Climate change and community disassembly: impacts of warming on tropical and temperate montane community structure




Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 1191–1200


Both tropical and temperate species are responding to global warming through range shifts, but our understanding of the consequences of these shifts for whole communities is limited. Here, we use current elevational range data for six taxonomic groups spanning 90° in latitude to examine the potential impacts of climate-driven range shifts on community change, or ‘disassembly’, across latitude. Elevational ranges are smaller at low latitudes for most groups and, as a consequence, tropical communities appear to be more sensitive to temperature increases compared with temperate communities. Under site-specific temperature projections, we generally found greater community disassembly in tropical compared with temperate communities, although this varied by dispersal assumptions. Mountain height can impact the amount of community disassembly, with greater change occurring on smaller mountains. Finally, projected community disassembly was higher for ectotherms than endotherms, although the variation among ectotherms was greater than the variation separating endotherms and ectotherms.