A kingdom in decline. Holocene range contraction of the lion (Panthera leo) modelled with Global Environmental Stratification

David Cooper, David Cooper, Andrew Dugmore, Andrew Kitchener, Marc J Metzger, Antonio Trabucco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Aim
We use ecological niche models and environmental stratification of palaeoclimate to reconstruct the changing range of the lion (Panthera leo) during the late Pleistocene and Holocene.

Location
The modern (early 21st century) range of the lion extends from southern Africa to the western Indian Subcontinent, yet through the 20th century this range has been drastically reduced in extent and become increasingly fragmented as a result of human impacts.

Methods
We use Global Environmental Stratification with MaxEnt ecological niche models to map environmental suitability of the lion under current and palaeoclimatic scenarios. By examining modelled lion range in terms of categorical environmental strata, we characterise suitable bioclimatic conditions for the lion in a descriptive manner.

Results
We find that lion habitat suitability has reduced throughout the Holocene, controlled by pluvial/interpluvial cycles. The aridification of the Sahara 6ka dramatically reduced lion range throughout North Africa. The association of Saharan aridification with the development of pastoralism and the growth of sedentary communities, who practised animal husbandry, would have placed additional and lasting anthropogenic pressures on the lion.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10504
JournalPeerJ
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2021

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