A study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, has linked population declines of Californias desert bighorn sheep with the effects of climate change. Whats more, many of the states remaining bighorn populations could face extinction if certain global warming forecasts for the next 60 years come true.
A desert bighorn sheep in the Old Woman Mountains of the Mojave Desert. (Photos by Clinton W. Epps, UC Berkeley)
In the study, which is published in the current issue of Conservation Biology, the authors found that of the 80 groups of desert bighorn sheep known to have roamed Californias mountains over the past century, 30 are now extinct.
In their investigation of the population decline, the researchers evaluated impacts ranging from contact with domestic livestock, which can lead to the spread of disease and competition for food, to poaching, mining, human disturbance and other factors. They also analyzed climatic variables such as temperature and precipitation that affect the availability of vegetation and dependable sources of spring water for the sheep.
Sarah Yang | UC Berkeley
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