Anticipating the response of the Brazilian giant earthworm (Rhinodrilus alatus) to climate change: implications for its traditional use


An. Acad. Bras. Ciênc.




Abstract Our understanding of the impacts of ongoing global warming on terrestrial species has increased significantly during the last several years, but how climatic change has affected, and will affect, the distribution of earthworms remains largely unknown. We used climate niche modeling to model the current distribution of the giant earthworm Rhinodrilus alatus - an endemic species of the Cerrado Domain in Brazil, which is traditionally harvested and commercialized for fishing bait. R. alatus is sensitive to environmental changes because climate, in synergy with soil attributes, determine its annual reproductive cycle and distribution. The paleoclimatic reconstructions predict important geographical shifts from LGM (~21,000 yBp) to the present potential distribution of R. alatus: range expansion, fragmentation, and shrinkage of the current core area. Further, the 2070 scenarios predict substantial shrink and losses of stable areas. Our results indicate that climate change will not only affect the extent of the distribution, but will also promote significant fragmentation and a geographical shift to outside of the currently recognized geographical boundaries. In this context, populations of R. alatus would decline and traditional harvesting would collapse, requiring immediate implementation of management and conservation measures for the species and economically sustainable alternatives for the local community.

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