Elevational gradients in species abundance, assemblage structure and energy use of rainforest birds in the Australian Wet Tropics bioregion
MetadataShow full item record
Elevational patterns of species richness, local abundance and assemblage structure of rainforest birds of north-eastern Australia were explored using data from extensive standardized surveys throughout the region. Eighty-two species of birds were recorded with strong turnover in assemblage structure across the elevational gradient and high levels of regional endemism in the uplands. Both species richness and bird abundance exhibited a humped-shaped pattern with elevation with the highest values being between 600 and 800 m elevation. While much of the variability in species richness could be explained by the species-area relationship, analyses of net primary productivity (NPP) and total daily energy consumption of the bird community (energy use) suggest that ecosystem energy flow or constraints may be a significant determinant of species richness. Species richness is positively correlated with local bird abundance which itself is closely related to total energy use of the bird community. We suggest the hypothesis that lower NPP limits bird abundance and energy use in the uplands (>500 m) and that low bird energy use and species richness in the lowlands is limited by a seasonal bottleneck in available primary productivity and/or a species pool previously truncated by an extinction filter imposed by the almost complete disappearance of rainforest in the lowlands during the glacial maxima. We suggest that some of the previously predicted impacts of global warming on biodiversity in the uplands may be partially ameliorated by increases in NPP because of increasing temperatures. However, these relationships are complex and require further data specifically in regard to direct estimates of primary productivity and detailed estimates of energy flow within the assemblage.
Ecology not elsewhere classified