Vulnerable native species may face further risk as climate change makes more of our country hospitable to stray cats, a researcher says.
In a new study in the journal Applied Geography, Unitec natural sciences lecturer Dr Glenn Aguilar used species distribution modelling to describe areas highly favourable to stray cats, and then investigated what effects a warmer climate would have.
Under one grim 2070 model, climate change could widen the range of areas suitable for feral cats, bringing them closer to conservation hotspots in new places like the central North Island, and the top and central areas of the South Island.
Dr Aguilar’s previous work has demonstrated links between human population density, economic deprivation and the occurrence of stray cats, showing that a dense population generally indicated stray cats would be present.
In Auckland, an analysis of two decades of records found how South Auckland, Glen Innes, the central city and pockets of West Auckland had the highest populations of stray cats, with spikes in December and March coinciding with breeding patterns.
“I had the idea that we could take all this cat distribution data from Auckland and try to expand it throughout New Zealand and see whether there’s an effect when you have a climate change scenario for modelling.”
Using the latest greenhouse gas trajectories set out in the UN-adopted Relative Concentration Pathways data and a series of GIS maps, he was able to show an increase in the areas suitable for at-large cats.
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