Predicting range shifts of African apes under global change scenarios


Carvalho JS, Graham B, Bocksberger G, Maisels F, Williamson EA, Wich S, Sop T, Amarasekaran B, Barca B, Barrie A, Bergl RA, Boesch C, Boesch H, Brncic TM & Morgan BJ (2021) Predicting range shifts of African apes under global change scenarios. Diversity and Distributions, 27 (9), pp. 1663-1679.

Aim Modelling African great ape distribution has until now focused on current or past conditions, while future scenarios remain scarcely explored. Using an ensemble forecasting approach, we predicted changes in taxon-specific distribution under future scenarios of climate, land use and human populations for (1) areas outside protected areas (PAs) only (assuming complete management effectiveness of PAs), (2) the entire study region and (3) interspecies range overlap. Location Tropical Africa. Methods We compiled occurrence data (n = 5,203) on African apes from the IUCN A.P.E.S. database and extracted relevant climate-, habitat- and human-related predictors representing current and future (2050) conditions to predict taxon-specific range change under a best- and a worst-case scenario, using ensemble forecasting. Results The predictive performance of the models varied across taxa. Synergistic interactions between predictors are shaping African ape distribution, particularly human-related variables. On average across taxa, a range decline of 50% is expected outside PAs under the best scenario if no dispersal occurs (61% in worst scenario). Otherwise, an 85% range reduction is predicted to occur across study regions (94% worst). However, range gains are predicted outside PAs if dispersal occurs (52% best, 21% worst), with a slight increase in gains expected across study regions (66% best, 24% worst). Moreover, more than half of range losses and gains are predicted to occur outside PAs where interspecific ranges overlap. Main Conclusions Massive range decline is expected by 2050, but range gain is uncertain as African apes will not be able to occupy these new areas immediately due to their limited dispersal capacity, migration lag and ecological constraints. Given that most future range changes are predicted outside PAs, Africa's current PA network is likely to be insufficient for preserving suitable habitats and maintaining connected ape populations. Thus, conservation planners urgently need to integrate land use planning and climate change mitigation measures at all decision-making levels both in range countries and abroad.

bonobo; chimpanzee; climate change; gorilla; great ape; human population scenarios; IUCN SSC A.P.E.S. database; land use change; protected areas; species distribution modelling

Diversity and Distributions: Volume 27, Issue 9

Publication date30/09/2021
Publication date online06/06/2021
Date accepted by journal17/05/2021