Theory proposes that increased environmental stochasticity negatively impacts population viability. Thus, in addition to the directional changes predicted for weather parameters under global climate change (GCC), the increase in variance of these parameters may also have a negative effect on biodiversity. As a case study, we assessed the impact of interannual variance in precipitation on the viability of an Asiatic wild ass (Equus hemionus) population reintroduced in Makhtesh Ramon Nature Reserve, Israel. We monitored the population from 1985 to 1999 to determine what environmental factors affect reproductive success. Annual precipitation during the year before conception, drought conditions during gestation, and population size determined reproductive success. We used the parameters derived from this model to assess population performance under various scenarios in a Leslie matrix type model with demographic and environmental stochasticity. Specifically, we used a change in the precipitation regime in our study area to formulate a GCC scenario and compared the simulated dynamics of the population with a no-change scenario. The coefficient of variation in population size under the global change scenario was 30% higher than under the no-change scenario. Minor die-offs (≥15%) following droughts increased extinction probability nearly 10-fold. Our results support the idea that an increase in environmental stochasticity due to GCC may, in itself, pose a significant threat to biodiversity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Equus hemionus
- Population projection
- Reproductive success
- Simulation model