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Breed Distribution Model

The potential impact of climate change on breed distribution

Diverse animal genetic resources underpin the capacity of livestock populations to provide a range of products and services across a diverse range of production environments. They allow populations to adapt as new challenges emerge, whether associated with climate change, other environmental trends or changing market or societal demands.

Livestock breeds that are raised in a given production environment over a long period of time tend to acquire characteristics that enable them to thrive in the local conditions and meet the needs of the people that keep them.

At least for breeds that are raised in extensive conditions, climate is a key element of the production environment. If climatic conditions change rapidly, the adaptive link between a livestock population and its local production environment may be broken.

The current geographic distributions (available at least at country level and in some cases at subnational level) of about 8800 livestock breeds, as recorded in the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS), are being used to model suitable areas for breeds under current and expected future conditions, taking several temperature and humidity parameters into account (i.e. maximum temperature of warmest month, minimum temperature of coldest month, annual precipitation, precipitation seasonality measured as coefficient of variation, mean temperature of wettest month and of driest month).

To predict areas suitable under future environmental conditions, users have the option to choose among several climate change models (e.g. the Hadley Global Environment Model 2 – Earth System https://verc.enes.org/models/earthsystem-models/metoffice-hadley-centre/hadgem2-es) and four “scenarios” (the so-called representative concentration pathways - http://sedac.ipcc-data.org/ddc/ar5_scenario_process/RCPs.html) representing a range from optimistic [RCP 2.6] to rather pessimistic [RCP 8.5] constellations).

Differences between areas suitable under current and future conditions are mapped using a simple colour scale, where

  • areas of habitat loss appear in red
  • areas of no expected change in dark green
  • areas of habitat gain in light green

Analyses of this kind can potentially contribute to more informed decision-making on breed management in a changing climate and hence strengthen the capacity of national governments, livestock keepers and farmers to protect and enhance food security and manage their animal genetic resources sustainably.

The model is most useful for local breeds (those present in only one country) known to be mainly kept under relatively extensive conditions.

The potential distribution of transboundary breeds (those present in more than one country) kept under intensive production systems is not expected to be as directly influenced by the climate.

How to use the tool

Please select one option for each element on the right then click the Submit button to create the maps.

Click on the map thumbnails to open the interactive maps.