Climate change is shrinking mountain hare’s alpine habitat

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Global warming is making life difficult for the mountain hare in the Swiss Alps. As a result, they are becoming increasingly rare, an international study headed by Swiss scientists has revealed.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) and the University of Bern predict that the mountain hare’s alpine habitat will shrink by a third every year until 2100.

The team’s study, co-conducted with the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna, investigated the influence of climate change on the distribution of hares in the Swiss Alps, analysing over 1,000 animals between 1990 and 2013.

+ other animals moving up the mountainside due to climate change

They found that the animal’s habitat will not only shrink, but also become more fragmented. As a result, the populations of mountain hare, also known as the snow hare (Lepus timidus), will become less well interconnected which could lead to a loss of genetic diversity, the WSL said in a press release on Tuesday. Overall, the snow hare’s population is expected to decrease in future, declared the authors of the study, which was published in the scientific journal Global Change Biology.

“The loss and increasing fragmentation of habitats means that the species is increasingly endangered,” wrote the study’s main author, Maik Rehnus.

The scientists recommend setting up a national mountain hare monitoring system to help the animals continue to survive - and thrive in the Swiss Alps.



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