Biomass, abundances, and abundance and geographical range size relationship of birds along a rainforest elevational gradient in Papua New Guinea.
ABSTRACT: The usually positive inter-specific relationship between geographical range size and the abundance of local bird populations comes with exceptions. On continents, the majority of these exceptions have been described from tropical montane areas in Africa, where geographically-restricted bird species are unusually abundant. We asked how the local abundances of passerine and non-passerine bird species along an elevational gradient on Mt. Wilhelm, Papua New Guinea relate to their geographical range size. We collected data on bird assemblages at eight elevations (200-3,700 m, at 500 m elevational increments). We used a standardized point-counts at 16 points at each elevational study site. We partitioned the birds into feeding guilds, and we obtained data on geographical range sizes from the Bird-Life International data zone. We observed a positive relationship between abundance and geographical range size in the lowlands. This trend changed to a negative one towards higher elevations. The total abundances of the assemblage showed a hump-shaped pattern along the elevational gradient, with passerine birds, namely passerine insectivores, driving the observed pattern. In contrast to abundances, the mean biomass of the bird assemblages decreased with increasing elevation. Our results show that montane bird species maintain dense populations which compensate for the decreased available area near the top of the mountain.
Project description:Understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics of species assemblages is a main challenge in ecology. The mechanisms that shape species assemblages and their temporal fluctuations along tropical elevational gradients are particularly poorly understood. Here, we examined the spatio-temporal dynamics of bird assemblages along an elevational gradient in Ecuador. We conducted bird point counts at three elevations (1000, 2000 and 3000 m) on 18 1-ha plots and repeated the sampling eight times over two years (216 hours in total). For each plot, we obtained data of monthly temperatures and precipitation and recorded the overall resource availability (i.e., the sum of flower, fruit, and invertebrate resources). As expected, bird richness decreased from low to high elevations. Moreover, we found a significant decrease in bird abundance and richness and an increase in evenness between the most and least humid season at each of the three elevations. Climatic factors were more closely related to these temporal fluctuations than local resource availability. While temperature had significant positive effects on the abundance of birds at mid and high elevations, precipitation negatively affected bird abundance at low and mid elevations. Our study highlights that bird assemblages along tropical elevational gradients can show pronounced seasonal fluctuations. In particular, low temperatures and high precipitation seem to impose important constraints on birds. We conclude that potential changes in climate, due to global warming, are likely to affect the spatio-temporal dynamics of bird assemblages along tropical elevational gradients.
Project description:Climate change forces many species to move their ranges to higher latitudes or elevations. Resulting immigration or emigration of species might lead to functional changes, e.g., in the trait distribution and composition of ecological assemblages. Here, we combined approaches from biogeography (species distribution models; SDMs) and community ecology (functional diversity) to investigate potential effects of climate-driven range changes on frugivorous bird assemblages along a 3000?m elevational gradient in the tropical Andes. We used SDMs to model current and projected future occurrence probabilities of frugivorous bird species from the lowlands to the tree line. SDM-derived probabilities of occurrence were combined with traits relevant for seed dispersal of fleshy-fruited plants to calculate functional dispersion (FDis; a measure of functional diversity) for current and future bird assemblages. Comparisons of FDis between current and projected future assemblages showed consistent results across four dispersal scenarios, five climate models and two representative concentration pathways. Projections indicated a decrease of FDis in the lowlands, an increase of FDis at lower mid-elevations and little changes at high elevations. This suggests that functional dispersion responds differently to global warming at different elevational levels, likely modifying avian seed dispersal functions and plant regeneration in forest ecosystems along tropical mountains.
