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PLoS One. 2015 Jul 15;10(7):e0132359. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132359. eCollection 2015.

A Geographic Assessment of the Global Scope for Rewilding with Wild-Living Horses (Equus ferus).

Author information

1
Section for Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark.

Abstract

Megafaunas worldwide have been decimated during the late Quaternary. Many extirpated species were keystone species, and their loss likely has had large effects on ecosystems. Therefore, it is increasingly considered how megafaunas can be restored. The horse (Equus ferus) is highly relevant in this context as it was once extremely widespread and, despite severe range contraction, survives in the form of domestic, feral, and originally wild horses. Further, it is a functionally important species, notably due to its ability to graze coarse, abrasive grasses. Here, we used species distribution modelling to link locations of wild-living E. ferus populations to climate to estimate climatically suitable areas for wild-living E. ferus. These models were combined with habitat information and past and present distributions of equid species to identify areas suitable for rewilding with E. ferus. Mean temperature in the coldest quarter, precipitation in the coldest quarter, and precipitation in the driest quarter emerged as the best climatic predictors. The distribution models estimated the climate to be suitable in large parts of the Americas, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia and, combined with habitat mapping, revealed large areas to be suitable for rewilding with horses within its former range, including up to 1.5 million ha within five major rewilding areas in Europe. The widespread occurrence of suitable climates and habitats within E. ferus' former range together with its important functions cause it to be a key candidate for rewilding in large parts of the world. Successful re-establishment of wild-living horse populations will require handling the complexity of human-horse relations, for example, potential conflicts with ranchers and other agriculturalists or with other conservation aims, perception as a non-native invasive species in some regions, and coverage by legislation for domestic animals.

PMID:
26177104
PMCID:
PMC4503665
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0132359
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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