Predicting the effect of interspecific competition on habitat suitability for the endangered African wild dog under future climate and land cover changes
Megan Jones 1,  
Orly Razgour 3  
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Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland
Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), Leiden University, PO Box 9518, 2300 RA Leiden, and Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL), Leiden University, PO Box 9505, 2300 RA Leiden 4
Biological & Environmental Sciences, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, Scotland; School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Life Sciences Building, Bristol BS8 1TQ and Biological Sciences, University of Southampton, Life Sciences Building, Southampton SO17 1BJ
Publish date: 2016-06-26
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2016;27(1)

Apex predators play an important role in regulating ecological interactions, and therefore their loss can affect biodiversity across trophic levels. Large carnivores have experienced substantial population and range declines across Africa, and future climate change is likely to amplify these threats. Hence it is important to understand how future environmental changes will affect their long-term habitat suitability and population persistence. This study aims to identify the factors limiting the distribution of the endangered African wild dog, Lycaon pictus, and determine how biotic interactions and changing climate and land cover will affect future range suitability. We use Species Distribution Models (SDMs) to predict the current and future distribution of suitable conditions for L. pictus and its dominant competitor Panthera leo. We show that range suitability for L. pictus is limited by climatic and land cover variables, as well as high niche and range overlap with P. leo. Although both species are predicted to experience range contractions under future climate change, L. pictus may benefit from release from the effect of interspecific competition in eastern and central parts of its range. Our study highlights the importance of including land cover variables with corresponding future projections and incorporating the effects of competing species when predicting the future distribution of species whose ranges are not solely limited by climate. We conclude that SDMs can help identify priority areas for the long-term conservation of large carnivores, and therefore should be used to inform adaptive conservation management in face of future climate change.