Drought vulnerability among China’s ungulates and mitigation offered by protected areas

Lyubing Zhang, Michela Pacifici, Binbin V. Li, Luke Gibson

Schermata da 2020-05-11 11-22-13

Ongoing perturbations in the global climate have triggered changes in the frequency or magnitude of extreme climatic events, including drought. Increasingly common or intense droughts have threatened ungulates. Intensifying trend of drought has been observed in China since the 1980s. We assessed drought vulnerability of 60 ungulate taxa distributed in China by synthesizing information on drought exposure and intrinsic vulnerability related to biological traits. In total, 27 taxa were identified as vulnerable to drought, which represent over half of the taxa assessed as threatened in the IUCN Red List and China’s National Red List. We identified hotspots where a high number of drought‐vulnerable taxa are concentrated, including Northeast Himalayan subalpine conifer forests, alpine conifer and mixed forests of Nujiang‐Lancang Gorge, and Qionglai‐Minshan conifer forests, which are all located in Southwest China. We also assessed conservation efforts that China has allocated to ungulate taxa vulnerable to drought. Drought‐vulnerable taxa that are endemic to China have significantly lower coverage in China’s National Nature Reserve system compared with nonvulnerable taxa. These findings reveal the gaps in existing conservation efforts and indicate possible improvements that might be needed to maintain species resistance in the face of increasing and intensifying drought impacts.

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