Effects of climate change on the endangered Nilgiri Tahr in southern Western Ghats
Large mammals are declining globally due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Climate change is one of the factors known to alter the range of several mammalian species. An early understanding of the effect of climate change on species distributions can provide critical information for conservation planning.
Nilgiri Tahr is an endangered hoofed mammal that is restricted to the montane grasslands of the Western Ghats in India. Currently, the Nilgiri Tahr is restricted to a fraction of its former range and is also prone to risks due to several ongoing human-induced pressures.
However, the impact of global climate change on this emblematic species has seldom been estimated. The goal of this study was to use ecological niche models to quantify the effect of climate change on the habitats of Nilgiri Tahr.
Using the maximum entropy algorithm, the potential distribution of Nilgiri Tahr in its native range was modeled. The models were developed under the current climatic conditions and then projected onto two future climate change scenarios and for three different time frames in the future (years 2030, 2050 and 2080).
The study identified that most of the climatically suitable habitats of Nilgiri Tahr would become unsuitable when global warming intensifies. The models predicted a complete loss of suitable habitats in many existing protected areas in the Western Ghats. Insights provided by the modeling results are used to propose conservation management plans for the Nilgiri Tahr.