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2016-10-10. Climate refuges identified for endangered snow leopards.

posted Oct 11, 2016, 9:23 PM by Alan Gould

By Brett Israel, UC Berkeley News. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 8 and Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: A new study of snow leopards’ habitat has found that just one-third of their current range will be a refuge from climate change by 2070, as habitat loss and fragmentation in the Himalaya and Hengduan mountains threaten not just snow leopards, but other species in the region. Snow leopards live in remote, high-elevation area on and surrounding the Tibetan Plateau, known as “the roof of the world.” The region is warming more than twice as fast as the Northern Hemisphere on average, threatening endangered species that call it home. Among these species, snow leopards are critically important to the Tibetan Plateau ecosystem because they are apex predators, which keep the ecosystem in balance. To understand how snow leopards — and the entire ecosystem — will fare as the climate continues to change, researchers from UC Berkeley and Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, used past changes in the region to project future climate scenarios. “Substantial conservation challenges will emerge as vast areas of snow leopard habitat are lost and become increasingly fragmented as a result of climate change. Getting ahead of and addressing these challenges now is imperative for snow leopards, their landscapes and all the unique wildlife those landscapes support,” said Juan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Steven Beissinger, a professor of conservation biology at UC Berkeley. The research was published in a recent edition of the journal Biological Conservation.  ...The results suggest that snow leopards have experienced considerable habitat expansion, contraction and fragmentation across their range through these different climatic periods. Based on how snow leopard habitat has changed in the past, the computer modeling identified three large areas that are forecast to be refuges for snow leopards as the climate changes. These refuges are patches of habitat that have remained stable during past climate change events and are expected to remain as good snow leopard habitat through future climate change. ...“The results of our study demonstrate some optimism, but only if we can ensure the protection of snow leopard climate refuges from increasing human activities,” Li said....  http://news.berkeley.edu/2016/10/10/climate-refuges-identified-for-endangered-snow-leopards/