How temperature guides where species live and where they'll go
For decades, among the most enduring questions for ecologists have been: "Why do species live where they do? And what are the factors that keep them there?" A Princeton University-based study featured on the February cover of the journal Ecology could prove significant in answering that question, particularly for animals in the world's temperate mountain areas.
The researchers spent two years documenting the distribution of 70 bird species across the Himalayas in India and found that temperature and habitat predominantly determine the elevations where the birds live. Earlier research by other scientists on tropical birds had shown that competition limited the ranges of most species, a conclusion often presumed to be true for temperate zones as well.
The researchers found, however, that competition sets the boundaries for a mere 12 percent of Himalayan bird species, while temperature and habitat dictate where 48 and 40 percent of species, respectively, feather their nests. The study is among the first to specifically record temperature across different species' entire elevational ranges; previous studies had used elevation as an unreliable proxy for temperature.
Read more at Princeton University
Image Credits: Paul Elsen, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology