Interactive effects of climate change and fire on metapopulation viability of a forest-dependent frog in south-eastern Australia
Climate change directly affects the suitability of habitats for species, but also indirectly alters natural disturbances such as fire, which can negatively impact species' persistence. Developing accurate predictions of climate change impacts requires estimates of the interactive effects of climate and disturbance regimes at both population and landscape scales. Here we couple a habitat suitability model with a population viability model to examine the interactive effects of climate change and altered fire regimes on a fire-responsive frog species across its geographic range in south-eastern Australia. By 2100, we predict expected minimum abundances (EMA) to decline by 66% (under GFDL-CM2 A1FI climate projections) or 87% (CSIRO Mk3.5 A1FI) in the absence of fire. Increased frequency of low-intensity fires reduced EMA by less than 5%, whereas increased frequency of high-intensity fires reduced EMA by up to 40% compared with the no-fire scenario. While shifts in fire regimes are predicted to impact metapopulation viability, these indirect effects of fire are far less severe than the direct impact of climate change on habitat suitability. Exploring the interactive impacts of climate change and altered disturbance regimes can help managers prioritize threats across space and time.
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