Predicted range shifts of dragonflies over a wide elevation gradient in the southern hemisphere

Simaika, John P. ; Samways, Michael J. (2015)

CITATION: Simaika, J. P. & Samways, M. J. 2015. Predicted range shifts of dragonflies over a wide elevation gradient in the southern hemisphere. Freshwater Science, 34(3):1133–1143, doi:10.1086/682686.

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Human-induced climate change is among the greatest threats to biodiversity, especially when coupled with habitat destruction. For an already water-stressed country like South Africa, changes in temperature and precipitation regimes, coupled with increasing water demands, are likely to lead to losses in biodiversity. Dragonflies are a well-studied surrogate taxon for aspects of freshwater biodiversity. We created species distribution models for 14 dragonfly species, and predicted the changes in species richness, extent of occurrence, and habitat suitability for the years 2050 and 2080 in South Africa, a poorly studied area for range-change predictions for insects. Model predictions for 2 different emissions scenarios suggest that at least 2 species will be lost from the area by 2050, and 3 by 2080. All are widespread Afrotropical species, but with narrow elevation ranges in South Africa. Only 1 species is predicted to benefit greatly from climate change. The remaining species are predicted to persist with reduced extents of occurrences at higher elevations. Most species we studied (12 of 14) thrive in artificial environments. Therefore, to a certain extent, loss in connectivity is unlikely to play a role for these species. However, the 2 stream specialists that occur in the area are particularly vulnerable because of loss of habitat. Species that currently occur farther north in southern Africa and South Africa also are likely to move southward in the future. Thus, species richness may not necessarily decrease, but replacement of species within communities will be significant.

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