Unraveling the unknown: Adaptive spatial planning to enhance climate resilience for the endangered Swamp Grass-babbler (Laticilla cinerascens) with habitat connectivity and complexity approach

Elsevier, Heliyon, Volume 10, 15 May 2024
Abedin I., Mukherjee T., Kang H.-E., Yoon T.-H., Kim H.-W., Kundu S.

The endangered and poorly known Swamp Grass-babbler, Laticilla cinerascens (Passeriformes: Pellorneidae), confronts critical threats and vulnerability due to its specific habitat requirements and restricted populations in the northeastern region of the Indian Subcontinent. This study investigates the distribution of the species, habitat quality, geometry and shape complexity of connectivity among the protected areas (PAs), and responses to climate change in Northeast India under different climate change pathways by utilizing ensemble distribution models, and ecological metrics. From the total distribution extent (1,42,000 km2), approximately 9366 km2 (6.59 %) is identified as the suitable habitat for this threatened species. Historically centered around Dibru Saikhowa National Park (DSNP), the species faced a drastic decline due to anthropogenic activities and alteration in land use and lover cover. The study also reveals a significant decline in suitable habitat for L. cinerascens in future climate scenarios, with alarming reductions under SSP126 (>10 % in the timeframe 2041–2060 and > 30 % from 2061 to 2080), SSP245 (>90 % in both time periods), and SSP585 (>90 % in both timeframes) from the present scenario. At present, DSNP has the most suitable habitat within the distribution range but is projected to decline (>90 %) under more severe climate change scenarios, as observed in other PAs. Landscape fragmentation analysis indicates a shift in habitat geometry, highlighting the intricate impact of climate change. It predicts a substantial 343 % increase (in the SSP126) in small habitat patches in the future. Connectivity analysis among PAs shows a significant shift, with a decline exceeding 20 %. The analysis of shape complexity and connectivity geometry reveals a significant increase of over 220 % in the fragmentation of connectivity among PAs between 2061 and 2080 under the SSP585 climate change scenario compared to the present conditions. The study underscores the urgent need for conservation actions, emphasizing the complex interplay of climate change, habitat suitability, and fragmentation. Prioritizing PAs with suitable habitats and assessing their connectivity is crucial. Adaptive management strategies are essential to address ongoing environmental changes and safeguard biodiversity. Future research in critical areas is needed to establish long-term monitoring programs to lead/extend effective conservation strategies.