Treeline ecotones shape the distribution of avian species richness and functional diversity in south temperate mountains.
ABSTRACT: Mountains produce distinct environmental gradients that may constrain or facilitate both the presence of avian species and/or specific combinations of functional traits. We addressed species richness and functional diversity to understand the relative importance of habitat structure and elevation in shaping avian diversity patterns in the south temperate Andes, Chile. During 2010-2018, we conducted 2202 point-counts in four mountain habitats (successional montane forest, old-growth montane forest, subalpine, and alpine) from 211 to 1,768 m in elevation and assembled trait data associated with resource use for each species to estimate species richness and functional diversity and turnover. We detected 74 species. Alpine specialists included 16 species (22%) occurring only above treeline with a mean elevational range of 298 m, while bird communities below treeline (78%) occupied a mean elevational range of 1,081 m. Treeline was an inflection line, above which species composition changed by 91% and there was a greater turnover in functional traits (2-3 times greater than communities below treeline). Alpine birds were almost exclusively migratory, inhabiting a restricted elevational range, and breeding in rock cavities. We conclude that elevation and habitat heterogeneity structure avian trait distributions and community composition, with a diverse ecotonal sub-alpine and a distinct alpine community.
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:The elevational and latitudinal diversity patterns of microbial taxa have attracted great attention in the past decade. Recently, the distribution of functional attributes has been in the spotlight. Here, we report a study profiling soil microbial communities along an elevation gradient (500-2200 m) on Changbai Mountain. Using a comprehensive functional gene microarray (GeoChip 5.0), we found that microbial functional gene richness exhibited a dramatic increase at the treeline ecotone, but the bacterial taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity based on 16S rRNA gene sequencing did not exhibit such a similar trend. However, the ?-diversity (compositional dissimilarity among sites) pattern for both bacterial taxa and functional genes was similar, showing significant elevational distance-decay patterns which presented increased dissimilarity with elevation. The bacterial taxonomic diversity/structure was strongly influenced by soil pH, while the functional gene diversity/structure was significantly correlated with soil dissolved organic carbon (DOC). This finding highlights that soil DOC may be a good predictor in determining the elevational distribution of microbial functional genes. The finding of significant shifts in functional gene diversity at the treeline ecotone could also provide valuable information for predicting the responses of microbial functions to climate change.
Project description:Alpine treelines are expected to shift upward due to recent climate change. However, interpretation of changes in montane systems has been problematic because effects of climate change are frequently confounded with those of land use changes. The eastern Himalaya, particularly Langtang National Park, Central Nepal, has been relatively undisturbed for centuries and thus presents an opportunity for studying climate change impacts on alpine treeline uncontaminated by potential confounding factors.We studied two dominant species, Abies spectabilis (AS) and Rhododendron campanulatum (RC), above and below the treeline on two mountains. We constructed 13 transects, each spanning up to 400 m in elevation, in which we recorded height and state (dead or alive) of all trees, as well as slope, aspect, canopy density, and measures of anthropogenic and animal disturbance.All size classes of RC plants had lower mortality above treeline than below it, and young RC plants (<2 m tall) were at higher density above treeline than below. AS shows little evidence of a position change from the historic treeline, with a sudden extreme drop in density above treeline compared to below. Recruitment, as measured by size-class distribution, was greater above treeline than below for both species but AS is confined to ~25 m above treeline whereas RC is luxuriantly growing up to 200 m above treeline. Synthesis. Evidence suggests that the elevational limits of RC have shifted upward both because (a) young plants above treeline benefited from facilitation of recruitment by surrounding vegetation, allowing upward expansion of recruitment, and (b) temperature amelioration to mature plants increased adult survival. We predict that the current pure stand of RC growing above treeline will be colonized by AS that will, in turn, outshade and eventually relegate RC to be a minor component of the community, as is the current situation below the treeline.
Project description:Mount Kenya is of ecological importance in tropical east Africa due to the dramatic gradient in vegetation types that can be observed from low to high elevation zones. However, species richness and phylogenetic diversity of this mountain have not been well studied. Here, we surveyed distribution patterns for a total of 1,335 seed plants of this mountain and calculated species richness and phylogenetic diversity across seven vegetation zones. We also measured phylogenetic structure using the net relatedness index (NRI) and the nearest species index (NTI). Our results show that lower montane wet forest has the highest level of species richness, density, and phylogenetic diversity of woody plants, while lower montane dry forest has the highest level of species richness, density, and phylogenetic diversity in herbaceous plants. In total plants, NRI and NTI of four forest zones were smaller than three alpine zones. In woody plants, lower montane wet forest and upper montane forest have overdispersed phylogenetic structures. In herbaceous plants, NRI of Afro-alpine zone and nival zone are smaller than those of bamboo zone, upper montane forest, and heath zone. We suggest that compared to open dry forest, humid forest has fewer herbaceous plants because of the closed canopy of woody plants. Woody plants may have climate-dominated niches, whereas herbaceous plants may have edaphic and microhabitat-dominated niches. We also proposed lower and upper montane forests with high species richness or overdispersed phylogenetic structures as the priority areas in conservation of Mount Kenya and other high mountains in the Eastern Afro-montane biodiversity hotspot regions.
