The extreme rainfall gradient of the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve and its impact on forest bird richness

  • publication
  • 20-01-2022

Quilodrán CS, Sandvig EM, Aguirre F, de Aguilar JR, Barroso O, Vásquez RA, Rozzi R. Biodivers Conserv. 2022;31(2):613-627. doi: 10.1007/s10531-022-02353-5

A natural laboratory is a place supporting the conditions for hypothesis testing under non-anthropogenic settings. Located at the southern end of the Magellanic sub-Antarctic ecoregion in southwestern South America, the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve (CHBR) has one of the most extreme rainfall gradients in the world. Subject to oceanic climate conditions, it is also characterized by moderate thermal fluctuations throughout the year. This makes it a unique natural laboratory for studying the effects of extreme rainfall variations on forest bird communities. Here, we monitor the bird species richness in the different forest types present in the CHBR. We found that species richness decreased with increasing precipitation, in which an increase of 100 mm in average annual precipitation showed about 1% decrease in species richness. Similar patterns were found among different forest types within the CHBR. These results provide a baseline to investigate the interactions between physical and biotic factors in a subpolar region that climatically contrasts with boreal forests, which is subject to continental climatic conditions. This research highlights the importance of ecological and ornithological long-term studies in the CHBR, which can contribute both to a higher resolution of the heterogeneity of climate changes in different regions of the world, and to orient conservation policies in the Magellanic sub-Antarctic ecoregion in the face of growing development pressures.

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