Elevational ranges of birds on a tropical montane gradient lag behind warming temperatures.

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2011-01

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Abstract

Background

Species may respond to a warming climate by moving to higher latitudes or elevations. Shifts in geographic ranges are common responses in temperate regions. For the tropics, latitudinal temperature gradients are shallow; the only escape for species may be to move to higher elevations. There are few data to suggest that they do. Yet, the greatest loss of species from climate disruption may be for tropical montane species.

Methodology/principal findings

We repeat a historical transect in Peru and find an average upward shift of 49 m for 55 bird species over a 41 year interval. This shift is significantly upward, but also significantly smaller than the 152 m one expects from warming in the region. To estimate the expected shift in elevation we first determined the magnitude of warming in the locality from historical data. Then we used the temperature lapse rate to infer the required shift in altitude to compensate for warming. The range shifts in elevation were similar across different trophic guilds.

Conclusions

Endothermy may provide birds with some flexibility to temperature changes and allow them to move less than expected. Instead of being directly dependent on temperature, birds may be responding to gradual changes in the nature of the habitat or availability of food resources, and presence of competitors. If so, this has important implications for estimates of mountaintop extinctions from climate change.

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Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1371/journal.pone.0028535

Publication Info

Forero-Medina, German, John Terborgh, S Jacob Socolar and Stuart L Pimm (2011). Elevational ranges of birds on a tropical montane gradient lag behind warming temperatures. PloS one, 6(12). p. e28535. 10.1371/journal.pone.0028535 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/23558.

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Scholars@Duke

Terborgh

John W. Terborgh

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences

John W. Terborgh is a James B. Duke Professor of Environmental Science and is Co-Director of the Center for Tropical Conservation at Duke University. He is a member of the National Academy of Science, and for the past thirty-five years, he has been actively involved in tropical ecology and conservation issues. An authority on avian and mammalian ecology in neotropical forests, Dr. Terborgh has published numerous articles and books on conservation themes. Since 1973 he has operated a field station in Peru's Manu National Park where he has overseen the research of more than 100 investigators. Dr. Terborgh earlier served on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Princeton University. In June 1992 he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship in recognition of his distinguished work in tropical ecology, and in April 1996 he was awarded the National Academy of Science Daniel Giraud Elliot medal for his research, and for his book Diversity and the Tropical Rainforest. He has served on several boards and advisory committees related to conservation, including the Wildlands Project, Cultural Survival, The Nature Conservancy, The World Wildlife Fund and both the Primate and Ecology Specialist Groups of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Pimm

Stuart L. Pimm

Doris Duke Distinguished Professor of Conservation Ecology in the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences

Stuart Pimm is a world leader in the study of present-day extinctions and what can be done to prevent them. His research covers the reasons why species become extinct, how fast they do so, the global patterns of habitat loss and species extinction and, importantly, the management consequences of this research. Pimm received his BSc degree from Oxford University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from New Mexico State University in 1974. Pimm is the author of over 350 scientific papers and five books. He is one of the most highly cited environmental scientists. Pimm wrote the highly acclaimed assessment of the human impact to the planet: The World According to Pimm: a Scientist Audits the Earth in 2001. His commitment to the interface between science and policy has led to his testimony to both House and Senate Committees on the re-authorization of the Endangered Species Act. He was worked and taught in Africa for nearly 30 years on elephants, most recently lions — through National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative — but always on topics that relate to the conservation of wildlife and the ecosystems on which they depend. Other research areas include the Everglades of Florida and tropical forests in South America, especially the Atlantic Coast forest of Brazil and the northern Andes — two of the world's "hotspots" for threatened species. His international honours include the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2010), the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Environmental Sciences from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (2006), the Society for Conservation Biology’s Edward T. LaRoe III Memorial Award (2006), and the Marsh Award for Conservation Biology, from the Marsh Christian Trust (awarded by the Zoological Society of London in 2004). Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, awarded him the William Proctor Prize for Scientific Achievement in 2007. In 2019, he won the International Cosmos Prize, which recognised his founding and directing Saving Nature, www.savingnature.org, a non-profit that uses donations for carbon emissions offsets to fund local conservation groups in areas of exceptional tropical biodiversity to restore their degraded lands. 


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