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Forecasting climate-driven habitat changes for Australian freshwater fishes

“Aims: Climate change is expected to have profound effects on species’ distributions into the future. Freshwater fishes, an important component of freshwater ecosystems, are no exception. Here, we project shifts in suitable conditions for Australian freshwater fishes under different climate change scenarios to identify species that may experience significant declines in habitat suitability. Location: Australia. Methods: We use MAXENT bioclimatic models to estimate the effect of climate change on the suitable conditions for 154 species of Australian freshwater fishes, of which 109 are endemic and 29 are threatened with extinction. Suitable conditions for freshwater fish species are modelled using three different Earth System climate models (ESMs) under two different emission scenarios to the year 2100. For each species, we examine potential geographic shifts in the distribution of suitable conditions from the present day to 2100 and quantify how habitat suitability may change at currently occupied sites by the end of this century. Results: Broadscale poleward shifts in suitable conditions are projected for Australian freshwater fishes by an average of up to 0.38° (~180 km) across all species, depending on the emission scenario. Considerable loss of suitable conditions is forecast to occur within currently recognized distributional extents by 2100, with a mean projected loss of up to 17.5% across species. Predicted geographic range shifts and declines are larger under a high-emission scenario. Threatened species are projected to be more adversely affected than nonthreatened species. Main Conclusions: Our models identify species and geographic regions that may be vulnerable to climate change, enabling freshwater fish conservation into the future.” read more