Iberian Lynx Likely To Go Extinct Despite Current Conservation Methods, Research Finds

The nearly €100 million that have spent on conservation efforts for the Iberian lynx so far have likely been in vain — as the methods are insufficient to prevent the species extinction when other environmental factors such as climate change are factored in, according to new research from the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. The researchers argue that to avoid the extinction of the species that they will need to be reintroduced throughout much of their previous range — rather than simply trying to maintain the two populations that currently exist.

Iberian Lynx Image Credit: Lynx via Wikimedia Commons
Iberian Lynx
Image Credit: Lynx via Wikimedia Commons

The new research has found that the Iberian lynx is very likely to become extinct within the next 50 years as a result of the current management plans not accounting for the effects of climate change, and other factors. The research makes the importance of integrating climate models into management plans for biodiversity very clear.

“Our models show that the anticipated climate change will lead to a rapid and dramatic decline of the Iberian lynx and probably eradicate the species within 50 years, in spite of the present-day conservation efforts. The only two populations currently present, will not be able to spread out or adapt to the changes in time,” states Miguel Araújo from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. “Fortunately, it is not too late to improve the outlook for the endangered lynx, if the management plans begin to take account of climate change.”

The University of Copenhagen continues:

The Iberian lynx is threatened by poaching, road kills, habitat loss and lack of prey following a series of disease outbreaks in the rabbit populations. Therefore, significant investments are currently made to relocate rabbits, prevent diseases, reduce threats and improve the lynx’s natural habitat. Unfortunately it is not enough, show new models that investigate how climate change will influence the availability of prey and quality of natural areas in the future.

The scientists also modeled two other scenarios for the Iberian lynx, both based on a future prospect for releasing individuals from breeding programs into wild areas. They paint a more optimistic picture for the lynx’s survival, but the models clearly show that release programs also need to account for future climate change in order to achieve the best possible result.

While Spanish policymakers are considering releasing lynxes evenly across the country’s autonomous regions, the scientists’ models predict the most suitable areas to be in the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula. These areas could ultimately deliver both prey abundance and habitat
connectivity in spite of climate change. According to the models it may increase the population up to nearly 900 individuals by 2090. In comparison, the geopolitical strategy will at best maintain the population around the current 250 individuals.

The new findings were just published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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