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The projected effects of climatic and vegetation changes on the distribution and diversity of Southeast Asian bats


Correspondence: Alice C. Hughes, tel. + 0788 443 5658, fax + 0158 478 1608, e-mail:


Southeast-Asia (SEA) constitutes a global biodiversity hotspot, but is exposed to extensive deforestation and faces numerous threats to its biodiversity. Climate change represents a major challenge to the survival and viability of species, and the potential consequences must be assessed to allow for mitigation. We project the effects of several climate change scenarios on bat diversity, and predict changes in range size for 171 bat species throughout SEA. We predict decreases in species richness in all areas with high species richness (>80 species) at 2050–2080, using bioclimatic IPCC scenarios A2 (a severe scenario, continuously increasing human population size, regional changes in economic growth) and B1 (the ‘greenest’ scenario, global population peaking mid-century). We also predicted changes in species richness in scenarios that project vegetation changes in addition to climate change up to 2050. At 2050 and 2080, A2 and B1 scenarios incorporating changes in climatic factors predicted that 3–9% species would lose all currently suitable niche space. When considering total extents of species distribution in SEA (including possible range expansions), 2–6% of species may have no suitable niche space in 2050–2080. When potential vegetation and climate changes were combined only 1% of species showed no changes in their predicted ranges by 2050. Although some species are projected to expand ranges, this may be ecologically impossible due to potential barriers to dispersal, especially for species with poor dispersal ability. Only 1–13% of species showed no projected reductions in their current range under bioclimatic scenarios. An effective way to facilitate range shift for dispersal-limited species is to improve landscape connectivity. If current trends in environmental change continue and species cannot expand their ranges into new areas, then the majority of bat species in SEA may show decreases in range size and increased extinction risk within the next century.