Legacies of past exploitation and climate affect mammalian sexes differently on the roof of the world - The case of wild Yaks

In polar environments, a lack of empirical knowledge about biodiversity prompts reliance on species distribution models to predict future change, yet these ignore the role of biotic interactions including the role of long past human exploitation. To explore how mammals of extreme elevation respond to glacial recession and past harvest, we combined our fieldwork with remote sensing and used analyses of ~60 expeditions from 1850–1925 to represent baseline conditions for wildlife before heavy exploitation on the Tibetan Plateau. Focusing on endangered wild yaks (Bos mutus), we document female changes in habitat use across time whereupon they increasingly relied on steeper post-glacial terrain, and currently have a 20x greater dependence on winter snow patches than males.

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