Moving with the times: baseline data to gauge future shifts in vegetation and invertebrate altitudinal assemblages due to environment change
Doran, NE and Balmer, J and Driessen, M and Bashford, R and Grove, S and Richardson, AMM and Griggs, J and Ziegler, D, Moving with the times: baseline data to gauge future shifts in vegetation and invertebrate altitudinal assemblages due to environment change, Organisms Diversity & Evolution, 3, (2) pp. 127-149. ISSN 1439-6092 (2003) [Refereed Article]
A long-term monitoring program has been established in Tasmania, Australia, as a Satellite Project for the International Biodiversity Observation Year (IBOY). This program aims to monitor distributional change in vegetation and fauna assemblages along an altitudinal gradient (70-1300 m) in response to climate change and other environmental events. Baseline data collected over a two-year period will be available for comparison with data collected in future decades. The vegetation varies with altitude and fire history. The rate of change in vegetation is not continuous along the altitudinal gradient, but is most rapid above 700 m and below the treeline at 1000-1100 m. Most vascular plant species reach the limit of their distribution within this zone. Despite their preliminary nature, the invertebrate data also display altitudinal and seasonal patterns. The treeline and the 700-1000 m zone again appear to be notable in terms of invertebrate distribution. While the composition of ground-based taxa may be closely related to the floristic composition of the vegetation (or its environmental drivers), the airborne invertebrate fauna appears to be more closely related to structural characteristics such as height and density. Of all taxa, the Coleoptera appear to be the best potential indicators across most altitudes and times. Although the current data provide a wealth of inventory and distributional information over altitude, their greatest potential value lies in long-term comparative information. Future sampling should focus not only on changes at and above the treeline, but also on the zone below this where many species are at their altitudinal limits and may be particularly sensitive to climate change.