Project

SUMMITEX - Monitoring the risk of species extinctions in high altitude environments

Goal: This project aims to monitor the effects of global warming on high altitude ecosystems, in equatorial Andes and in the Pyrenees, using the beetle family Carabidae as target group.
The main objectives are: 1/ to measure recent changes by comparing samplings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with current observations; 2/ to develop a systematic protocol for long-term monitoring on several elevational transects; 3/ to make predictions about range shifts or contractions in response to climate change; 4/ to contribute to conservation policies, in a context of high anthropogenic pressure adding to the effects of global warming.

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Project log

Pierre Moret
added 3 research items
Climatic changes threaten the diverse and highly endemic páramo flora of the equatorial Andes with species loss and reduction of plant community diversity. Edward Whymper’s findings in his botanical exploration of the Ecuadorian Andes in 1880 offer an opportunity to examine the impact of climate changes on species distribution over time. To achieve these goals, we revised Whymper’s historical plant species collections, recorded elevational distribution of the same species along his 1880 sampling routes on two volcanoes, Chimborazo and Antisana, and applied to them ecological indicator values. Of the species recorded by Whymper, 24 on Antisana and 21 on Chimborazo, we resampled 21 and 14 of those species, respectively, in 2020. The highest record we found on Chimborazo was at 5385 m, seven meters above the zero-richness elevation predicted from Whymper’s distribution data, and at 4937 m on Antisana, 113 m below it. Mean upper range limits of species have shifted upward by 91.7 m on Chimborazo and by 27.1 m on Antisana, suggesting mean shift rates of 6.6 m and 1.9 m per decade, respectively. This rate of upslope migration ranks among the slowest reported worldwide. Humidity ecological indicator values suggest that species composition of páramo plant communities changed since 1880 in response not only to rising temperature, but also to increasing dryness. Rather than a uniform upslope migration, the response of páramo plants to climate changes in the equatorial Andes has been species-specific, likely driven, among other factors, by coupled effects of increasing temperature and declining humidity.
Mauro Gobbi
added a research item
• Understanding how insects may respond and adapt to global warming is a major challenge when predicting future biodiversity trends in glacial regions at high altitudes and latitudes of our planet. Hydrobiologists, ecologists, ecotoxicologists, molecular biologists, physiologists, and taxonomists are working together to understand the current changes in and foresee future scenarios of alpine insect populations and habitats. • Thousands of specimens have been collected from remote areas to study the community structure, species phenology and distribution, and the response to environmental changes. Many of these species are at risk of extinction. • In this essay, we raise some burning questions and concerns we would like to share with researchers operating in glacial habitats, in particular, and those working on insect conservation in disappearing habitats, in general: Must we collect many samples and kill many specimens to study spatiotemporal changes in community structure? What is the proportion of individuals captured relative to the actual population size of the species? What are the possible consequences of intensive sampling? • Starting from our experience as ecologists, we appeal to the entomological audience to share our concerns and open a constructive scientific debate on cryophilous insect conservation.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
Opportunities to track environmental changes over more than a century are rare in tropical mountains. Edward Whymper’s survey of flora and fauna on the summit of Mt. Corazón (Ecuador, 4788 m a.s.l.) in 1880 provides a unique opportunity to compare historical observations with the current composition of plant and insect communities on a tropical alpine mountain top. We studied Whymper’s archives and historic specimens in London and Paris, and performed a resurvey of vascular plants and ground beetles (Coleoptera Carabidae) in January 2020. Currently, a large part of the summit area of Corazón is heavily damaged by trampling and stone removal due to mountain tourism, and no vascular plants are present in the deteriorated area on the top of the ridge. However, more species were collected in 2020 than in 1880: 22 of vascular plants vs. 7, and 4 of ground beetles vs. 1. Upslope shifts over 140 years may partly explain this increase in species richness, although the low numbers of Whymper’s sampling may also be due to less skilled collectors and to the presence of permanent snow beds on the summit. The current faunistic and floristic data presented in this contribution can be used as a baseline for future resurveys of Corazón, in order to monitor changes in the species distribution and community composition of its summit area. Owing to the very small area of its superpáramo and to the soil deterioration by trampling along the summit ridge, Corazón is especially exposed to the effects of climate change and to the risk of extirpation of endemic cold-adapted specialists.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
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 Research 2 species associated to glacier-influenced habitats but also prevent cold-adapted and hygrophilous species from using these habitats as refuges in a warming world.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
Seven new species of Oxytrechus Jeannel, 1927 are described: five from Ecuador (O. andersoni Giachino & Allegro n. sp., O. atahualpai Giachino & Allegro n. sp., O. bavierai Giachino & Allegro n. sp., O. fikaceki Giachino & Moret n. sp., and O. sciakyi Giachino & Allegro n. sp.) and two from Colombia (O. floresanus Giachino & Allegro n. sp. and O. ruizianus Giachino & Allegro n. sp.). Oxytrechus equatorianus Mateu, 1988 is re-established as a valid species. O. globosus Mateu, 1991 and O. convexus Mateu, 1991 are redescribed. New distributional data are given for O. balli Allegro, Giachino & Sciaky, 2008, O. belloi Giachino, Allegro & Baviera, 2014, O. llanganatisianus Mateu, 1988, O. moreti Mateu, 1988, O. onorei Allegro, Giachino & Sciaky, 2008, O. pierremoreti Allegro, Giachino & Sciaky, 2008 and O. vulcanus Mateu, 1988. An identification key is provided for the Oxytrechus species present in the Papallacta-Guamaní area (Ecuador, Pichincha/Napo provinces).
