Introduction: What conservation problem or question does your study address?Climate is changing and predictions of species future potential occurrence are needed. Previous studies reported the importance of climate for small felids occurrence and, at broad scales, mainly climatic variables have been used to predict suitable areas for species. But is climate a good predictor for small felids? Here, we go a step further and compare climate, land cover and human disturbance to explain the current occurrence of three small cats in India.
Methods: What were the main research methods you used?Ecological niche models based on bibliographic and new collected records were used to understand the main drivers of jungle cat Felis chaus, leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis and rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus occurrence. A consensus model based on GLM, GAM, GBM and MAXENT algorithms was used to predict the likelihood of occurrence for the three species. PCA components (PCs) summarizing climate (BIOPCs), land cover (LCPCs) and human disturbance (HDPCs) information were used as predictors. The importance of each predictor for the consensus model of each species was compared. Analyses were conducted at the sub-continent extent and using a 10km resolution.
Results: What are your most important results?Climate was mainly important to explain the occurrence of leopard cat. Rusty-spotted occurrence was mainly associated with land cover features while jungle cat was strongly associated with human disturbance.
Discussion: What are your important discussion points and what is the relevance of your results to conservation (if any)?This study points towards a species-specific response of small cats to climate, even within the same genus. The patterns found raise concerns of possible uncertainty in predictions of future suitable areas for small felids based only on climate information. In addition, the work highlights the importance of collecting new data on the occurrence of different species of small cats throughout India to elaborate a broad-scale conservation strategy under climate change.