Impacts of climate change are already evident in ecosystems worldwide. High-latitude and altitude regions are at greatest risk because the effects of climate change are greater in these regions, and species from these areas have limited ability to track their climate envelopes. The Caucasian snowcock (Tetraogallus caucasicus) and the Caucasian grouse (Lyrurus mlokosiewiczi) are both high-altitude specialists that are endemic to a restricted range in the Caucasus mountains of Europe. Little research has been performed to determine the status of the populations or the potential impacts of climate change. We investigated how climate and land use change may impact both species in future and determined whether their life history traits may increase their vulnerability using a combined exposure and trait-based index. We compared several climate models, and in all instances, both species showed drastic range contractions although the extent of the contraction varied with each model. Traits like habitat specialism, ground nesting and incubation period meant that both species may be considered “most vulnerable” in the exposure and trait-based index. Given that both species already occur near the maximum elevations of the Caucasus, and that they lack any dispersal capabilities due to the isolation from alternative mountainous areas, research efforts need to be prioritized to improve our knowledge about their population status, to monitor future trends and to begin developing species action plans that conserve these endemic and iconic species of Europe. Both species are flagship and umbrella species and may serve as indicator species, their protection may therefore benefit a whole range of other species inhabiting this vulnerable Alpine ecosystem. Especially the Caucasian grouse has a high aesthetic value and is favoured by hunters in the region. The potential demise of this species may therefore also be negative for local communities.
- Climate change
- Land use
- Species distribution modelling