Elevational Ranges of Montane Birds and Deforestation in the Western Andes of Colombia.
Deforestation causes habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation, and can ultimately cause extinction of the remnant species. Tropical montane birds face these threats with the added natural vulnerability of narrower elevational ranges and higher specialization than lowland species. Recent studies assess the impact of present and future global climate change on species' ranges, but only a few of these evaluate the potentially confounding effect of lowland deforestation on species elevational distributions. In the Western Andes of Colombia, an important biodiversity hotspot, we evaluated the effects of deforestation on the elevational ranges of montane birds along altitudinal transects. Using point counts and mist-nets, we surveyed six altitudinal transects spanning 2200 to 2800 m. Three transects were forested from 2200 to 2800 m, and three were partially deforested with forest cover only above 2400 m. We compared abundance-weighted mean elevation, minimum elevation, and elevational range width. In addition to analysing the effect of deforestation on 134 species, we tested its impact within trophic guilds and habitat preference groups. Abundance-weighted mean and minimum elevations were not significantly different between forested and partially deforested transects. Range width was marginally different: as expected, ranges were larger in forested transects. Species in different trophic guilds and habitat preference categories showed different trends. These results suggest that deforestation may affect species' elevational ranges, even within the forest that remains. Climate change will likely exacerbate harmful impacts of deforestation on species' elevational distributions. Future conservation strategies need to account for this by protecting connected forest tracts across a wide range of elevations.
Ocampo-Peñuela, N; Pimm, SL
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