Neglected and underutilized fruit species (NUFS) can make an important contribution to the economy, food security and nutrition requirement for Sri Lanka. Identifying suitable areas for cultivation of NUFS is of paramount importance to deal with impending climate change issues. Nevertheless, limited studies have been carried out to assess the impact of climate change on the potential distribution of NUFS. Therefore, we examined the potential range changes of NUFS in a tropical climate using a case study from Sri Lanka. We prioritized and modeled the potentially suitable areas for four NUFS, namely Aegle marmelos
, Annona muricata
, Limonia acidissima
and Tamarindus indica
under current and projected climates (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5) for 2050 and 2070 using the maximum entropy (Maxent) species distribution modeling (SDM) approach. Potentially suitable areas for NUFS are predicted to decrease in the future under both scenarios. Out of the four NUFS, T. indica
appears to be at the highest risk due to reduction in potential areas that are suitable for its growth under both emissions scenarios. The predicted suitable area reductions of this species for 2050 and 2070 are estimated as >75% compared to the current climate. A region of potentially higher climatic suitability was found around mid-county for multiple NUFS, which is also predicted to decrease under projected climate change. Further, the study identified high-potential agro-ecological regions (AERs) located in the mid-country’s wet and intermediate zones as the most suitable areas for promoting the cultivation of NUFS. The findings show the potential for incorporating predictive modeling into the management of NUFS under projected climate change. This study highlights the requirements of climate change adaptation strategies and focused research that can increase the resilience of NUFS to future changes in climate.
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