The relationship of tropical bird communities to tree species composition and vegetation structure along an Andean elevational gradient
Correspondence: Jill E. Jankowski, 6270 University Blvd., Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.
Understanding patterns of species turnover along environmental gradients and their consistency across taxonomic groups is central to the study of biodiversity. We may expect congruence in diversity patterns across groups whose ranges could be influenced by species interactions. We explore associations between bird and vegetation communities in the tropical Andes to determine whether patterns of species richness and turnover in birds and trees are congruent with elevation, and whether tree species composition, vegetation structure, elevation, or a combination of these best predicts bird species composition.
A forested 2600-m elevational gradient on the eastern slope of the Peruvian Andes.
Bird surveys and vegetation measurements were conducted at 172 points, and a subset of these were spatially matched with fourteen 1-ha tree inventory plots. Diversity patterns were described for trees, birds, and avian foraging guilds. We used dissimilarity matrices to examine patterns of turnover and nestedness. Turnover of birds and trees was examined by comparing compositional change of adjacent plots along the gradient. Multiple regression on distance matrices was employed to determine contributions of tree species composition, vegetation structure and elevation to explaining variation in bird species composition.
Species richness was higher for trees than for birds, and whereas diversity in both taxa decreased with elevation, tree richness showed a low-elevation plateau before declining at higher elevations. Tree species had narrower distributions compared to birds, but patterns of turnover were largely congruent between taxa. Nestedness contributed much less to dissimilarity than turnover, although birds showed higher nestedness, particularly at high elevations. Tree species composition, elevation and vegetation structure were all important predictors of bird species composition; the best model explained 78% of bird dissimilarity across plots. Tree species composition was always included in the best models, for all birds and foraging guilds.
Our assessment of Andean bird and vegetation communities suggests strong correspondence, perhaps due to direct interactions or similar underlying drivers. We hypothesize that with climate change, range shifts in these groups may not occur independently. Rather, birds may have delayed upslope shifts or may be limited to high-elevation patches where appropriate vegetation communities exist.