May 22, 2013

Cryptic loss of montane avian richness and high community turnover over 100 years

Morgan W Tingley, Steven R Beissinger


Although there are numerous examples of individual species moving up in elevation and poleward in latitude in response to 20th century climate change, how communities have responded is less well understood and requires fully accounting for changes in species-specific detectability over time, which has been neglected in past studies. We use a hierarchical Bayesian occupancy model to examine bird species richness change and turnover along three elevation gradients surveyed 80-100 years apart in the Sierra Nevada of California, USA. Richness declined over the 20th century across all elevations. Turnover was greatest at the highest and the lowest elevations. These findings were only apparent, however, after species' detectability was incorporated into measures of species richness. Further partitioning of species richness changes by elevational life zone showed that numbers of low- and high-elevation species declined, without a concurrent expansion by mid-elevation species. Our results provide empirical evidence for biodiversity loss in protected montane areas during the 20th century and highlight the importance of accounting for detectability in comparisons of species richness over time.

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Mentioned in this Paper

CFC1 gene
CFC1 wt Allele
Biochemical Turnover

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