Predicting the effect of interspecific competition on habitat suitability for the endangered African wild dog under future climate and land cover changes


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. 


Biotic interactions; Carnivores; Global biodiversity databases; Global change; Lycaon pictus; Niche overlap; Panthera leo; Species Distribution Modelling

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Copyright (c) 2016 Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy

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Hystrix, the Italian Journal of Mammalogy ISSN 1825-5272 (electronic version) 0394-1914 (printed version) Impact Factor (2016) 1.479, CiteScore (2016) 3.51.
Published by Associazione Teriologica Italiana
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