Project description:Elevational variation in species richness is ubiquitous and important for conservation, but remains poorly explained. Numerous studies have documented higher species richness at mid-elevations, but none have addressed the underlying evolutionary and biogeographic processes that ultimately explain this pattern (i.e. speciation, extinction and dispersal). Here, we address the evolutionary causes of the mid-elevational diversity hump in the most species-rich clade of salamanders, the tropical bolitoglossine plethodontids. We present a new phylogeny for the group based on DNA sequences from all 13 genera and 137 species. Using this phylogeny, we find no relationship between rates of diversification of clades and their elevational distribution, and no evidence for a rapid 'species pump' in tropical montane regions. Instead, we find a strong relationship between the number of species in each elevational zone and the estimated time when each elevational band was first colonized. Mid-elevation habitats were colonized early in the phylogenetic history of bolitoglossines, and given similar rates of diversification across elevations, more species have accumulated in the elevational zones that were inhabited the longest. This pattern may be widespread and suggests that mid-elevation habitats may not only harbour more species, but may also contain more phylogenetic diversity than other habitats within a region.
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:We examined how butterfly species richness is affected by human impact and elevation, and how species ranges are distributed along the elevational gradient (200-2700 m) in the Isère Department (French Alps). A total of 35,724 butterfly observations gathered in summer (May-September) between 1995 and 2015 were analyzed. The number of estimated species per 100-m elevational band was fitted to the elevational gradient using a generalized additive model. Estimations were also performed on a 500 m × 500 m grid at low altitude (200-500 m) to test for the human impact on species richness using generalized least squares regression models. Each species elevational range was plotted against the elevational gradient. Butterfly richness along the elevational gradient first increased (200-500 m) to reach a maximum of 150 species at 700 m and then remained nearly constant till a sharp decrease after 1900 m, suggesting that after some temperature threshold, only few specialized species can survive. At low elevation, urbanization and arable lands had a strongly negative impact on butterfly diversity, which was buffered by a positive effect of permanent crops. Butterfly diversity is exceptionally high (185 species) in this alpine department that represents less than 5% of the French territory and yet holds more than 70% of all the Rhopalocera species recorded in France. Both climate and habitat shape the distribution of species, with a negative effect of anthropization at low altitude and strong climatic constraints at high altitude.
Project description:Under the contemporary climate change, the Himalaya is reported to be warming at a much higher rate than the global average. However, little is known about the alpine vegetation responses to recent climate change in the rapidly warming Himalaya. Here we studied vegetation dynamics on alpine summits in Kashmir Himalaya in relation to in situ measured microclimate. The summits, representing an elevation gradient from treeline to nival zone (3530-3740 m), were first surveyed in 2014 and then re-surveyed in 2018. The initial survey showed that the species richness, vegetation cover and soil temperature decreased with increasing elevation. Species richness and soil temperature differed significantly among slopes, with east and south slopes showing higher values than north and west slopes. The re-survey showed that species richness increased on the lower three summits but decreased on the highest summit (nival zone) and also revealed a substantial increase in the cover of dominant shrubs, graminoids, and forbs. The nestedness-resultant dissimilarity, rather than species turnover, contributed more to the magnitude of ?-diversity among the summits. High temporal species turnover was found on south and east aspects, while high nestedness was recorded along north and west aspects. Thermophilization was more pronounced on the lower two summits and along the northern aspects. Our study provides crucial scientific data on climate change impacts on the alpine vegetation of Kashmir Himalaya. This information will fill global knowledge gaps from the developing world.
Project description:Mountains are considered excellent natural laboratories for studying the determinants of plant diversity at contrasting spatial scales. To gain insights into how plant diversity is structured at different spatial scales, we surveyed high mountain plant communities in the Chilean Andes where man-driven perturbations are rare. This was done along elevational gradients located at different latitudes taking into account factors that act at fine scales, including abiotic (potential solar radiation and soil quality) and biotic (species interactions) factors, and considering multiple spatial scales. Species richness, inverse of Simpson's concentration (Dequiv), beta-diversity and plant cover were estimated using the percentage of cover per species recorded in 34 sites in the different regions with contrasted climates. Overall, plant species richness, Dequiv and plant cover were lower in sites located at higher latitudes. We found a unimodal relationship between species richness and elevation and this pattern was constant independently of the regional climatic conditions. Soil quality decreased the beta-diversity among the plots in each massif and increased the richness, the Dequiv and cover. Segregated patterns of species co-occurrence were related to increases in richness, Dequiv and plant cover at finer scales. Our results showed that elevation patterns of alpine plant diversity remained constant along the regions although the mechanisms underlying these diversity patterns may differ among climatic regions. They also suggested that the patterns of plant diversity in alpine ecosystems respond to a series of factors (abiotic and biotic) that act jointly at different spatial scale determining the assemblages of local communities, but their importance can only be assessed using a multi-scale spatial approach.
Project description:The study of elevational diversity gradients dates back to the foundation of biogeography. Although elevational patterns of plant and animal diversity have been studied for centuries, such patterns have not been reported for microorganisms and remain poorly understood. Here, in an effort to assess the generality of elevational diversity patterns, we examined soil bacterial and plant diversity along an elevation gradient. To gain insight into the forces that structure these patterns, we adopted a multifaceted approach to incorporate information about the structure, diversity, and spatial turnover of montane communities in a phylogenetic context. We found that observed patterns of plant and bacterial diversity were fundamentally different. While bacterial taxon richness and phylogenetic diversity decreased monotonically from the lowest to highest elevations, plants followed a unimodal pattern, with a peak in richness and phylogenetic diversity at mid-elevations. At all elevations bacterial communities had a tendency to be phylogenetically clustered, containing closely related taxa. In contrast, plant communities did not exhibit a uniform phylogenetic structure across the gradient: they became more overdispersed with increasing elevation, containing distantly related taxa. Finally, a metric of phylogenetic beta-diversity showed that bacterial lineages were not randomly distributed, but rather exhibited significant spatial structure across the gradient, whereas plant lineages did not exhibit a significant phylogenetic signal. Quantifying the influence of sample scale in intertaxonomic comparisons remains a challenge. Nevertheless, our findings suggest that the forces structuring microorganism and macroorganism communities along elevational gradients differ.