Pierre Moret
added a research item
The genus Dyscolus Dejean, 1831 is a highly speciose taxon of neotropical Carabidae and the major component of high-altitude ground beetle communities in the tropical Andes. The aim of this study is threefold: (i) refine the taxonomic position of the equatorial members of Dyscolus using molecular data, (ii) provide a delimitation of the species found in Ecuador in páramo and montane forest environments based on a robust combination of molecular and morphological data, (iii) describe the new species and take the nomenclatural decisions made necessary by the results of this study. The seclusion of Dyscolus from more basal platynine clades including Platynus, Batenus and Glyptolenus, is supported by a phylogenetic analysis of the COI marker. Twenty-five new species of Dyscolus, most of them microendemic, are described and illustrated. We demonstrate the subgenus Hydrodyscolus Moret, 1996 to be polyphyletic and therefore consider it a junior synonym of Dyscolus Dejean, 1831.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
Carabid beetles are often used as an indicator of changes caused by human pressure and by global warming in high altitude environments. A survey of the population of this insect family was carried out in 2017 in the upper part of the Cirque de Troumouse (Gèdre, Hautes-Pyrénées, France), between 2,100 and 2,400 m a.s.l., as a baseline for a long term monitoring program, in view of the imminent disappearance of the La Munia and Pène Blanque glaciers.
Pierre Moret
added 3 research items
Ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) are among the early colonisers of recently deglaciated terrains. While patterns of carabid colonisation along forelands of retreating glaciers have been thoroughly investigated in temperate climates, information remains scarce in tropical mountains. This study aimed to describe for the first time the carabid beetle species assemblages along the chronosequence of two tropical Andean glaciers (Antisana and Carihuairazo, Ecuador). Shannon index, taxonomic distinctness, and species assemblage composition did not reveal deterministic and directional patterns. Only the principal component analysis performed on the Antisana dataset showed that some species had a clear preference for terrains deglaciated for more than 200 years. Our results showed that equatorial glacier forelands are colonised by pioneer species that persist from the recently deglaciated terrains (less than 25years) to terrains deglaciated since more than 200 years. This pattern fits the “addition and persistence model” of high-latitude glacier forelands, rather than the “species replacement model” of the Alps. The pioneer species observed are high-altitude specialists adapted to constantly cold environments, but not specifically ice-related. In the current context of climate warming, pioneer and cold-adapted species living near the glaciers of equatorial mountains are therefore only threatened by the “summit trap” risk, unlike in temperate regions, as they are not strictly linked to the glacier microclimate.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
https://natureecoevocommunity.nature.com/channels/2166-humboldt-anniversary/posts/53467-antisana-the-true-humboldtian-mountain
Pierre Moret
added a research item
The tropical Andean páramo ecosystem emerged after the final uplift of the Cordilleras, leading to the rapid radiation of species-rich clades and to the diversification of narrow-range endemic taxa in isolated high-altitude island-like environments. This study focuses on the wingless carabid species that inhabit the so-called superpáramo, i.e. the upper belt of this ecosystem, above 4200/4300 m a.s.l. The low dispersal ability of these cold-adapted ground beetles gives the opportunity of an exceptionally fine-grained analysis of endemism patterns. Two hypotheses are tested: (i) that most of these endemic carabids have evolved by niche shift, from local ancestors in the montane forest, rather than by long range dispersal from cool regions north or south, and (ii) that the high level of microendemism observed in several genera is the result of recent speciation events, related to the volcanic and tectonic history of the Andes. More than 14,000 carabid beetles were collected above 4200 m on 12 superpáramo “sky islands” in central and northern Ecuador, using standardized sampling methods. COI sequencing was performed to strengthen species delimitations, and a further molecular study was conducted for phylogeographic analyses in two highly diverse genera: Oxytrechus (Trechini) and Dyscolus (Platynini). Of a total of 89 species, 65 species are microendemic, i.e. restricted to only one isolated superpáramo. The first results of this ongoing project are presented with a highlight on the extinction risk caused by the current climate change.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
