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Preferred temperature and thermal breadth of birds wintering in peninsular Spain: The limited effect of temperature on species distribution

AuthorsCarrascal, Luis M. ; Villén-Pérez, Sara; Palomino, David
KeywordsPreferred temperature
Thermal breadth
Species distribution
Quantile regression
Bird abundance
Issue Date19-Jul-2016
CitationPeerJ 4: e2156 (2016)
AbstractBackground. The availability of environmental energy, as measured by temperature, is expected to limit the abundance and distribution of endotherms wintering at temperate latitudes. A prediction of this hypothesis is that birds should attain their highest abundances in warmer areas. However, there may be a spatial mismatch between species preferred habitats and species preferred temperatures, so some species might end-up wintering in sub-optimal thermal environments. Methods. We model the influence of minimum winter temperature on the relative abundance of 106 terrestrial bird species wintering in peninsular Spain, at 10 ×10 km resolution, using 95%-quantile regressions. We analyze general trends across species on the shape of the response curves, the environmental preferred temperature (at which the species abundance is maximized), the mean temperature in the area of distribution and the thermal breadth (area under the abundance-temperature curve). Results. Temperature explains a low proportion of variation in abundance. The most significant effect is on limiting the maximum potential abundance of species. Considering this upper-limit response, there is a large interspecific variability on the thermal preferences and specialization of species. Overall, there is a preponderance of positive relationships between species abundance and temperature; on average, species attain their maximum abundances in areas 1.9 °C warmer than the average temperature available in peninsular Spain. The mean temperature in the area of distribution is lower than the thermal preferences of the species. Discussion. Many species prefer the warmest areas to overwinter, which suggests that temperature imposes important restrictions to birds wintering in the Iberian Peninsula. However, one third of species overwinter in locations colder than their thermal preferences, probably reflecting the interaction between habitat and thermal requirements. There is a high inter-specific variation in the versatility of species using the available thermal space, and the limited effect of temperature highlights the role of other environmental factors determining species abundance.
Identifiersdoi: 10.7717/peerj.2156
issn: 2167-8359
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