Around 20 years ago, the Iberian lynx, which once thrived across Spain and Portugal, almost went extinct.* But conservationists buckled down, investing heavily in the species’ salvation and ultimately raising the population from just 94 to 312, the Guardian explains.
Just as wildlife managers were beginning to congratulate themselves, however, a new paper published in Nature Climate Change warns that those celebrations could be short-lived. Climate change, apparently, is set to kick off a domino chain of environmental problems, ultimately threatening the Iberian lynx’s survival.
Rabbits, the New York Times reports, are key to this sorry predicament. Iberian lynx rely on European rabbits as prey. Climate change may destroy prime rabbit habitat, leaving the lynx to starve as the bunnies move north. Scientists say that moving the predators up north and to higher ground, the Times reports, will be the lynx’s best hope for survival.
If conservationists can pull off this move, LiveScience reports, then all hope is not lost for the world’s rarest cat.
Reintroducing the animals farther north could spare the population and even help it rebound, said study co-author Miguel Bustos Araújo, a biogeographer at the National Museum of Natural Sciences, in Madrid.
This suggests that that conservation programs in general should account for climate change, Araújo said.
Of course, the Iberian lynx isn’t the only species whose existence will likely be threatening by the affects of climate change. The Center for Biological Diversity, for example, provides a list of 350 such species. Rather than shuttling hundreds of species to more favorable climates, fighting the cause—not the symptoms—of climate change seems the more logical route.
*This sentence was updated for clarity.
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