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Species distribution modelling using bioclimatic variables to determine the impacts of a changing climate on the western ringtail possum (Pseudocheirus occidentals; Pseudocheiridae)


The ngwayir (western ringtail possum Pseudocheirus occidentalis) is an arboreal species endemic to south-western Australia. The range and population of this species have been significantly reduced through multiple anthropogenic impacts. Classified as vulnerable, the ngwayir is highly susceptible to extremes of temperature and reduced water intake. Ngwayir distribution was determined using three different species distribution models using ngwayir presence records related to a set of 19 bioclimatic variables derived from historical climate data, overlaid with 2050 climate change scenarios. MaxEnt was used to identify core habitat and demonstrate how this habitat may be impacted. A supplementary modelling exercise was also conducted to ascertain potential impacts on the tree species that are core habitat for ngwayir. All models predicted a reduction of up to 60% in the range of the ngwayir and its habitat, as a result of global warming towards the south-west of the project area, with a mean potential distribution of 10.3% of the total modelled area of 561 059 km2. All three tree species modelled (jarrah, marri and peppermint) were predicted to experience similar contractions in range throughout most of the predicted ngwayir range, although their distributions differed. Populations of ngwayir persisting outside core habitat may indicate potential conservation opportunities.

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*Correspondence: Shaun Molloy e-mail:
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