 kb)

10113_2017_1265_MOESM2_ESM.tif (9.6 mb)
High resolution image (TIFF 9787 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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