Climate warming and the rainforest birds of the Australian Wet Tropics: Using abundance data as a sensitive predictor of change in total population size
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Global average surface temperatures have increased rapidly over the last 100 years and there is accumulating evidence that climate change is already causing shifts in species distributions. We use extensive abundance data and expected range shifts across altitudinal gradients to predict changes in total population size of rainforest birds of Australian tropical rainforests in response to climate warming. According to our most conservative model scenario, 74% of rainforest birds of north-eastern Australia are predicted to become threatened (including 26 critically endangered species) as a result of projected mid-range warming expected within the next 100 years. Extinction risk varies according to where along the altitudinal gradient a species is currently most abundant. Upland birds are most affected and are likely to be immediately threatened by even small increases in temperature. In contrast, there is a capacity for the population size of lowland species to increase, at least in the short term. We conclude that abundance data collected across climatic gradients will be fundamental to gaining an understanding of population size change associated with climate warming.