Warmer climates have affected animal distribution ranges, but how they may interact with vegetation patterns to affect habitat use, an important consideration for future wildlife management, has received little attention. Here, we use a biophysical model to investigate the potential thermal impact of vegetation pattern on the habitat quality of a high-elevation grassland lizard, Takydromus hsuehshanensis, and to predict the thermal suitability of vegetation for this species in a future warmer climate (assuming 3 °C air temperature increase). We assess the thermal quality of vegetation types in our study area (Taroko National Park in areas >1,800 m) using three ecologically relevant estimates of reptiles: body temperature (T b), maximum active time, and maximum digestive time. The results show that increasing forest canopy gradually cools the microclimates, hence decreasing these estimates. In the current landscape, sunny mountain-top grasslands are predicted to serve as high quality thermal habitat, whereas the dense forests that are dominant as a result of forest protection are too cold to provide suitable habitat. In simulated warmer climates, the thermal quality of dense forests increases slightly but remains inferior to that of grasslands. We note that the impact of warmer climates on this reptile will be greatly affected by future vegetation patterns, and we suggest that the current trend of upslope forest movement found in many other mountain systems could cause disadvantages to some heliothermic lizard species.
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