Reconstructing range dynamics and range fragmentation of European bison for the last 8000 years

Authors

  • Tobias Kuemmerle,

    Corresponding author
    1. Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
    2. Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), PO Box 60 12 03, Telegraphenberg A62, D-14412 Potsdam, Germany
      Tobias Kuemmerle, Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany. Tel.: +49 30 2093 9372; fax: +49 30 2093 6848; E-mail: tobias.kuemmerle@geo.hu-berlin.de
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Thomas Hickler,

    1. LOEWE Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, D-60325 Frankfurt/Main, Germany
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Jörgen Olofsson,

    1. Department of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Guy Schurgers,

    1. Department of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Lund University, Sölvegatan 12, SE-223 62 Lund, Sweden
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Volker C. Radeloff

    1. Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1630 Linden Drive, Madison, WI 53706, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Tobias Kuemmerle, Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany. Tel.: +49 30 2093 9372; fax: +49 30 2093 6848; E-mail: tobias.kuemmerle@geo.hu-berlin.de

Abstract

Aim  Understanding what constituted species’ ranges prior to large-scale human influence, and how past climate and land use change have affected range dynamics, provides conservation planners with important insights into how species may respond to future environmental change. Our aim here was to reconstruct the Holocene range of European bison (Bison bonasus) by combining a time-calibrated species distribution models (SDM) with a dynamic vegetation model.

Location  Europe.

Method  We used European bison occurrences from the Holocene in a maximum entropy model to assess bison range dynamics during the last 8000 years. As predictors, we used bioclimatic variables and vegetation reconstructions from the generalized dynamic vegetation model LPJ-GUESS. We compared our range maps with maps of farmland and human population expansion to identify the main species range constraints.

Results  The Holocene distribution of European bison was mainly determined by vegetation patterns, with bison thriving in both broadleaved and coniferous forests, as well as by mean winter temperature. The heartland of European bison was in Central and Eastern Europe, whereas suitable habitat in Western Europe was scarce. While environmentally suitable regions were overall stable, the expansion of settlements and farming severely diminished available habitat.

Main conclusions  European bison habitat preferences may be wider than previously assumed, and our results suggest that the species had a more eastern and northern distribution than previously reported. Vegetation and climate transformation during the Holocene did not affect the bison’s range substantially. Conversely, human population growth and the spread of farming resulted in drastic bison habitat loss and fragmentation, likely reaching a tipping point during the last 1000 years. Combining SDM and dynamic vegetation models can improve range reconstructions and projections, and thus help to identify resilient conservation strategies for endangered species.

Ancillary