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Potential loss of genetic variability despite well established network of reserves: the case of the Iberian endemic lizard Lacerta schreiberi

Dennis Rödder, Ulrich Schulte
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Journal Article
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Although future anthropogenic climate change is recognized as one of the major threats to European species, its implementation during reserve planning has only been started recently. We here describe climate change impacts on the Iberian endemic lizard Lacerta schreiberi expecting serious declines and range reductions due to a loss of suitable climate space in the next future. We apply species distribution models to assess possible future changes in the lizard’s range, identify areas with high extinction risk meriting conservation efforts and analyze whether the Natura 2000 network in its current stage will offer a sufficient protection for the genetically most valuable lineages. Despite a very good coverage and connectivity of the most valuable populations of L. schreiberi with the existing protected sites network, our results predict a strong loss of genetic variability by 2080. Also, two main patterns become evident: While the genetically less diverse north-western populations may be less affected by climate change, the climate change effects on the southern isolates and the genetically most diverse populations within the Central System may be devastating. To improve a successful prospective conservation of L. schreiberi the management of protected sites needs to consider the processes that threaten this species. Furthermore, our study highlights the urgent need to consider climate change effects on evolutionary significant units within the Natura 2000 framework.

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