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Impacts of anthropogenic climate change on tropical montane forests: an appraisal of the evidence

Impacts of anthropogenic climate change on tropical montane forests: an appraisal of the evidence
Impacts of anthropogenic climate change on tropical montane forests: an appraisal of the evidence

In spite of their small global area and restricted distributions, tropical montane forests (TMFs) are biodiversity hotspots and important ecosystem services providers, but are also highly vulnerable to climate change. To protect and preserve these ecosystems better, it is crucial to inform the design and implementation of conservation policies with the best available scientific evidence, and to identify knowledge gaps and future research needs. We conducted a systematic review and an appraisal of evidence quality to assess the impacts of climate change on TMFs. We identified several skews and shortcomings. Experimental study designs with controls and long-term (≥10 years) data sets provide the most reliable evidence, but were rare and gave an incomplete understanding of climate change impacts on TMFs. Most studies were based on predictive modelling approaches, short-term (<10 years) and cross-sectional study designs. Although these methods provide moderate to circumstantial evidence, they can advance our understanding on climate change effects. Current evidence suggests that increasing temperatures and rising cloud levels have caused distributional shifts (mainly upslope) of montane biota, leading to alterations in biodiversity and ecological functions. Neotropical TMFs were the best studied, thus the knowledge derived there can serve as a proxy for climate change responses in under-studied regions elsewhere. Most studies focused on vascular plants, birds, amphibians and insects, with other taxonomic groups poorly represented. Most ecological studies were conducted at species or community levels, with a marked paucity of genetic studies, limiting understanding of the adaptive capacity of TMF biota. We thus highlight the long-term need to widen the methodological, thematic and geographical scope of studies on TMFs under climate change to address these uncertainties. In the short term, however, in-depth research in well-studied regions and advances in computer modelling approaches offer the most reliable sources of information for expeditious conservation action for these threatened forests.

biodiversity, cloud forests, conservation, ecological levels, ecosystem functions, evidence quality, global warming, research rigour, systematic review, tropical mountains
1464-7931
1200-1224
Mata Guel, Erik Omar
18ba3ca3-ad4d-4472-846e-556ff7eee800
Soh, Malcolm C.K.
a059045a-c476-4b31-ad8c-64e4e1d3a1b3
Butler, Connor
b56b78e1-1cd2-4c9b-a942-e25ca707cc9f
Morris, Rebecca J
f63d9be3-e08f-4251-b6a0-43b312d3997e
Razgour, Orly
305b5ebf-ff55-4143-ad1a-282cf8cceb18
Peh, Kelvin S.-H.
0bd60207-dad8-43fb-a84a-a15e09b024cc
Mata Guel, Erik Omar
18ba3ca3-ad4d-4472-846e-556ff7eee800
Soh, Malcolm C.K.
a059045a-c476-4b31-ad8c-64e4e1d3a1b3
Butler, Connor
b56b78e1-1cd2-4c9b-a942-e25ca707cc9f
Morris, Rebecca J
f63d9be3-e08f-4251-b6a0-43b312d3997e
Razgour, Orly
305b5ebf-ff55-4143-ad1a-282cf8cceb18
Peh, Kelvin S.-H.
0bd60207-dad8-43fb-a84a-a15e09b024cc

Mata Guel, Erik Omar, Soh, Malcolm C.K., Butler, Connor, Morris, Rebecca J, Razgour, Orly and Peh, Kelvin S.-H. (2023) Impacts of anthropogenic climate change on tropical montane forests: an appraisal of the evidence. Biological Reviews, 98 (4), 1200-1224. (doi:10.1111/brv.12950).

Record type: Article

Abstract

In spite of their small global area and restricted distributions, tropical montane forests (TMFs) are biodiversity hotspots and important ecosystem services providers, but are also highly vulnerable to climate change. To protect and preserve these ecosystems better, it is crucial to inform the design and implementation of conservation policies with the best available scientific evidence, and to identify knowledge gaps and future research needs. We conducted a systematic review and an appraisal of evidence quality to assess the impacts of climate change on TMFs. We identified several skews and shortcomings. Experimental study designs with controls and long-term (≥10 years) data sets provide the most reliable evidence, but were rare and gave an incomplete understanding of climate change impacts on TMFs. Most studies were based on predictive modelling approaches, short-term (<10 years) and cross-sectional study designs. Although these methods provide moderate to circumstantial evidence, they can advance our understanding on climate change effects. Current evidence suggests that increasing temperatures and rising cloud levels have caused distributional shifts (mainly upslope) of montane biota, leading to alterations in biodiversity and ecological functions. Neotropical TMFs were the best studied, thus the knowledge derived there can serve as a proxy for climate change responses in under-studied regions elsewhere. Most studies focused on vascular plants, birds, amphibians and insects, with other taxonomic groups poorly represented. Most ecological studies were conducted at species or community levels, with a marked paucity of genetic studies, limiting understanding of the adaptive capacity of TMF biota. We thus highlight the long-term need to widen the methodological, thematic and geographical scope of studies on TMFs under climate change to address these uncertainties. In the short term, however, in-depth research in well-studied regions and advances in computer modelling approaches offer the most reliable sources of information for expeditious conservation action for these threatened forests.

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Biological Reviews - 2023 - Mata‐Guel - Impacts of anthropogenic climate change on tropical montane forests an appraisal - Version of Record
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Accepted/In Press date: 10 March 2023
e-pub ahead of print date: 29 March 2023
Published date: August 2023
Additional Information: Funding Information: This study was funded by the Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT) and the University of Southampton. The authors have no conflict of interest to declare. Publisher Copyright: © 2023 The Authors. Biological Reviews published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Cambridge Philosophical Society.
Keywords: biodiversity, cloud forests, conservation, ecological levels, ecosystem functions, evidence quality, global warming, research rigour, systematic review, tropical mountains

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 476586
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/476586
ISSN: 1464-7931
PURE UUID: af9112c7-71d9-40dd-b7fd-26ae98fb80e1
ORCID for Rebecca J Morris: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0020-5327
ORCID for Kelvin S.-H. Peh: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-2921-1341

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 09 May 2023 16:49
Last modified: 06 Jun 2024 01:58

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Contributors

Author: Malcolm C.K. Soh
Author: Connor Butler
Author: Orly Razgour

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