Conservation at a slow pace: terrestrial gastropods facing fast-changing climate

Abstract : The climate is changing rapidly, and terrestrial ectotherms are expected to be particularly vulnerable to changes in temperatureand water regime, but also to an increase in extreme weather events in temperate regions. Physiological responses of terrestrial gastropods to climate change are poorly studied. This is surprising, because they are of biodiversity significance among litter-dwelling species, playing important roles in ecosystem function, with numerous species being listed as endangered and requiring efficient conservation management. Through a summary of our ecophysiological work on snail and slug species, we gained some insights into physiological and behavioural responses to climate change that we can organize into the following four threat categories. (i) Winter temperature and snow cover. Terrestrial gastropods use different strategies to survive sub-zero temperatures in buffered refuges, such as the litter or the soil. Absence of the insulating snow cover exposes species to high variability in temperature. The extent of specific cold tolerance might influence the potential of local extinction, but also of invasion. (ii) Drought and high temperature. Physiological responses involve high-cost processes that protectagainst heat and dehydration. Some species decrease activity periods, thereby reducing foraging and reproduction time. Related costs and physiological limits are expected to increase mortality. (iii) Extreme events. Although some terrestrial gastropod communities can have a good resilience to fire, storms and flooding, an increase in the frequency of those events might lead to community impoverishment. (iv) Habitat loss and fragmentation. Given that terrestrial gastropods are poorly mobile, landscape alteration generally results in an increased risk of local extinction, but responses are highly variable between species, requiring studies at the population level. There is a great need for studies involving non-invasive methods on the plasticity of physiological and behavioural responses and the ability for local adaptation, considering the spatiotemporally heterogeneous climatic landscape, to allow efficient management of ecosystems and conservation of biodiversity.
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Annegret Nicolai, Armelle Ansart. Conservation at a slow pace: terrestrial gastropods facing fast-changing climate. Conservation Physiology, Oxford University Press, 2017, 5 (1), pp.cox007. ⟨10.1093/conphys/cox007⟩. ⟨hal-01510690⟩

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