Name: Yusefi GH

Biodeserts supervisor: Brito JC

Co-supervisor: Kamran Safi, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany

Title: Conservation Biogeography of terrestrial mammals in Iran: diversity, distribution, and vulnerability to extinction

Institution: University of Porto

Status: Completed



Located on the crossroad of three main biogeographical realms, Iran displays high levels of physiographic and climatic diversity and has rich mammal diversity. However, the country has experienced intense human development over the past decades, which leads to substantial impacts on biodiversity, particularly in mammals. In addition, there are many knowledge gaps about the diversity, distribution and conservation status of Iranian mammals, their biogeographical patterns, and their vulnerability to extinction and to future climate change. These are topics covered in this thesis under the Conservation Biogeography framework.
The general aims of this thesis are to: 1) update the species diversity and distribution of the terrestrial mammals of Iran; 2) assess their conservation status; 3) identify biogeographic regions in their distribution; 4) identify the main factors driving their extinction risk; and 5) examine their vulnerability to climate change. Taken together, data on these objectives are expected to contribute to the conservation planning of Iranian mammals and to minimize global biodiversity losses.
The main results found were:
1) The current species list of terrestrial mammals of Iran comprises 192 species distributed among 88 genera, 34 families, and seven orders. The scientific names of 45 taxa have changed, 13 of them are new species or new records, 32 had changes in classification or nomenclature, and 19 species not yet recorded in Iran were added to the faunal list because they occur in contiguous areas of adjacent countries. The regions of Alborz and Zagros mountains accumulate the highest concentrations of species richness;
2) Nearly 13% of the terrestrial mammals of Iran are threatened (assessed as Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable), and a further 14% are near to qualifying for threatened status. Most of the large mammals (41%; 16 out of 39), especially the species belonging to Artiodactyla, Perissodactyla, and Carnivora, are currently threatened with extinction. The conservation status of ungulates (equids, suids, bovids, and cervids) is of particular concern, with 91.9% of the species assessed as threatened;
3) Iran can be divided in eight distinct climate regions that are congruent with the global bioclimatic zones. Network-based method detected seven bioregions and four transition zones while the distance-based method suggested eight bioregions. The network-based method was apparently more sensitive than the distance-based method;
4) Interspecific variation in extinction risk among terrestrial mammals of Iran is largely determined by body size and less so by the impact of human activities. Higher extinction risk in large mammals is associated with adult body mass ABM, and to some extent to the litter size and actual evapotranspiration rate. No phylogenetic signal is detected for ABM but phylogenetic autocorrelative analyses identify significant correlations in ABM at the genus, family and order levels, indicating that levels of threat are more similar among species within the same genus, genera within families, and families within orders;
5) Almost all the surface of Iran is predicted with temperature increase from 5 to 7 °C and decreases in precipitation from 50 to 250 mm in 2070 according to RCP8.5 climate scenario. Climate risk areas for temperature will be distributed in Mesopotamian region, Persian Gulf and Oman Sea coastal areas, and for precipitation in the Central Basin. Hotspots of the desert functional group will be most exposed (17% of their area) to extreme temperatures, while all groups but mostly carnivore, desert, and large-sized (44-54%) and threatened species (48%) will be exposed to dryland precipitation levels. The protected areas will be mostly exposed to to dryland precipitations (66% of their area currently to 74% in 2070). Protected hotspots of non-volant, carnivore and forest groups (>35% of area) but mostly threatened species (60%) will be exposed to dryland precipitations.
Overall, this thesis provides an overview on the distribution patterns of the diversity of terrestrial mammals in Iran. It is shown that large mammals are currently highly threatened and are very vulnerable to future climate change. The development of Action Plans to ensure long-term persistence of threatened mammals is urgently needed. Management actions, such as the establishment of additional mountain protected areas is needed to mitigate the effects of additional threats, which may act concurrently with climate change, and to monitor population trends responding to climate change processes. The results provide insights to inform conservation planning and biodiversity management. Such information is crucial in countries or geographic areas where, despite their high diversity, there is insufficient knowledge to support informed conservation actions.