Implications of human induced changes on the distribution of important plant species in the northwestern coastal desert of Egypt
The application of species distribution modeling in deserts is a useful tool for mapping species and assessing the impact of human induced changes on individual species. Such applications are still rare, and this may be attributed to the fact that much of the arid lands and deserts around the world are located in inaccessible areas. Few studies have conducted spatially explicit modeling of plant species distribution in Egypt. The random forest modeling approach was applied to climatic and land-surface parameters to predict the distribution of ten important plant species in an arid landscape in the northwestern coastal desert of Egypt. The impact of changes in land use and climate on the distribution of the plant species was assessed. The results indicate that the changes in land use in the area have resulted in habitat loss for all the modeled species. Projected future changes in land use reveals that all the modeled species will continue to suffer habitat loss. The projected impact of modeled climate scenarios (A1B, A2A and B2A) on the distribution of the modeled species by 2040 varied. Some of the species were projected to be adversely affected by the changes in climate, while other species are expected to benefit from these changes. The combined impact of the changes in land use and climate pose serious threats to most of the modeled species. The study found that all the species are expected to suffer loss in habitat, except Gymnocarpos decanderus. The study highlights the importance of assessing the impact of land use/climate change scenarios on other species of restricted distribution in the area and can help shape policy and mitigation measures directed toward biodiversity conservation in Egypt.
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