CR prepress abstract  -  doi: 10.3354/cr01463

Global warming drives changes in carnivore communities in the North Sahara desert

Yamna Karssene*, Mohsen Chammem, Touhami Khorchani, Said Nouira, Fengqing Li*


ABSTRACT: Global warming is among the most serious environmental challenges facing ecosystems worldwide, due to rising temperatures and altered precipitation regimes. The North African Sahara desert is considered to be one of the areas most affected by the climate change, which will probably lead to the likely retraction of the Mediterranean ecosystem and an increase in desertification. In this study, we aim to examine the effect of global warming on three carnivore species (Canis anthus, Vulpes vulpes and Vulpes zerda) in the North African Sahara desert in the 2000s, 2030s, 2050s, and 2080s using species distribution models (SDMs). Species occurrence records were collected from 175 sites, covering all of the arid and desertified areas of Tunisia between January 2014 and January 2016. Our results show that elevation and annual mean temperature are the most important factors associated with the distribution of Vulpes zerda, while temperature and precipitation have major contributions to make in the distribution of Canis anthus and Vulpes vulpes. Future climate change in the North Sahara desert will reduce the spatial distribution of suitable habitats for Canis anthus and Vulpes vulpes; Vulpes zerda will decrease in numbers around the 2030s and increase again thereafter. Our findings suggest that the ongoing warming effect will cause continued range shifts in carnivores; thus there is an urgent need for efficient conservation practices for carnivores to be implemented in this climatically vulnerable area.