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Predicting the Distribution of Three Korean Pit Viper Species (Gloydius brevicaudus, G. ussuriensis, and G. intermedius) under Climate Change

Min Seock Do, Seoyun Choi, Hoan-Jin Jang, Jae-Hwa Suh


Climate change can pose severe threats to wildlife populations causing population declines and destroying their habitats. Particularly, pit vipers belonging to reptiles, poikilotherm, are vulnerable to climate change due to their narrow movement range and low dispersal capability. This study aimed to identify pit viper species vulnerable to climate change using their predicted geographical habitat range based on the current and future Korean pit viper species distribution model. The results of this study showed that three major environmental factors related to altitude and temperature (BIO4 and BIO5) influenced the habitat distribution of three pit viper species. These factors showed significant variation between increased, maintained, and decreased habitat areas of the species due to climate change. It was also predicted that the habitat of Korean pit vipers would decrease by more than 80% under the RCP 8.5 scenario. Especially, Central Asian pit viper was predicted to lose 98.52% of its habitat, indicating that it would be the most vulnerable species to climate change. Although we confirmed that forest areas around the Taebaek Mountains, known as current major distribution areas of pit vipers, would provide maintained or even increased habitat areas to these species along climate change, habitable space for the vipers was still predicted to be very narrow. Therefore, it is critical to protect the forest areas around the Taebaek Mountains to minimize the impact of climate change on Korean pit vipers. Moreover, since some populations of Central Asian pit viper, most vulnerable to climate change, are geographically isolated, it will be necessary to establish systematic conservation measures by determining the protection priority of populations through studying genetic diversity between populations. We believe that the results of this study will provide an important basis for establishing management measures in designating the habitat of a threatened population due to climate change as a protected area.


climate change; ecology; distribution; Viperidae; Korea

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