Afrotropical montane birds experience upslope shifts and range contractions along a fragmented elevational gradient in response to global warming.

Citation metadata

From: PLoS ONE(Vol. 16, Issue 3)
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Document Type: Report
Length: 8,090 words
Lexile Measure: 1600L

Document controls

Main content

Abstract :

Global warming is predicted to result in upslope shifts in the elevational ranges of bird species in montane habitats. Yet few studies have examined changes over time in the elevational distribution of species along fragmented gradients in response to global warming. Here, we report on a resurvey of an understory bird community in the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, along a forested elevational gradient that has been fragmented over the last 200 years. In 2019, we resurveyed seven sites, ranging in elevation from 360 m to 2110 m, that were originally surveyed between 1979 and 1981. We calculated differences in mean elevation and lower and upper range limits for 29 species between the two time periods and corrected for possible differences in elevation due to chance. Over four decades, we documented a significant mean upslope shift across species of 93 m. This shift was smaller than the 125 m expected shift due to local climate warming. Of the 29 focal species, 19 shifted upslope, eight downslope, and two remained unchanged. Mean upslope shifts in species were driven largely by contracting lower range limits which moved significantly upslope on average across species by 183 m, while upper range limits shifted non-significantly upslope by 72 m, leading to a mean range contraction of 114 m across species. Community composition of understory bird species also shifted over time, with current communities resembling communities found historically at lower elevations. Past forest fragmentation in combination with the limited gap-crossing ability of many tropical understory bird species are very likely important contributory factors to the observed asymmetrical shifts in lower and upper elevational range limits. Re-establishing forested linkages among the largest and closest forest fragments in the Eastern Arc Mountains are critical to permitting species to shift upslope and to reduce further elevational range contractions over time.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A656785257