Climate change may affect wildlife in Western Ghats

Climate change in the next half a century could severely reduce the extent of suitable habitats for wildlife endemic to the Western Ghats, such as the Indian brown mongoose ( Herpestes fuscus ), a paper recently published in Springer Nature warns.

The paper uses climate modelling techniques to attempt to quantify the probable extent of habitat loss that species like the brown mongoose will face in the coming decades.

The study could be key in not only warning of threats faced by the brown mongoose, but also other endemic “climate dependent” species of wildlife in the Western Ghats.

T.T. Shameer, one of the authors of the paper, said that the model predicts that based on the intensity of global heating in the coming decades, the habitat of the endemic brown mongoose could contract by anywhere between 20% (4,764 sq km) and 55.78% (13,233 sq km). The model has also predicted that the impact of climate change on the species would be most pronounced in the Nilgiri hill complex, as well as the Anaimalai, Periyar and Agasthyamalai complex.

“Extrapolating the results of habitat loss faced by the mongoose, we can assume that other endemic species too will face similar challenges,” said Dr. Shameer.

“Small-bodied mammals are generally considered as indicators of climate changes (sic) and ecological system imbalance. Our outcomes conceive of climate change on Herpestes fuscus demonstrates a huge extent of habitat space may change as unsuitable by the year 2070,” note the authors of the paper.

The researchers applied the climate modelling to the habitats of the brown mongoose primarily because it is “temperature and altitude dependent,” primarily inhabiting moist deciduous forests at altitudes above 1,500 meters above sea level, extending up to 2,600 meters above sea level, referred to as “Sky Islands.” These habitats are rich in biodiversity and are home to a huge variety of endemic wildlife.

R. Sanil, Associate Professor at the Department of Zoology and Wildlife Biology at the Government Arts College in Udhagamandalam, and another author of the paper, said that climate change threatens not only the brown mongoose, but also other endemic species, including the brown palm civet, the Nilgiri langur, Lion-tailed macaque, the Nilgiri Marten, as well as many species of endemic birds. He said that reduction in populations, and even extinction of these species, are a real threat in the coming decades.

“Climate change is a very real threat to the biodiversity of the Western Ghats. We need effective monitoring of these species of wildlife, as there is a dearth of data on populations of species like the brown mongoose and Nilgiri marten. These species will be the first to be impacted in the coming decades, so it is essential we start monitoring populations of these animals as soon as possible,” added Dr. Sanil.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2022 4:57:06 pm |