Snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus): potential distribution and its implication for conservation

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  • Jonas Nüchel
  • ,
  • Peder Klith Bøcher
  • ,
  • Wen Xiao, Dali University
  • ,
  • A. Xing Zhu, Nanjing Normal University, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • ,
  • Jens Christian Svenning

Many threatened species have undergone range retraction, and are confined to small fragmented populations. To increase their survival prospects, it is necessary to find suitable habitat outside their current range, to increase and interconnect populations. Species distribution models may be used to this purpose and can be an important part of the conservation strategies. One pitfall is that such mapping will typically assume that the current distribution represents the optimal habitat, which may not be the case for threatened species. Here, we use maximum entropy modelling (Maxent) and rectilinear bioclimatic envelope modelling with current and historical distribution data, together with the location of protected areas, and environmental and anthropogenic variables, to answer three key questions for the conservation of Rhinopithecus, a highly endangered genus of primates consisting of five species of which three are endemic to China, one is endemic to China and Myanmar and one is endemic to Vietnam; Which environmental variables best predict the distribution? To what extent is Rhinopithecus living in an anthropogenically truncated niche space? What is the genus’ potential distribution in the region? Mean temperature of coldest and warmest quarter together with annual precipitation and precipitation during the driest quarter were the variables that best explained Rhinopithecus’ distribution. The historical records were generally in warmer and wetter areas and in lower elevation than the current distribution, strongly suggesting that Rhinopithecus today survives in an anthropogenic truncated niche space. There is 305,800–319,325 km2 of climatic suitable area within protected areas in China, of which 96,525–100,275 km2 and 17,175–17,550 km2 have tree cover above 50 and 75%, respectively. The models also show that the area predicted as climatic suitable using Maxent was 72–89% larger when historical records were included. Our results emphasise the importance of considering historical records when assessing restoration potential and show that there is high potential for restoring Rhinopithecus to parts of its former range.

TidsskriftBiodiversity and Conservation
Sider (fra-til)1517-1538
Antal sider22
StatusUdgivet - 2018

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