Modelling the distribution of vertebrate pests in New South Wales under climate change

This project, funded by the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre on behalf of the New South Wales Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water, develops and applies tools to model the distribution and abundance of vertebrate pest species in relation to climatic and biophysical variables. Such models are needed to predict how the distribution of pest species may vary under a changing climate. We assembled a priority list of vertebrate pests affecting biodiversity in New South Wales (NSW) based on reported threats to species, populations and ecological communities. Feral goats, feral cats, red foxes, European rabbits, and feral pigs are the most common recorded threats to ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’ terrestrial species in NSW, affecting 84.5% of threatened species listed.

ClimateChangeRept_PScoverThis report covers these species—as well as cane toads, Indian mynas, starlings, wild dogs and wild deer. It uses quantitative and, where necessary, qualitative species distribution models to predict the distribution and abundance of these species using land manager desk-top surveys undertaken in 2004. Using the 2004 data, the species distribution models generally predicted the ranges of each species extremely well, but performed poorly in identifying areas where animals were considered to be at a high density. This may have resulted in part from data issues, including the effect of having multiple ‘observers’ and the scale of the analyses (5 km x 5 km grids).

These models were then used to predict the distribution and abundance of these pests under 2050 climate forecasts. Climate scenarios for 2050 were generated from four global circulation models (GCMs)—CSIRO, MIROC, ECHO and ECHAM—that performed reasonably well in modelling current Australian climate. As expected under a warmer climate, cane toads, which have tropical origins, are predicted to expand their range considerably (fourfold). Predictions varied more for species with temperate origins. Rabbits are predicted to generally decline in distribution and abundance. Foxes are predicted to increase in density in some areas and decrease in others, with their overall distribution changing little. Feral cats are predicted to have a slight decrease in abundance, but to maintain a similar range.

Author Peter Caley, Philip Tennant and Greg Hood
Date 02/06/2011
Year 2011
Place published Canberra
Publisher Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre
Pages 66 pp
Region NSW
Documents

Modelling the distribution of vertebrate pests in New South Wales under climate change (3.1 Mb PDF)