Predicted alteration of vertebrate communities in response to climate-induced elevational shifts

de la Fuente, Alejandro, Krockenberger, Andrew, Hirsch, Ben, Cernusak, Lucas, and Williams, Stephen E. (2022) Predicted alteration of vertebrate communities in response to climate-induced elevational shifts. Diversity and Distributions, 28 (6). pp. 1180-1190.

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Aim: Climate change is driving species to migrate to novel areas as current environments become unsuitable. As a result, species distributions have shifted uphill in montane ecosystems globally. Heterogeneous dispersal rates among shifting species could result in complex changes to community assemblages. For example, interspecific differences in dispersal ability could lead to the disruption, or creation, of species interactions and processes within communities, likely amplifying the impact of climate change on ecosystems. Here, we studied the dispersal success of vertebrate species in a tropical montane ecosystem under a climate-induced uphill shift and assessed the derived impacts on community structures.

Location: The Australian Wet Tropics bioregion.

Method: We simulated the uphill shift of 7613 community assemblages across the elevational gradient using thermal resistance layers for movement analyses. Dispersal success was calculated as the probability of shifting given species’ dispersal ability and landscape composition. We then used dissimilarity indices to measure the potential changes in community structures resulting from the heterogeneous dispersal success among migrating species.

Results: Dispersal success was strongly influenced by species’ dispersal ability, landscape composition and climate change. The heterogeneous dispersal success among migrating species induced marked temporal changes between community assemblages along the elevational gradient. The local extinction rate (i.e. the proportion of species unable to shift) was especially remarkable at high elevations, suggesting potential mass local extinctions of upland species. Furthermore, the increasing local extinction rate with elevation resulted in substantial declines in species co-occurrence in high-altitude ecosystems.

Main conclusions: Our study highlights the escalating impact of climate change on community assemblages in response to climate-induced elevational shifts, providing a classic example of the "escalator to extinction." Future predictions of the impacts of climate change on ecosystems will benefit from improvements in understanding species interactions, population dynamics and species potential to adapt to a changing environment.

Item ID: 73556
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1472-4642
Keywords: community reshuffling, escalator to extinction, global warming, landscape ecology, range shift, species co-occurrence, species extinction, tropical mountain
Copyright Information: © 2022 The Authors. Diversity and Distributions published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2022 08:25
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410102 Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation @ 70%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310308 Terrestrial ecology @ 30%
SEO Codes: 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190102 Ecosystem adaptation to climate change @ 100%
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