Project description:Integrating multiple facets of biodiversity to describe spatial and temporal distribution patterns is one way of revealing the mechanisms driving community assembly. We assessed the species, functional, and phylogenetic composition and structure of passerine bird communities along an elevational gradient both in wintering and breeding seasons in the Ailao Mountains, southwest China, in order to identify the dominant ecological processes structuring the communities and how these processes change with elevation and season. Our research confirms that the highest taxonomic diversity, and distinct community composition, was found in the moist evergreen broadleaf forest at high elevation in both seasons. Environmental filtering was the dominant force at high elevations with relatively cold and wet climatic conditions, while the observed value of mean pairwise functional and phylogenetic distances of low elevation was constantly higher than expectation in two seasons, suggested interspecific competition could play the key role at low elevations, perhaps because of relative rich resource result from complex vegetation structure and human-induced disturbance. Across all elevations, there was a trend of decreasing intensity of environmental filtering whereas increasing interspecific competition from wintering season to breeding season. This was likely due to the increased resource availability but reproduction-associated competition in the summer months. In general, there is a clear justification for conservation efforts to protect entire elevational gradients in the Ailao Mountains, given the distinct taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic compositions and also elevational migration pattern in passerine bird communities.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Understanding diversity patterns and the mechanisms underlying those patterns along elevational gradients is critically important for conservation efforts in montane ecosystems, especially those that are biodiversity hotspots. Despite recent advances, consensus on the underlying causes, or even the relative influence of a suite of factors on elevational diversity patterns has remained elusive. METHODS AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We examined patterns of species richness, density and range size distribution of birds, and the suite of biotic and abiotic factors (primary productivity, habitat variables, climatic factors and geometric constraints) that governs diversity along a 4500-m elevational gradient in the Eastern Himalayan region, a biodiversity hotspot within the world's tallest mountains. We used point count methods for sampling birds and quadrats for estimating vegetation at 22 sites along the elevational gradient. We found that species richness increased to approximately 2000 m, then declined. We found no evidence that geometric constraints influenced this pattern, whereas actual evapotranspiration (a surrogate for primary productivity) and various habitat variables (plant species richness, shrub density and basal area of trees) accounted for most of the variation in bird species richness. We also observed that ranges of most bird species were narrow along the elevation gradient. We find little evidence to support Rapoport's rule for the birds of Sikkim region of the Himalaya. CONCLUSIONS AND SIGNIFICANCE: This study in the Eastern Himalaya indicates that species richness of birds is highest at intermediate elevations along one of the most extensive elevational gradients ever examined. Additionally, primary productivity and factors associated with habitat accounted for most of the variation in avian species richness. The diversity peak at intermediate elevations and the narrow elevational ranges of most species suggest important conservation implications: not only should mid-elevation areas be conserved, but the entire gradient requires equal conservation attention.
Project description:Understanding diversity patterns along environmental gradients lies at the heart of community ecology and conservation. Previous studies have found variation in bird diversity and density along "natural" elevational gradients in the Tropical Andes Hotspot. However, there is still a lack of knowledge about how bird communities respond to traditional land-use patterns, in association with other multiple drivers, along elevations. In the present study, we investigated biotic, abiotic and anthropogenic sources of variation associated with bird species diversity, density and turnover along a 3000-m elevational gradient, in southern limit of the Tropical Andes Hotspot, northern Chile. Over four seasons, we conducted 472 bird point count surveys and established 118 plots distributed across the Desert, Pre-Puna, Puna and High-Andean belts, where biotic, abiotic and anthropogenic factors were measured. We used mixed-effects models to estimate alpha diversity and multinomial Poisson mixture models to estimate species density, accounting for detectability. Species diversity and density increased until 3300 masl and then declined. This type of elevational pattern is characteristic of dry-based mountains, where environmental conditions are suitable at mid-elevations. Habitats shaped by traditional Aymara indigenous agriculture, associated with relatively high vegetation heterogeneity, hosted the highest values of bird diversity and density. Species turnover was structured by habitat type, while elevational ranges of most species were restricted to three relatively discrete assemblages that replaced each other along the gradient. Our study revealed a hump-shaped relationship between elevation and bird diversity and density in the Dry Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, supporting a diversity pattern characteristic of dry-based mountains of the world. Traditional Aymara agriculture may have constructed ecological niches for biodiversity at mid-elevations, enhancing vegetation heterogeneity, thus providing resources for resident and rare species. Increasing loss of traditional land-use may present a threat to the bird community in the Tropical Andes Hotspot.
Project description:Hypobaric hypoxia at high elevation represents an important physiological stressor for montane organisms, but optimal physiological strategies to cope with hypoxia may vary among species with different life histories. Montane birds exhibit a range of migration patterns; elevational migrants breed at high elevations but winter at low elevations or migrate further south, while high-elevation residents inhabit the same elevation throughout the year. Optimal physiological strategies to cope with hypoxia might therefore differ between species that exhibit these two migratory patterns, because they differ in the amount time spent at high elevation. We examined physiological parameters associated with blood-oxygen transport (haemoglobin concentration and haematocrit, i.e. the proportion of red blood cells in blood) in nine species of elevational migrants and six species of high-elevation residents that were sampled along a 2200 m (1000-3200 m) elevational gradient. Haemoglobin concentration increased with elevation within species regardless of migratory strategy, but it was only significantly correlated with haematocrit in elevational migrants. Surprisingly, haemoglobin concentration was not correlated with haematocrit in high-elevation residents, and these species exhibited higher mean cellular haemoglobin concentration than elevational migrants. Thus, alternative physiological strategies to regulate haemoglobin concentration and blood O2 carrying capacity appear to differ among birds with different annual elevational movement patterns.
