Understanding potential responses of large carnivore to climate change
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Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
Department of Biogeography and Global Change, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN-CSIC), 28006 Madrid, Spain
Universidad de Oviedo, C/ San Francisco, 3, 33003 Oviedo, Asturias, Spain
National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN), Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), c/José Gutiérrez Abascal 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
Online publication date: 2022-11-29
Publication date: 2022-11-29
Hystrix It. J. Mamm. 2022;33(2):126–133
Large carnivores are keystone species in the ecosystems that they inhabit, and the warming climate is harming a majority of the species. Here, we review the literature that spanned the years 1991-2022 on fifteen large carnivore species and their response to climate change via the proxies of (1) habitat alterations; (2) diet profile changes; and (3) behavioural changes. The literature review highlighted that 15 large carnivore species had been taken into account by 164 studies (87 on habitat, 59 on diet, 18 on behaviour) on potential climate change effects in five continents. Eighty-seven studies featured projected or current changes in suitable habitat due to climate change, 59 studies featured projected or current changes in preferred diet due to climate change, and 18 studies covered proposed or current behaviour changes in response to climate change. Of the 87 habitat studies, 66 (78%) were categorized as negative, i.e., when a potential reduction in resources has been projected. Of the 59 diet studies, 39 (66%) were categorized as negative. Despite the evidence that information on how large carnivore habitats, diets, and behaviours might be affected by climate change are still scarce for several species and/or geographical areas, most of the available predictions point to an unfortunate truth. Species with habitats susceptible to considerable alterations will probably experience a severe local decline in the next few decades. Loss of suitable habitats and decreased food availability, which has been forecasted for most large carnivores, might also induce these species to shift their home ranges in search of alternative food sources. These may include areas where they are more likely to experience more conflict with humans. Large carnivores require long-term conservation, management strategies, and more research to develop a deeper understanding of climate change’s impacts and establish pre-emptive measures ensuring population viability in the following decades.