Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (5): 21451.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2021451

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Research progress on the elevational distribution of mountain species in response to climate change

Kuiling Zu, Zhiheng Wang()   

  1. Institute of Ecology and Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871
  • Received:2021-11-12 Accepted:2022-02-02 Online:2022-05-20 Published:2022-03-01
  • Contact: Zhiheng Wang


Background & Aim: Over the past century, the global climate has changed dramatically and has become a major threat to global biodiversity. How to limit use of resources and power in order to protect biodiversity effectively has become one of the most significant issues concerning researchers. Mountain regions play an important role in biodiversity protection and have high ecological service value. They have become one of the most important biodiversity refuges due to its high habitat heterogeneity, climate diversity, and low human disturbance. However, mountain regions are more vulnerable to climate change, and severe climate change in mountain regions will pose a serious threat to the stability and diversity of mountain species ecosystems. Therefore, understanding the potential mechanisms of climate change and how they affect the elevational distributions of mountain species, and the negative effects of the elevational distribution changes induced by climate change, will provide a direct reference for the future conservation of mountain biodiversity under global climate change. In this paper, we review the research progress of climate change and the elevational range shifts of species in mountain regions around the world.

Summary: We focus on changes of optimum elevation, upper and lower range limits, and range size of species elevational distributions in response to climate change in mountain regions because the elevational range shifts of mountain species have profound impact on mountain biodiversity. We summarize the direction and magnitude of elevational range shifts across species and regions using historical and recent occurrence records of different species, and the lagged effect of climate change on species. Furthermore, we also summarize the potential mechanism of species elevational shifts in response to climate change from biological and abiotic factors and evaluate the negative effects of species elevational distributions caused by climate change. This paper mainly discusses the impact of the upward shifts of species in high-altitude regions, the increase of species extinction risk caused by the elevational shifts of species, and the change of species interactions caused by the elevational shifts of species.

Perspectives: We prospect the problems that should be paid attention to during future research on elevational shifts of species, as well as measures to be taken to protect mountain biodiversity under climate change. We suggest that we should focus on the groups and biodiversity regions that are more sensitive to climate change. Furthermore, we iterate the need to strengthen China’s mountainous species monitoring network and research efforts. Emphasis is placed on strengthening monitoring of the effects of climate change on animal and plant interactions.

Key words: elevational shifts, climate change, protection strategy, range size, mountains, lag