Alexander von Humboldt’s Tableau Physique (1807) has been one of the most influential diagrams in the history of environmental sciences. In particular, detailed observations of the altitudinal distribution of plant species in the equatorial Andes, depicted on a cross-section of Mt. Chimborazo, allowed Humboldt to establish the concept of vegetation belt, thereby laying the foundations of biogeography. Surprisingly, Humboldt’s original data have never been critically revisited, probably due to the difficulty of gathering and interpreting dispersed archives. By unearthing and analyzing overlooked historical documents, we show that the top section of the Tableau Physique , above the tree line, is an intuitive construct based on unverified and therefore partly false field data that Humboldt constantly tried to revise in subsequent publications. This finding has implications for the documentation of climate change effects in the tropical Andes. We found that Humboldt’s primary plant data above tree line were mostly collected on Mt. Antisana, not Chimborazo, which allows a comparison with current records. Our resurvey at Mt. Antisana revealed a 215- to 266-m altitudinal shift over 215 y. This estimate is about twice lower than previous estimates for the region but is consistent with the 10- to 12-m/decade upslope range shift observed worldwide. Our results show the cautious approach needed to interpret historical data and to use them as a resource for documenting environmental changes. They also profoundly renew our understanding of Humboldt’s scientific thinking, methods, and modern relevance.
Pierre Moret
added an update
Humboldt’s Tableau Physique revisited
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
2019-05-28 | journal-article
  • DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1904585116
 
Pierre Moret
added a research item
Description and illustration of four new species from Panamá and Colombia belonging to the subgenus Stenocnemion Moret, 1989, of the genus Dyscolus Dejean, 1831: Dyscolus (Stenocnemion) anichtchenkoi n. sp. and D. (S.) variolosus n. sp. from the Darién National Park in Panamá, D. (S.) arenasi n. sp. and D. (S.) martinezae n. sp. from the Cauca valley in Colombia. All these species belong to the species group of D. (S.) acuminatus (Chevrolat, 1835). Available distributional and ecological data are provided.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
The use of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) as bioindicators of environmental change depends on the reliability and the effectiveness of the sampling methods. Those that have been tested in the temperate zone and in tropical forests still await experimentation in tropical high-altitude environments. For the first time, pitfall trapping and hand searching have been compared in Ecuadorian páramo above 4000 m a.s.l., in terms of practical effectiveness. The study was performed on six volcanoes and was based on the comparison of 28 sampling sessions (pitfall trapping and hand searching) performed along two different elevational belts [lower superpáramo (LSP) and upper superpáramo (USP)]. Analyses of sampling sessions showed that detected species richness is slightly higher with hand searching than with pitfall trapping, regardless of the elevation. Additionally, hand searching is more time-effective than pitfall trapping. The performance of the sampling method slightly varies when species assemblage composition is analysed in relation to elevational belts. In the LSP, hand searching and pitfall trapping should be simultaneously used to obtain exhaustive inventories of carabid biodiversity, since different species are likely to be collected by each method. In the USP, hand searching and pitfall trapping efficiency is very similar, but hand searching allows to collect a slightly larger number of species. Lastly, the sample-based rarefaction curves showed that four temporal replicates are mandatory to obtain a robust dataset and an exhaustive inventory of the true species richness and species assemblages composition. Our findings suggest a combined use of hand searching and pitfall trapping in the LSP, while both methods can be used alone for surveying carabids in the USP. Furthermore, hand searching is recommended if the aim is to obtain an inventory of species diversity, whereas pitfall trapping seems more convenient for fine grain ecological and comparative studies.
