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Predicting potential responses to future climate in an alpine ungulate: interspecific interactions exceed climate effects

Mason, Tom H. E. and Stephens, Philip A. and Apollonio, Marco and Willis, Stephen G. (2014) Predicting potential responses to future climate in an alpine ungulate: interspecific interactions exceed climate effects. Global Change Biology, Vol. 20 (12), p. 3872-3882. ISSN 1354-1013. eISSN 1365-2486. Article.

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DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12641

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The altitudinal shifts of many montane populations are lagging behind climate change. Understanding habitual, daily behavioural rhythms, and their climatic and environmental influences, could shed light on the constraints on longterm upslope range-shifts. In addition, behavioural rhythms can be affected by interspecific interactions, which can ameliorate or exacerbate climate-driven effects on ecology. Here, we investigate the relative influences of ambient temperature and an interaction with domestic sheep (Ovis aries) on the altitude use and activity budgets of a mountain ungulate, the Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra). Chamois moved upslope when it was hotter but this effect was modest compared to that of the presence of sheep, to which they reacted by moving 89–103 m upslope, into an entirely novel altitudinal range. Across the European Alps, a range-shift of this magnitude corresponds to a 46% decrease in the availability of suitable foraging habitat. This highlights the importance of understanding how factors such as competition and disturbance shape a given species’ realised niche when predicting potential future responses to change. Furthermore, it exposes the potential for manipulations of species interactions to ameliorate the impacts of climate change, in this case by the careful management of livestock. Such manipulations could be particularly appropriate for species where competition or disturbance already strongly restricts their available niche. Our results also reveal the potential role of behavioural flexibility in responses to climate change. Chamois reduced their activity when it was warmer, which could explain their modest altitudinal migrations. Considering this behavioural flexibility, our model predicts a small 15–30 m upslope shift by 2100 in response to climate change, less than 4% of the altitudinal shift that would be predicted using a traditional species distribution model-type approach (SDM), which assumes that species’ behaviour remains unchanged as climate changes. Behavioural modifications could strongly affect how species respond to a changing climate.

Item Type:Article
ID Code:9938
Uncontrolled Keywords:activity budget, altitudinal migration, behaviour, behavioural thermoregulation, chamois, climate change, interspecific interactions, range-shift, temperature, ungulate
Subjects:Area 05 - Scienze biologiche > BIO/05 Zoologia
Divisions:001 Università di Sassari > 01-a Nuovi Dipartimenti dal 2012 > Scienze della Natura e del Territorio
Publisher:Blackwell / Wiley
Copyright Holders:© 2014 The Authors. Global Change Biology Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Additional Information:The full-text may be used and/or reproduced, and given to third parties in any format or medium, without prior permission or charge, for personal research or study, educational, or not-for-prot purposes provided that: a full bibliographic reference is made to the original source; a link is made to the metadata record in DRO; the full-text is not changed in any way; The full-text must not be sold in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.
Deposited On:01 Jul 2014 12:39

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