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Multi‐taxa colonisation along the foreland of a vanishing equatorial glacier

Abstract : Retreating glaciers, icons of climate change, release new potential habitats for both aquatic and terrestrial organisms. High-elevation species are threatened by temperature increases and the upward migration of lowlands species. Improving our understanding of successional processes after glacier retreat becomes urgent, especially in the tropics, where glacier shrinkage is particularly fast. We examined the successional patterns of aquatic invertebrates, ground beetles, terrestrial plants, soil eukaryotes (algae, invertebrates, plants) in an equatorial glacier foreland (Carihuairazo, Ecuador). Based on both taxonomical identification and eDNA metabarcoding, we analysed the effects of both environmental conditions and age of deglacierization on community composition. Except for algae, diversity increased with time since deglacierization, especially among passive dispersers, suggesting that dispersal was a key driver structuring the glacier foreland succession. Spatial β-diversity was mainly attributed to nestedness for aquatic invertebrates, terrestrial plants and soil algae, likely linked to low environmental variability within the studied glacier foreland; and to turnover for soil invertebrates, suggesting competition exclusion at the oldest successional stage. Pioneer communities were dominated by species exhibiting flexible feeding strategies and high dispersal ability (mainly transported by wind), probably colonising from lower altitudes, or from the glacier in the case of algae. Overall, glacier foreland colonisation in the tropics exhibit common characteristics to higher latitudes. High-elevation species are nevertheless threatened, as the imminent extinction of many tropical glaciers will affect species associated to glacier-influenced habitats but also prevent cold-adapted and hygrophilous species from using these habitats as refuges in a warming world.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03220245
Contributor : Yannick Brohard <>
Submitted on : Friday, May 7, 2021 - 10:51:33 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, September 8, 2021 - 12:03:38 PM

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Pedro Rosero, Verónica Crespo‐pérez, Rodrigo Espinosa, Patricio Andino, Álvaro Barragán, et al.. Multi‐taxa colonisation along the foreland of a vanishing equatorial glacier. Ecography, Wiley, 2021, 44 (7), pp.1010-1021. ⟨10.1111/ecog.05478⟩. ⟨hal-03220245⟩

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