Pierre Moret
added 2 research items
A new carabid beetle genus, Balligratus gen. nov., belonging to the tribe Lachnophorini, is described. It is geographically restricted to the equatorial Andes, and ecologically linked to the montane pluvial forest ecosystem, at elevations ranging from 1,200 to 3,600 m. As other carabid lineages that have radiated in such environments, Balligratus gen. nov. is a wingless clade, characterized by the loss of flight wings associated with metathoracic reduction, constriction of the elytral base, and reduced eye size. This evolution is unique among Lachnophorini. Four new species are described, all of them from Ecuador: Balligratus brevis sp. nov., Balligratus globosus sp. nov., Balligratus gracilis sp. nov. and Balligratus humerangulus sp. nov.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
Description and illustration of six new species from Ecuador belonging to the genera Trechisibus Motschulsky, 1863, and Paratrechus Jeannel, 1920 : Trechisibus (Trechisibus) barragani n. sp., T. (T.) pubescens n. sp., T. (T.) aguirrei n. sp., T. (Ecuadoritrechus) emiliae n. sp., Paratrechus (Paratrechus) hypogeus n. sp. and P. (P.) maddisoni n. sp. Distributional and ecological data are provided. More particularly, one of these new species, Paratrechus (Paratrechus) hypogeus n. sp., shows evidence for a hypogean way of life.
Pierre Moret
added a research item
Species richness and diversity of Carabidae (Coleoptera), as well as rates of endemicity, are studied along altitudinal transects in the páramo of Ecuadorian Andes, from 3500 to 5000 m. Whereas a global tendency to reduction of species richness is evident from 4200 m upwards, two zones of high diversity and high proportion of endemic species occur at 3800-4000 m and at 4200-4400 m. Species turnover between grass páramo and superpáramo is signifi cantly higher in drier mountains, especially in the Western Cordillera, than in humid mountains of the Eastern Cordillera. The altitudinal range of Carabid species tends globally to decrease along the vertical gradient, but with important local variations due to microenvironmental factors, especially humidity rate. When compared with recent phytogeographical studies, these results tend to support the idea that the majority of tussock-grass páramo is a secondary anthropogenic ecosystem. On the contrary, it is argued that the xeric landscape of the Chimborazo "arenal" is primordial, based on the presence of a stenotopic and possibly relict species, Pelmatellus andium Bates 1891.
Pierre Moret
added 2 research items
1. In order to assess the impact of global warming on the biodiversity of the tropical high Andean páramo ecosystem, we compared historical and recent surveys of ground beetle communities along elevational gradients of the Pichincha volcano (Northern Ecuador). The studied datasets date to 1880, 1985/86 and 2013/15. 2. From 1880 to 1985, the bottom range of at least one stenotopic and wingless high-altitude species, Dyscolus diopsis, has shifted approximately 300 m upward, with the resulting area reduction of more than 90% from >12 km2 to <1 km2, which highlights the probability of future local extinctions on Pichincha as well as on other mountains of Ecuador. 3. Over a shorter period of time, the comparison of the 1985/86 and 2013/14 datasets indicates that the lower limit of the superpáramo ground beetle community has shifted upwards from circa 4300 m to circa 4400 m. Different individual responses are recorded among the species. Some of them did not experience any significant change, whereas the upper limit of one of the grassland generalists has shifted upwards at least 400 m in 28 years. 4. These results suggest that the response to global warming varies from one species to the other, depending on their degree of specialization and tolerance. They call for the implementation of a monitoring programme that would use carabid assemblages as an indicator of the impact of climate change on the páramo ecosystem, in combination with other proxies.
Pierre Moret
added a project goal
This project aims to monitor the effects of global warming on high altitude ecosystems, in equatorial Andes and in the Pyrenees, using the beetle family Carabidae as target group.
The main objectives are: 1/ to measure recent changes by comparing samplings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with current observations; 2/ to develop a systematic protocol for long-term monitoring on several elevational transects; 3/ to make predictions about range shifts or contractions in response to climate change; 4/ to contribute to conservation policies, in a context of high anthropogenic pressure adding to the effects of global warming.