Climate change has the potential to have significant influence on distribution of many species and alter ecosystems. With the current estimates of rate of projected environmental change for the 21st century, urgent adaptation and mitigation measures are required to slow down the impact of climate change on biodiversity. A number of studies have shown that recent human-induced environmental changes have already triggered species range shifts, changes in phenology and species extinctions. However, accurate projections of species responses to future climate change are more difficult to ascertain. In recent years, a number of modeling tools are being used to predict the consequences of climate change on the distribution of species and also identify possible ecological niche of a species under different climate change scenarios.
In this paper, using the distribution data of the species, we have attempted to (a) identify the current geographical distribution of five species of the family Myristicaceae and predict the possible sites of occurrence of these species in the Western Ghats, India using the niche modeling tools and (b) predict the impact of climate change on the potential distribution of these species for two scenarios (A1B and A2A). All the five species selected for the study are distributed in the Western Ghats with higher densities in the Central Western Ghats. The model predicted an overall increase in the suitable habitats for the non-swampy species. However, there is a shift in the habitat range of these species in response to climate change. Gymnocranthera canarica and Myristica fatua, which are obligate swampy species, tend to be affected in changing climate. For both these species, the overall habitat is reduced due to climate change. These species already have restricted habitat and therefore climate change could pose a serious threat for their future survival. Predicting how species distribution will change in the wake of future global climate change is important to develop effective conservation strategies for these species, which inhabit fragile ecosystems.