Study by KAU scientists is on possible response of species to climate change
The Black-and-orange flycatcher (BOF) and the Nilgiri flycatcher (NIF), two bird species endemic to the Western Ghats, may suffer a substantial loss of their suitable habitat by 2050 due to climate change.
A recent study by the Kerala Agricultural University indicates that climate change may cost 31% and 46% of the range of the Black-and-orange flycatcher and the Nilgiri flycatcher respectively. These flycatchers are commonly seen in high elevations (above 700 m) of the Ghats. The study has been published in the scientific journal Current Science.
E.R. Sreekumar and P.O. Nameer of the Department of Wildlife Science, College of Forestry, KAU, undertook the study on the two species to know how they respond to the predicted climate change scenarios.
Climate change can adversely affect several species and they may lose their potential habitat, shift their range, or become locally extinct, says Mr. Nameer.
They prepared species distribution models and climate models to understand the current potential suitability and possible response of the species to climate change.
“We observed the loss of suitable areas of the Nilgiri flycatcher in its entire range. In the case of the Black-and-orange flycatcher, loss of suitable locations occurred in the Anamalai, Pandalam, and Agasthyamalai compared to other regions,” he says.
The study shows that 75% of the currently suitable areas of both species lie outside the protected area network of the Western Ghats. “The most suitable locations for these two flycatchers in the Anamalai and Nilgiri hills lie outside the protected area network. Regions within the Agasthyamalai hills, Pandalam hills, Anamalai hills, and Nilgiri hills are the core habitats for both species of flycatchers. They have a high preference for montane habitats.”
The study found that climate change may threaten more than 40% of the available suitable areas for both species. Specialised habitats such as shola are under threat from various human activities and invasive plant species.
The researchers suggest that wildlife managers in Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu need to take urgent action to realign the boundaries of the existing protected area network to include the suitable regions of these flycatchers for their long-term conservation. These endemic species need more specific conservation prescriptions, for which more detailed autecological studies must be carried out, they add.
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