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PLoS One. 2014 Sep 2;9(9):e106405. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106405. eCollection 2014.

Impact of climate change on potential distribution of Chinese caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) in Nepal Himalaya.

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Institute for Agriculture and the Environment, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia.
Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America; Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, India.


Climate change has already impacted ecosystems and species and substantial impacts of climate change in the future are expected. Species distribution modeling is widely used to map the current potential distribution of species as well as to model the impact of future climate change on distribution of species. Mapping current distribution is useful for conservation planning and understanding the change in distribution impacted by climate change is important for mitigation of future biodiversity losses. However, the current distribution of Chinese caterpillar fungus, a flagship species of the Himalaya with very high economic value, is unknown. Nor do we know the potential changes in suitable habitat of Chinese caterpillar fungus caused by future climate change. We used MaxEnt modeling to predict current distribution and changes in the future distributions of Chinese caterpillar fungus in three future climate change trajectories based on representative concentration pathways (RCPs: RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5, and RCP 6.0) in three different time periods (2030, 2050, and 2070) using species occurrence points, bioclimatic variables, and altitude. About 6.02% (8,989 km2) area of the Nepal Himalaya is suitable for Chinese caterpillar fungus habitat. Our model showed that across all future climate change trajectories over three different time periods, the area of predicted suitable habitat of Chinese caterpillar fungus would expand, with 0.11-4.87% expansion over current suitable habitat. Depending upon the representative concentration pathways, we observed both increase and decrease in average elevation of the suitable habitat range of the species.

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