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Testing the role of climate change in species decline: is the eastern quoll a victim of a change in the weather?


Fancourt, BA and Bateman, BL and VanDerWal, J and Nicol, SC and Hawkins, CE and Jones, ME and Johnson, CN, Testing the role of climate change in species decline: is the eastern quoll a victim of a change in the weather?, PLoS ONE, 10, (6) Article e0129420. ISSN 1932-6203 (2015) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

© 2015 Fancourt et al. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129420


To conserve a declining species we first need to diagnose the causes of decline. This is one of the most challenging tasks faced by conservation practitioners. In this study, we used temporally explicit species distribution models (SDMs) to test whether shifting weather can explain the recent decline of a marsupial carnivore, the eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus). We developed an SDM using weather variables matched to occurrence records of the eastern quoll over the last 60 years, and used the model to reconstruct variation through time in the distribution of climatically suitable range for the species. The weather model produced a meaningful prediction of the known distribution of the species. Abundance of quolls, indexed by transect counts, was positively related to the modelled area of suitable habitat between 1990 and 2004. In particular, a sharp decline in abundance from 2001 to 2003 coincided with a sustained period of unsuitable weather over much of the speciesí distribution. Since 2004, abundance has not recovered despite a return to suitable weather conditions, and abundance and area of suitable habitat have been uncorrelated. We suggest that fluctuations in weather account for the speciesí recent decline, but other unrelated factors have suppressed recovery.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:threatened species
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Terrestrial ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Understanding climate change
Objective Field:Climate variability (excl. social impacts)
UTAS Author:Fancourt, BA (Miss Bronwyn Fancourt)
UTAS Author:Nicol, SC (Associate Professor Stewart Nicol)
UTAS Author:Hawkins, CE (Dr Clare Hawkins)
UTAS Author:Jones, ME (Professor Menna Jones)
UTAS Author:Johnson, CN (Professor Christopher Johnson)
ID Code:102546
Year Published:2015
Web of Science® Times Cited:19
Deposited By:Zoology
Deposited On:2015-08-27
Last Modified:2018-03-17
Downloads:315 View Download Statistics

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