Andean birds are now at higher elevations than 40 years ago
Posted on Saturday, December 24th, 2011
A recent paper published by members of The Pimm Group confirms that wildlife is being affected by increasing global temperatures.
Forty years ago, ornithologist John Terborgh collected data on various bird species along an altitudinal gradient on a tropical mountain, Cerros del Sira, in Peru. In 2010, Pimm’s team returned to the same location and recorded the elevations at which those same bird species could now be found.
The data clearly showed that birds are now at a higher average elevation than 40 years ago. Evidently, increased temperatures account for the shift, since the scientists eliminated other causes such as land use patterns. On average, species moved 49 meters (161 feet) higher than 40 years ago. Although significant, this change was less than expected from the recorded increase in temperature for the Cerros del Sira mountain. The authors suggest that the birds are responding to vegetational changes, which are slower than the rate at which animals move, introducing a lag time in the birds’ responses to temperature change.
Publishing by the open-source journal PLOS, the article is available free-of-charge: Download the article (325KB PDF).