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Iberian lynx faces extinction in just 50 years, say scientists

The predator could go extinct if conservation efforts are not remodeled to take into account the effects of climate change, says new research.

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The Iberian Lynx, the world’s most endangered feline species, could go extinct in just 50 years.

Hector Garrido/CSIC Andalusia Audiovisual Bank/University of Adelaide

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The Iberian lynx, the world’s most endangered feline species, could go extinct in just 50 years if conservation efforts are not adjusted to factor in climate change, says new research.

Despite the millions of dollars put toward saving the slinky cat, scientists say that current efforts have not accounted for the influence that shifting climate conditions will have on the distribution of the predator's main food source, the European rabbit. Saving the lynx will require incorporating Spain's changing climate into plans to relocate the cat into zones friendlier to population growth.

“Models used to investigate how climate change will affect biodiversity have so far been unable to capture the dynamic and complex feedbacks of species interactions,” writes Damien Fordham, a fellow at the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute and a co-author on a paper published in Nature Climate Change, in an email interview. “Conservation efforts show promise, but these efforts are likely to be wasted if the effects of climate change are not considered in reintroduction strategies.”

In the early 1800s, the Iberian lynx, a spotted, yellow-eyed predator with ears like two small pie servers, commanded large territories across Spain and Portugal. Since then, roads have sliced through the Spanish countryside, putting artificial boundaries on what was once an unfettered habitat and cutting the cat’s territory by about 95 percent. At the same time, the predator’s primary prey, the European rabbit, has dwindled in number, a victim of overhunting and disease.

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