Climate Change Imperils Efforts to Save Lynx from Extinction, Study Finds

Almost 100 million euros (U.S.$ 130 million) has been spent so far on conservation efforts for the last 250 remaining Iberian lynxes in the wild, but the world’s most endangered cat species is likely to go extinct within 50 years because the management plans do not provide for the effects of climate change, researchers warn.

“Our models show that the anticipated climate change will lead to a rapid and dramatic decline of the Iberian lynx and probably eradicate the species within 50 years, in spite of the present-day conservation efforts. The only two populations currently present, will not be able to spread out or adapt to the changes in time”, says Miguel Araújo from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.

Araújo and colleagues explain that the Iberian lynx is threatened by poaching, road kills, habitat loss and lack of prey following a series of disease outbreaks in the rabbit populations. “Therefore, significant investments are currently made to relocate rabbits, prevent diseases, reduce threats and improve the lynx’s natural habitat. Unfortunately it is not enough, show new models that investigate how climate change will influence the availability of prey and quality of natural areas in the future.”

“Fortunately, it is not too late to improve the outlook for the endangered lynx, if the management plans begin to take account of climate change,” Araújo adds in a news statement about the study.

Photograph of lynx via Wikimedia/Programa de Conservación Ex-situ del Lince Ibérico
Photograph of lynx via Wikimedia/Programa de Conservación Ex-situ del Lince Ibérico

The scientists modeled two other scenarios for the Iberian lynx, both based on a future prospect for releasing individuals from breeding programs into wild areas. “They paint a more optimistic picture for the lynx’s survival, but the models clearly show that release programs also need to account for future climate change in order to achieve the best possible result,” they explain in the news release.

“While Spanish policymakers are considering releasing lynxes evenly across the country’s autonomous regions, the scientists’ models predict the most suitable areas to be in the northern half of the Iberian Peninsula. These areas could ultimately deliver both prey abundance and habitat connectivity in spite of climate change.

“According to the models it may increase the population up to nearly 900 individuals by 2090. In comparison, the geopolitical strategy will at best maintain the population around the current 250 individuals.”

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, is the first of its kind to clearly demonstrate the importance of modeling climate change, prey availability and their interactions in the development of management plans, the news release concluded.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn


  1. Roger Foster
    July 25, 2013, 9:36 am

    If the lynx computer models are as accurate as the ones developed to model climate change, expect that the lynx population will rebound on it’s own anytime soon…

  2. B K Brooks
    United States
    July 23, 2013, 9:51 am

    Global Warming now climate change is all about political science and the bucket of money they desire through Green Taxes. This is why I stopped subscribing to National Geo. You read other articles and they are more forth coming that the rabbits the Lynx feeds on are having disease issues.

    Summer comes and Global warming raises its hoary head until winter shows up, then Climate change mantra starts so that Greenie Tax gets imposed.

  3. D
    July 23, 2013, 1:01 am

    Seems to me that climate change put the dinosaurs outta’ business, too. Isn’t this called evolution?

  4. mememine69
    July 22, 2013, 7:55 pm

    It’s the world of science itself that is preventing action on climate change and the lab coats know that if they ever said their crisis was “inevitable” instead of just “most likely” etc., the entire debate would end instantly. Who would argue with a consensus that says “eventual” and “unavoidable” and “inescapable” or “certain” or simply “WILL” happen.
    Not one single IPCC warning says anything more than could be.
    Another 28 years of agreeing it only might happen is unsustainable.
    What has to happen for science to say they are certain, unstoppable warming?
    Why won’t they say their own crisis is as real as they love to say comet hits are?

  5. Climp Jones
    sewer pipe
    July 22, 2013, 7:22 pm

    nice piece of bs propaganda. Its the lynx’s shrinking habitat thats threatening its existence not some bs about climate change

  6. Mike Paterson
    Bowers Gifford
    July 22, 2013, 5:57 pm

    Even more important then for the IPCC to admit that it’s models are wrong, stop the ridiculous carbon tax and prepare for the oncoming I mini ice age!