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Title: Global lagomorph macroecology : interspecific interactions and the impact of climate change
Author: Leach, Katie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5990 5293
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2015
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Climate change is predicted to have huge impacts on the distribution of species, and the current rate of anthropogenically-driven climate change is of great concern to conservation biologists. Future climatic conditions are likely to affect all aspects of biodiversity from individuals to biomes, and although the field of climate change ecology is advancing, our knowledge of the impacts on biodiversity are hindered by methodological limitations. The main aim of this thesis was to assess the processes which contribute to the macroecology of the 'order Lagomorpha, in particular studying their interspecific interactions and the impact of climate change, whilst addressing methodological issues. Lagomorphs are comprised of 87 species of pikas, rabbits, hares and jackrabbits and are of great scientific and economic importance. They are especially important to study in terms of macroecology because they are extremely widespread, occupy a huge range of environmental conditions, a quarter of species are threatened and due to the relatively low number of species, compared to other mammalian orders an entire trophic level can be studied providing significant insights into food webs. However, the factors which lead to the importance of the order also suggest likely vulnerability to future climate change. In this thesis, the responses to future climate change are assessed at a species-level for the entire order using species distribution modelling techniques and projected future climate scenarios. These techniques are then improved to include interspecific interactions in the modelling of distributions, as well as environmental factors. Two-thirds of species are likely to be affected by climate change. with larger leporid species predicted to shift polewards with little overall change in range extent, but. smaller lagomorph species like pikas are predicted to shift upwards in elevation with dramatic declines in range. Interspecific interactions are common in the order and therefore incorporating them into models is vital. Interspecific interactions and environmental factors are shown to be equal determinants of species ranges and appear to be similar in terms of strength and direction at numerous scales, but the effects are spatially heterogeneous. Combining improved species distribution models with network analysis techniques provides more reliable estimates of climate change impacts on a community-level, and suggests high turnover and substantial changes in ecological network properties for lagomorphs.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available