Disentangling the impacts of climate and land cover changes on habitat suitability of common pheasant Phasianus colchicus along elevational gradients in Iran
Climate and land cover change are critical drivers of avian species range shift. Thus, predicting avian species’ response tothe land and climate changes and identifying their future suitable habitats can help their conservation planning. The common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) is a species of conservation concern in Iran and is included in the list of Iran’s protected avian species. The species faces multiple threats such as habitat destruction, land cover change, and overhunting in the country. In this study, we model the potential impacts of future climate and land cover change on the habitat suitability of common pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) along elevational gradients in Mazandaran province in Iran. We used shared socioeconomic pathways (SSP) scenarios and the 2015 – 2020 trend to generate possible future land cover projections for 2050. As for climate change projections, we used representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenarios. Next, we applied current and future climate and land cover projections to investigate how habitat suitability of commonpheasant will change between 2020 and 2050 using species distribution modeling (SDM). Our results show that the species has 6000 km2 suitable habitat; however, between 900 and 1965 km2 of its habitat may be reduced by 2050. Furthermore, we found that the severity of the effects of climate and land cover change varies at different altitudes. At low altitudes, the impact of changing land structure is superior. Instead, climate change has a critical role in habitat loss at higher altitudes and imposes a limiting role on the potential range shifts. Overall, this study demonstrates the vital role of land cover and climate change in better understanding the potential alterations in avian distribution.