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Predicting the impact of climate change on Australia’s most endangered snake, Hoplocephalus bungaroides

Authors


Trent D. Penman, Forest Resources Research, NSW Department of Primary Industries, PO Box 100, Beecroft, NSW 2119 Australia.
E-mail: trent.penman@industry.nsw.gov.au

Abstract

Aim  To predict how the bioclimatic envelope of the broad-headed snake (BHS) (Hoplocephalus bungaroides) may be redistributed under future climate warming scenarios.

Location  South-eastern New South Wales, Australia.

Methods  We used 159 independent locations for the species and 35 climatic variables to model the bioclimatic envelope for the BHS using two modelling approaches – Bioclim and Maxent. Predictions were made under current climatic conditions and we also predicted the species distribution under low and high climate change scenarios for 2030 and 2070.

Results  Broad-headed snakes currently encompass their entire bioclimatic envelope. Both modelling approaches predict that suitable climate space for BHS will be lost to varying degrees under both climate warming scenarios, and under the worst case, only 14% of known snake populations may persist.

Main conclusions  Areas of higher elevation within the current range will be most important for persistence of this species because they will remain relatively moist and cool even under climate change and will match the current climate envelope. Conservation efforts should focus on areas where suitable climate space may persist under climate warming scenarios. Long-term monitoring programs should be established both in these areas and where populations are predicted to become extirpated, so that we can accurately determine changes in the distribution of this species throughout its range.

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