Kashmir musk deer Moschus cupreus (KMD) are the least studied species of musk deer. We compiled genetically validated occurrence records of KMD to construct species distribution models using Maximum Entropy. We show that the distribution of KMD is limited between central Nepal on the east and north-east Afghanistan on the west and is primarily determined by precipitation of driest quarter, annual mean temperature, water vapor, and precipitation during the coldest quarter. Precipitation being the most influential determinant of distribution suggests the importance of pre-monsoon moisture for growth of the dominant vegetation, Himalayan birch Betula utilis and Himalayan fir Abies spectabilis, in KMD’s preferred forests. All four Representative Concentration Pathway Scenarios result an expansion of suitable habitat in Uttarakhand, India, west Nepal and their associated areas in China in 2050s and 2070s but a dramatic loss of suitable habitat elsewhere (Kashmir region and Pakistan-Afghanistan border). About 1/4th of the current habitat will remain as climate refugia in future. Since the existing network of protected areas will only include a tiny fraction (4%) of the climatic refugia of KMD, the fate of the species will be determined by the interplay of more urgent short-term forces of poaching and habitat degradation and long-term forces of climate change.
Article published in Scientific Reports.