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Lynx pardinus

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA FELIDAE

Scientific Name: Lynx pardinus
Species Authority: (Temminck, 1827)
Common Name(s):
English Iberian Lynx, Spanish Lynx, Pardel Lynx
French Lynx d'Espagne, Lynx pardelle
Spanish Lince Ibérico
Taxonomic Notes: Was previously considered conspecific with Lynx lynx by some authorities, but is currently accepted as a distinct species on the basis of both genetics (Johnson et al. 2006, Eizirik et al. submitted) and morphology (Werdelin 1981, Wozencraft 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered D ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-04-15
Assessor(s): Rodríguez, A. & Calzada, J.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Hunter, L., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Lanz, T. & Breitenmoser, U.
Contributor(s): Fordham, D. & von Arx, M.
Justification:

After six decades of decline and pronounced range contraction, between 2002 and 2012 population size of the Iberian Lynx has continuously increased to 156 mature individuals in the two remaining wild subpopulations (Simón et al. 2012). Likewise the area of occupancy experienced a three-fold increase to reach 1,040 km2. One subpopulation contains 68% of all mature individuals. Twelve mature individuals survive in two additional localities where reintroductions are currently under way (Simón et al. 2012). As a result of the increasing population size, the Iberian Lynx no longer qualifies for Critically Endangered status and is therefore listed as Endangered under criterion D. The improved status of this species is all due to intensive ongoing conservation actions.

Detailed demographic projections suggest that future range expansion and population increase depend upon continued reintroductions. In the absence of reintroductions, a marked decline would quickly re-occur and extinction is predicted to occur within 35 years (Fordham et al. 2013). Major future threats include uncertainty about the identity and intensity of environmental drivers on lynx prey in regions where conservation efforts are currently concentrated, and uncertainty about the suitability of these regions for lynx under future climate change (Fordham et al. 2013).

History:
2008 Critically Endangered
2006 Critically Endangered
2002 Critically Endangered
1996 Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The Iberian Lynx is restricted to two separate regions of southwestern Spain, namely eastern Sierra Morena and the coastal plains west of the lower Guadalquivir. These isolated subpopulations have been named by Simón et al. (2012) as Andújar-Cardeña and Doñana-Aljarafe, respectively. Two new nuclei are being founded though reintroduction 30 km southwest (Guadalmellato) and northeast (Guarrizas), respectively, of the existing Sierra Morena subpopulation, and contained a few breeding females in 2012 (Simón 2013). Five additional sites in four Spanish regions (Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Murcia) and Portugal are being prepared for reintroduction; the first release in Portugal happened in late 2014 (Iberlince LIFE project 2014).
Countries:
Native:
Spain
Reintroduced:
Portugal (Portugal (mainland))
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The extensive survey by Guzmán et al. (2004), carried out primarily during 2001, yielded an estimate of 26-31 breeding territories which could correspond to a maximum of 62 mature individuals. According to estimates produced in the framework of successive European Union LIFE Nature conservation projects, population size tripled from 52 mature individuals in 2002 to 156 in 2012 (Simón et al. 2012, Simón 2013).
Population Trend: Increasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

The Iberian Lynx is a strict feeding specialist; the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) accounts for 80-99% of its diet (Ferreras et al. 2010). The Iberian Lynx is also a habitat specialist that breeds only in Mediterranean shrubland containing dense rabbit populations (Palomares et al. 2000, Palomares 2001). Threshold rabbit densities for lynx reproduction are 4.5 ind./ha during the annual population peak and 1.0 ind./ha during the annual trough (Palomares et al. 2001). Productive breeding territories also contain a high density of scrub-pasture ecotones which favour both ecological conditions for rabbits and a structure suitable for lynx hunting (Palomares 2001, Fernández et al. 2003). Other essential habitat elements include natural cavities that are used as natal dens (Fernández et al. 2002, 2006). On the other hand, forestry landscapes, farmland or other open land devoid of native shrubs are rarely used by resident lynx (Palomares et al. 1991) but occasionally used by subadults during natal dispersal (Palomares et al. 2000).

Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): During the 20th century hunting and trapping were major sources of mortality associated with predator control and exploitation of wild rabbits (Rodríguez and Delibes 2004). Whereas the importance of this factor as a threat for Iberian Lynx has decreased (Ferreras et al. 2010), during the last years some lynx have been shot or caught with illegal traps (Iberlince LIFE Project 2014). Road casualties typically produce several losses each year (Simón et al. 2012, Iberlince LIFE Project 2014), as the length of paved or widened roads, as well as average traffic loads, have significantly increased in and around lynx areas (Ferreras et al. 2010).

Homogenization of mosaic cultural landscapes due to agricultural and silvicultural intensification during the 20th century conceivably contributed to lynx decline (Rodríguez and Delibes 2002, Ferreras et al. 2010). Continued trends of abandonment of marginal livestock farming and loss of small game, sometimes followed by afforestation, further reduce the amount of potentially suitable habitat for reintroduction. Without viable land uses, maintaining suitable mosaic landscapes for the Iberian Lynx would require enduring and expensive intensive management (Rodríguez 2013). Even in landscapes with suitable structure and subject to intensive conservation management, rabbit abundance exhibits large temporal variability closely tracked by the probability of lynx breeding (Palomares et al. 2001, Fernández et al. 2007, Iberlince LIFE project undated).

Effective population size does not exceed 25 for each isolated subpopulation (Casas-Marcé et al. 2013), announcing further losses of genetic diversity and accumulation of inbreeding through genetic drift. Indeed, persistent small population size over lynx generations, especially in the lowlands of the Doñana region, have produced signs of both demographic and genetic deterioration, including biased sex-ratios, decreased age of territory acquisition and litter size, and increased mortality due to disease and other natural causes (Palomares et al. 2012). Lowered demographic and genetic performance could positively interact in the form of an extinction vortex (Palomares et al. 2012).