Project description:Deforestation causes habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation, and can ultimately cause extinction of the remnant species. Tropical montane birds face these threats with the added natural vulnerability of narrower elevational ranges and higher specialization than lowland species. Recent studies assess the impact of present and future global climate change on species' ranges, but only a few of these evaluate the potentially confounding effect of lowland deforestation on species elevational distributions. In the Western Andes of Colombia, an important biodiversity hotspot, we evaluated the effects of deforestation on the elevational ranges of montane birds along altitudinal transects. Using point counts and mist-nets, we surveyed six altitudinal transects spanning 2200 to 2800 m. Three transects were forested from 2200 to 2800 m, and three were partially deforested with forest cover only above 2400 m. We compared abundance-weighted mean elevation, minimum elevation, and elevational range width. In addition to analysing the effect of deforestation on 134 species, we tested its impact within trophic guilds and habitat preference groups. Abundance-weighted mean and minimum elevations were not significantly different between forested and partially deforested transects. Range width was marginally different: as expected, ranges were larger in forested transects. Species in different trophic guilds and habitat preference categories showed different trends. These results suggest that deforestation may affect species' elevational ranges, even within the forest that remains. Climate change will likely exacerbate harmful impacts of deforestation on species' elevational distributions. Future conservation strategies need to account for this by protecting connected forest tracts across a wide range of elevations.
Project description:Amphibians inhabiting montane riparian zones in the Neotropics are particularly vulnerable to decline, but the reasons are poorly understood. Because environmental contaminants, endocrine disruption, and pathogens often figure prominently in amphibian declines it is imperative that we understand how these factors are potentially interrelated to affect montane populations. One possibility is that increased precipitation associated with global warming promotes the deposition of contaminants in montane regions. Increased exposure to contaminants, in turn, potentially elicits chronic elevations in circulating stress hormones that could contribute to montane population declines by compromising resistance to pathogens and/or production of sex steroids regulating reproduction. Here, we test this hypothesis by examining contaminant levels, stress and sex steroid levels, and nematode abundances in male drab treefrogs, Smilisca sordida, from lowland and montane populations in Costa Rica. We found no evidence that montane populations were more likely to possess contaminants (i.e., organochlorine, organophosphate and carbamate pesticides or benzidine and chlorophenoxy herbicides) than lowland populations. We also found no evidence of elevational differences in circulating levels of the stress hormone corticosterone, estradiol or progesterone. However, montane populations possessed lower androgen levels, hosted more nematode species, and had higher nematode abundances than lowland populations. Although these results suggested that nematodes contributed to lower androgens in montane populations, we were unable to detect a significant inverse relationship between nematode abundance and androgen level. Our results suggest that montane populations of this species are not at greater risk of exposure to contaminants or chronic stress, but implicate nematodes and compromised sex steroid levels as potential threats to montane populations.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Avian haemosporidia are obligate blood parasites with an ample range of hosts worldwide. To understand how host communities may influence the diversity of parasites of the neotropics, the spatial genetic variation of avian Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, and Leucocytozoon was examined between areas of host endemism and along the elevational gradient in the tropical Andes. METHODS:A total of 1686 accessions of the cytochrome b gene of avian haemosporidia were selected from 43 publications, that further provides additional information on 14.2% of bird species in the Neotropics. Haplotype groups were identified using a similarity-based clustering of sequences using a cut-off level ≥ 99.3% of sequence identity. Phylogenetic-based analyses were implemented to examine the spatial genetic structure of avian haemosporidia among areas of host endemism and the elevation gradient in the tropical Andes. RESULTS:The areas of avian endemism, including the tropical Andes, can explain the differential distribution of the haemosporidia cytochrome b gene variation. In the tropical Andes region, the total number of avian haemosporidia haplotypes follows a unimodal pattern that peaks at mid-elevation between 2000 and 2500 m above sea level. Furthermore, the haplotype assemblages of obligate blood parasites tend to overlap towards mid-elevation, where avian host diversity tends to be maximized. CONCLUSIONS:Spatial analyses revealed that richness and turnover in haemosporidia suggest an association with montane host diversity, according to elevation in the tropical Andes. In addition, the spatial distribution of haemosporidia diversity is closely associated with patterns of host assemblages over large geographical scale in the tropical Andes and areas of avian endemism nearby.
Project description:The historical processes underlying high diversity in tropical biodiversity hotspots like the Western Ghats of Peninsular India remain poorly understood. We sampled bush frogs on 13 massifs across the Western Ghats Escarpment and examined the relative influence of Quaternary glaciations, ecological gradients and geological processes on the spatial patterns of lineage and clade diversification. The results reveal a large in situ radiation (more than 60 lineages), exhibiting geographical structure and clade-level endemism, with two deeply divergent sister clades, North and South, highlighting the biogeographic significance of an ancient valley, the Palghat Gap. A majority of the bush frog sister lineages were isolated on adjacent massifs, and signatures of range stasis provide support for the dominance of geological processes in allopatric speciation. In situ diversification events within the montane zones (more than 1800 m) of the two highest massifs suggest a role for climate-mediated forest-grassland persistence. Independent transitions along elevational gradients among sub-clades during the Miocene point to diversification along the elevational gradient. The study highlights the evolutionary significance of massifs in the Western Ghats with the high elevations acting as centres of lineage diversification and the low- and mid-elevations of the southern regions, with deeply divergent lineages, serving as museums.