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Combining the responses of habitat suitability and connectivity to climate change for an East Asian endemic frog
Frontiers in Zoology  (IF3.172),  Pub Date : 2021-03-26, DOI: 10.1186/s12983-021-00398-w
Zhenhua Luo, Xiaoyi Wang, Shaofa Yang, Xinlan Cheng, Yang Liu, Junhua Hu

Understanding the impacts of past and contemporary climate change on biodiversity is critical for effective conservation. Amphibians have weak dispersal abilities, putting them at risk of habitat fragmentation and loss. Both climate change and anthropogenic disturbances exacerbate these risks, increasing the likelihood of additional amphibian extinctions in the near future. The giant spiny frog (Quasipaa spinosa), an endemic species to East Asia, has faced a dramatic population decline over the last few decades. Using the giant spiny frog as an indicator to explore how past and future climate changes affect landscape connectivity, we characterized the shifts in the suitable habitat and habitat connectivity of the frog. We found a clear northward shift and a reduction in the extent of suitable habitat during the Last Glacial Maximum for giant spiny frogs; since that time, there has been an expansion of the available habitat. Our modelling showed that “overwarm” climatic conditions would most likely cause a decrease in the available habitat and an increase in the magnitude of population fragmentation in the future. We found that the habitat connectivity of the studied frogs will decrease by 50–75% under future climate change. Our results strengthen the notion that the mountains in southern China and the Sino-Vietnamese transboundary regions can act as critical refugia and priority areas of conservation planning going forward. Given that amphibians are highly sensitive to environmental changes, our findings highlight that the responses of habitat suitability and connectivity to climate change can be critical considerations in future conservation measures for species with weak dispersal abilities and should not be neglected, as they all too often are.