Bioclimatic constraints to Andean cat distribution: A modelling application for rare species

Jorgelina Marino*, Magdalena Bennett, Daniel Cossios, Agustin Iriarte, Mauro Lucherini, Patricio Pliscoff, Claudio Sillero-Zubiri, Lilian Villalba, Susan Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations

Abstract

Aim To identify the bioclimatic niche of the endangered Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita), one of the rarest and least known felids in the world, by developing a species distribution model. Location South America, High Andes and Patagonian steppe. Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina. Methods We used 108 Andean cat records to build the models, and 27 to test them, applying the Maxent algorithm to sets of uncorrelated bioclimatic variables from global databases, including elevation. We based our biogeographical interpretations on the examination of the predicted geographic range, the modelled response curves and latitudinal variations in climatic variables associated with the locality data. Results Simple bioclimatic models for Andean cats were highly predictive with only 3-4 explanatory variables. The climatic niche of the species was defined by extreme diurnal variations in temperature, cold minimum and moderate maximum temperatures, and aridity, characteristic not only of the Andean highlands but also of the Patagonian steppe. Argentina had the highest representation of suitable climates, and Chile the lowest. The most favourable conditions were centrally located and spanned across international boundaries. Discontinuities in suitable climatic conditions coincided with three biogeographical barriers associated with climatic or topographic transitions. Main conclusions Simple bioclimatic models can produce useful predictions of suitable climatic conditions for rare species, including major biogeographical constraints. In our study case, these constraints are also known to affect the distribution of other Andean species and the genetic structure of Andean cat populations. We recommend surveys of areas with suitable climates and no Andean cat records, including the corridor connecting two core populations. The inclusion of landscape variables at finer scales, crucially the distribution of Andean cat prey, would contribute to refine our predictions for conservation applications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-322
Number of pages12
JournalDiversity and Distributions
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Andes
  • Biogeographical barriers
  • Biogeography
  • Climatic niche
  • Species distribution models

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