Hoping the best, expecting the worst: forecasting the potential impacts of climate and land-use change on Iberian plants of conservation concern

Background: Worldwide, halting biodiversity loss is still a major challenge. Climate and land-use change (CLUC) are major drivers of species decline, and further expected to drive species’ future ranges. Understanding how these changes may impact species in the future is thus of utmost importance in the context of conservation and monitoring. This is especially critical for species of conservation concern, known to be more prone to extinction under environmental change.

Aims: Here we addressed how CLUC may affect future distributions of 64 plant species designated under conservation legislation for Portugal and Spain. Current and future species distributions were modelled and projected under three CLUC scenarios. Range changes were analysed for each species and IUCN category, considering climate versus land-use change models, and the trade-offs between them.

Results: Overall, our results depict consistent trends in the distribution of the targeted species under CLUC. The results also highlight potential extinction for some of the targeted species under climate change. However, under land-use change, 10 species are likely to expand their suitable habitat.

Conclusions: Our research advances existing knowledge on how climate and land-use change may impact species of conservation concern in the Iberian Peninsula. Such knowledge is essential if further losses of species of conservation concern are to be proactively anticipated. Ultimately, such information can be useful to support data-driven conservation programmes and decision-making in the future.