Understanding how species’ ecological niches adapt to environmental changes through time is critical for predicting the effect of future global change on endangered species. Yet few studies have incorporated knowledge of past niche shifting into the assessment of species’ future fate in a changing world. In this study, we integrated the ecological niche dynamics into the species distribution modeling of the Asian crested ibis (Nipponia nippon) in East Asia. Specifically, we compared historical and present ecological niches of crested ibis in four-dimensional environmental space based on species occurrence and environmental data. We then employed a multi-temporal ecological niche model to estimate the potential geographical distribution of crested ibis under future climate and land-use changes. Our results show that crested ibis retained similar though not identical ecological niches over time. Compared to the historical baseline range, the current suitable habitat for crested ibis has been reduced by 39.6%. The effects of human activity outweigh those of climate change regarding the distribution of crested ibis. We conclude that the ecological niche of crested ibis was tended to be conservative, and future potentially suitable habitat may encounter northeastward and northwestward shift, and possibly expand by 18.7% referred to the historical range. The findings of our study are of clear importance for the conservation and successful reintroduction of crested ibis in East Asia.
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