Identifier

etd-04102012-135844

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Biological Sciences

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

High in the Andes, a unique peatland habitat exists precariously above the frostline and below snowline. These “bofedales”, as they are called in Peru, support an extraordinary avifauna consisting of both boreal and austral migratory species and residents. This ecosystem is predicted to be significantly reduced as a result of global climate change. We endeavored to understand the habitat associations and seasonality of the avian assemblage occurring in these permanent wetlands. Numerous detections of species outside of their documented geographic range provided an opportunity to assess geographic ranges using niche modeling. This novel approach provided insights and inferences for assessing geographic ranges. Peatland study sites were visited in both the wet and dry season and habitat and seasonality associations were determined for the majority of species occurring therein. Peatlands are an important habitat for many migratory and resident bird species and seasonality is strong for many species. With the threat of climate change predicted for the Andes, we modeled the presence of peatland habitat for a large area of southern Peru using ground-truthed study sites and assessed the effects of the temperature change for these peatlands. Our model showed peatlands represent approximately 5% of the Puna. Peatland occurrence is correlated with several environmental variables including flow accumulation and presence of glaciers in the watershed. Using the model of peatland occurrence, we predicted what percentage of peatland habitat would no longer occur within the required climatic envelope. Within our study area, more than 75% of the peatlands would no longer occur above the frost line using temperature predictions for the next 80 years. In effect, habitat for already rare and isolated bird species will be dramatically reduced by weather alone. The additional pressures of pastoralism, peat harvesting, agriculture, and water diversion projects suggest these peatlands should be prioritized for conservation assessment and action. Finally, we identified several areas within our study area that are most likely to persist through the precipitation and temperature changes through the end of the century.

Date

2012

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Remsen, James V., Jr.

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