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Climate change threatens the survival of highly endangered Sardinian populations of the snake Hemorrhois hippocrepis

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Sardinian populations of the snake Hemorrhois (= Coluber) hippocrepis are likely the most endangered populations of snakes in Italy. Major threats to survivorship are the anthropogenic habitat alteration and the extremely low population density, while nothing is known about the potential effects that climate change could exert on this species. The main goal of this paper is to provide helpful instruments for the short- and long-term conservation of H. hippocrepis in Sardinia. By means of an ecological modeling approach, we derived the Sardinian whip snake habitat suitability map, and we compared the potential range extent under present condition and future climatic scenarios. Results clearly show an alarming trend for H. hippocrepis conservation: changing climate conditions will cause a dramatic reduction on suitable surface since 2020, with a further collapse by 2050 (down to 11 km2). We also identified areas of species potential persistence up till 2050, where prospective management initiatives could have the greatest probability of success in this region. In particular, only one existing protected area will likely still keep suitable habitats for H. hippocrepis. Therefore, we suggest that very careful management of this relictual area should be implemented by now if we really want to save these exceedingly threatened snake populations.

Affiliations: 1: SPACEnvironment, via Maria Giudice 23, 00135 Rome, Italy; 2: Museo Civico di Zoologia, via Ulisse Aldrovandi 18, 00197 Rome, Italy; 3: Centre of Environmental Studies Demetra, via Olona 7, 00198 Rome, Italy;, Email:


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