Are Swiss birds tracking climate change? Detecting elevational shifts using response curve shapes.
Ecological Modelling 222: 21-32.
Climate change is affecting biodiversity worldwide inducing species to either "move, adapt or die". In this paper we propose a conceptual framework for analysing range shifts, namely a catalogue of the possible patterns of change in the distribution of a species along elevational or other environmental gradients and an improved quantitative methodology to identify and objectively describe these patterns. Patterns are defined in terms of changes occurring at the leading, trailing or both edges of the distribution: (a) leading edge expansion, (b) trailing edge retraction, (c) range expansion, (d) optimum shift, (e) expansion, (f) retraction, and (g) shift. The methodology is based on the modelling of species distributions along a gradient using generalized additive models (GAMs). Separate models are calibrated for two distinct periods of assessment and response curves are compared over five reference points. Changes occurred at these points are formalized into a code that ultimately designates the corresponding change pattern. We tested the proposed methodology using data from the Swiss national common breeding bird survey. The elevational distributions of 95 bird species were modelled for the periods 1999-2002 and 2004-2007 and significant upward shifts (all patterns confounded) were identified for 35% of the species. Over the same period, an increase in mean temperature was registered for Switzerland. In consideration of the short period covered by the case study, assessed change patterns are considered to correspond to intermediate patterns in an ongoing shifting process. However, similar patterns can be determined by habitat barriers, land use/land cover changes, competition with concurrent or invasive species or different warming rates at different elevations.