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Landscape connectivity for Cat species: transcending structures, scales and climates

Activity Code: FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IOF
Project Reference: 621571
Coordinator:Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung - UFZ


Anthropogenic pressures drive global biodiversity loss. The loss of landscape connectivity, further exacerbated by climate change, is a key driver of species decline. Hence, it is crucial to identify key elements that ensure landscape connectivity across landscapes and scales. Several challenges in this context include insufficient knowledge of 1) species’ eco-physiology across landscapes and ranges, 2) the mechanisms driving migration pulses, 3) how local-scale processes (animal movements) translate to large-scale and longer-term patterns (species’ distributions and range shifts), and consequently, 4) the spatial scale(s) at which connectivity needs to be maintained to mitigate climate change effects on species. These issues are best addressed through comparative studies across a range of landscapes and climates, using umbrella species requiring large areas. Using lynx species in North America and Europe as models, this project will establish an integrative approach across scales to predict functional connectivity for wild felids, specifically by a) determining eco-physiological thresholds to environmental stressors and mechanisms driving dispersal pulses between peripheral and core populations, b) investigating the influence of climate and habitat fragmentation on the genetic structure and eco-evolution of these species, and c) identifying how local-scale processes translate into large-scale patterns of connectivity, species’ distribution and range shifts. Ecological and environmental data across continents will be integrated using groundbreaking eco-physiological and landscape genetics tools, and dynamic simulation modelling (using the novel individual-based model RangeShifter). Spanning 3 years under a careful management plan to ensure feasibility of all 3 chapters, this transdisciplinary project will provide valuable insights and conservation guidelines on how to maintain large-scale connectivity for umbrella species across fragmentation and climate scenarios.