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Hot and bothered: using trait-based approaches to assess climate change vulnerability in reptiles

Bohm, M; Cook, D; Ma, H; Davidson, AD; García, A; Tapley, B; Pearce-Kelly, P; (2016) Hot and bothered: using trait-based approaches to assess climate change vulnerability in reptiles. Biological Conservation , 204 (Part A) pp. 32-41. 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.06.002. Green open access

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Abstract

One-fifth of the world’s reptiles are currently estimated as threatened with extinction, primarily due to the immediate threats of habitat loss and overexploitation. Climate change presents an emerging slow-acting threat. However, few IUCN Red List assessments for reptiles explicitly consider the potential role of climate change as a threat. Thus, climate change vulnerability assessments can complement existing Red List assessments and highlight further, emerging priorities for conservation action. Here we present the first trait-based global climate change vulnerability assessment for reptiles to estimate the climate change vulnerability of a random representative sample of 1498 species of reptiles. We collected species-specific traits relating to three dimensions of climate change, sensitivity, low adaptability, and exposure which we combined to assess overall vulnerability. We found 80.5% of species highly sensitive to climate change, primarily due to habitat specialisation, while 48% had low adaptability and 58% had high exposure. Overall, 22% of species assessed were highly vulnerable to climate change. Hotspots of climate vulnerability did not always overlap with hotspots of threatened species richness, with most of the vulnerable species found in northwestern South America, southwestern USA, Sri Lanka, the Himalayan Arc and southern India. Most families were found to be significantly more vulnerable to climate change than expected by chance. Our findings build on previous work on reptile extinction risk to provide an overview of the risk posed to reptiles by climate change. Despite significant data gaps for a number of traits, we recommend that these findings are integrated into reassessments of species’ extinction risk, to monitor both immediate and slow-acting threats to reptiles.

Type: Article
Title: Hot and bothered: using trait-based approaches to assess climate change vulnerability in reptiles
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2016.06.002
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2016.06.002
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)
Keywords: climate change, exposure, sensitivity, adaptability, IUCN Red List, herpetology
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences > Genetics, Evolution and Environment
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1496818
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