As a manifestation of global change, human-assisted spread of virulent diseases affecting European Rabbits had catastrophic effects on Iberian Lynx populations in the past (Ferreras et al. 2010). Although rabbits could eventually develop resistance, viral diseases remain a recurrent threat as the arrival of new strains may cause again a lasting depression of food availability for the Iberian Lynx. Moreover, the prevalent rabbit lineage in southwestern Iberia, where rabbit restocking and other conservation measures take place, might be more vulnerable to rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) than the northeastern lineage (Real et al. 2009). For example, a new RHD strain has been blamed for an annual 62% decrease in productivity (average number of kittens per territorial female) in Andújar-Cardeña subpopulation (Iberlince LIFE project, undated). Likewise, diseases affecting felids also spread, sometimes with the help of uncontrolled pets that become feral or visit lynx areas from nearby towns. For example, in 2007 a feline leukaemia outbreak killed a substantial fraction of lynx in Doñana (López et al. 2009, Palomares et al. 2011a). Finally, detailed models combining ecological niche and metapopulation dynamics show that, without intensive intervention, climate change will rapidly decrease lynx populations and would probably lead to Iberian Lynx to extinction within 35 years (Fordham et al. 2013).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation actions undertaken during the last decade have been reviewed by Ferreras et al. (2010), Palomares et al. (2011b) and especially Simón et al. (2012).

The main goal of habitat management is increasing prey density. Food management includes supplementation of rabbits within enclosures and boosting wild rabbit populations. Attempts to augment rabbit numbers are carried out basically through restocking in or out predator-proof enclosures, but also acquiring rabbit hunting rights or enhancing pastures and refuge for wild rabbits. Other important resources for lynx that may be in short supply in some localities, such as cavities usable as breeding dens or artificial water spots, are provided. Management is applied to sites where suboptimal habitat quality may preclude settlement of subadults born nearby.

Although hunting or trapping might not be as important a mortality factor as it was in the past, lynx areas are regularly monitored for illegal traps. Measures for traffic calming and some crossing facilities have been implemented especially in road black spots. Awareness campaigns systematically performed in and around lynx areas as well as in reintroduction sites warn about the drastic effects of poaching on small populations, and informs on the conservation benefits and ecosystems services associated with Iberian Lynx preservation. Parallel education programmes target schools and the general public, which may be also engaged as volunteers.

Several NGOs and public administrations acquire rights on specific land uses, or help landowners to maintain their properties compatible with the conservation of the Iberian Lynx by compensating economic losses in which owners incur as a result of conservation action.

Some adult lynx have been translocated in order to alleviate the effects of inbreeding in the Doñana subpopulation. Additional wild individuals have been translocated some 30 km away as founders of two ongoing reintroduction attempts in Sierra Morena. A few captive-born individuals have also been used in reintroductions, after the first births of the captive-breeding programme took place in 2005 (Vargas et al. 2009). To date the ex situ conservation programme for the Iberian Lynx have produced over 270 individuals, and as the captive population has been built, captive-born animals are expected to be regularly used for reintroduction (Iberian Lynx Ex-situ Conservation Programme 2014). Recent models show that, to be effective, reintroductions should take into account the joint effects of climate change, prey abundance and habitat connectivity (Fordham et al. 2013).

The Iberian Lynx is fully protected in Spain and Portugal, listed on CITES Appendix I, and on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, and Annexes II* and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive.

Future actions

Two main avenues can be envisaged for lynx conservation, namely consolidation of existing populations and recolonization, either natural or assisted.

Continued intensive management, mainly in the form of habitat enhancement and increased prey density (Ferreras et al. 2010, Simón et al. 2012), has been suggested to resist the progressive effects of an extinction vortex whose symptoms can be noted at least in the Doñana population (Palomares et al. 2012). Other components of intensive management include reduction of mortality rates from road casualties or game management (Rodríguez and Delibes 2004), and prevention of disease outbreaks transmitted by domestic animals or wildlife reservoirs (Millán et al. 2009).

Natural recolonization requires increasing the chances for floaters to survive and establish in large areas surrounding occupied nuclei (Rodríguez and Delibes 2003, Palomares et al. 2011b, Rodríguez et al. 2012). These areas may be too large for intensive species-based management to be an option, but a shift to area-based, softer management could be considered. Such management could include tax incentives for small game management, reduced transportation, industrial or urban developments, enforcement of regulations on predator control, and awareness campaigns directed to local people.

Regarding assisted recolonization, so far wild lynx made the bulk of founders for reintroduced populations. Continued extraction of wild lynx might not be sustainable in the long term if consolidation of existing nuclei is aimed and if extractions reduce the chances of natural colonization by surplus dispersing lynx. Individuals produced by the captive breeding programme may progressively increase their proportion in the groups of founders. This may be accompanied by an improvement of the performance (survival and eventually reproduction) of released captive-bred individuals, perhaps by raising them in semi-natural conditions. Design of the genetic composition of founders should alleviate the markedly low genetic diversity of wild populations (Casas-Marcé et al. 2013). Adaptive selection of new reintroduction sites should also consider both present and forecast ecological suitability (Fordham et al. 2013).

Bibliography [top]

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Fernández, N., Palomares, F. and Delibes, M. 2002. The use of breeding dens and kitten development in the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). Journal of Zoology 258: 1-5.

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Citation: Rodríguez, A. & Calzada, J. 2015. Lynx pardinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 01 September 2015.
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