Tropical forests harbour the highest levels of terrestrial biodiversity and represent some of the most complex ecosystems on Earth, with a significant portion of this diversity above ground. Although the vertical dimension is a central aspect of the ecology of forest communities, there is little consensus as to prominence, evenness, and consistency of community‐level stratification from ground to canopy. Here, we gather the results of 62 studies across the tropics to synthesise and assess broad patterns of vertical stratification of abundance and richness in vertebrates, the best studied taxonomic group for which results have not been collated previously. Our review of the literature yielded sufficient data for bats, small mammals, birds and amphibians. We show that variation in the stratification of abundance and richness exists within and among all taxa considered. Bat richness stratification was variable among studies, although bat abundance was weighted towards the canopy. Both bird richness and abundance stratification were variable, with no overriding pattern. On the contrary, both amphibians and small mammals showed consistent patterns of decline in abundance and richness towards the canopy. We descriptively characterise research trends in drivers of stratification cited or investigated within studies, finding local habitat structure and food distribution/foraging to be the most commonly attributed drivers. Further, we analyse the influence of macroecological variables on stratification patterns, finding latitude and elevation to be key predictors of bird stratification in particular. Prominent differences among taxa are likely due to taxon‐specific interactions with local drivers such as vertical habitat structure, food distribution, and vertical climate gradients, which may vary considerably across macroecological gradients such as elevation and biogeographic realm. Our study showcases the complexity with which animal communities organise within tropical forest ecosystems, while demonstrating the canopy as a critical niche space for tropical vertebrates, thereby highlighting the inherent vulnerability of tropical vertebrate communities to forest loss and canopy disturbance. We recognise that analyses were constrained due to variation in study designs and methods which produced a variety of abundance and richness metrics recorded across different arrangements of vertical strata. We therefore suggest the application of best practices for data reporting and highlight the significant effort required to fill research gaps in terms of under‐sampled regions, taxa, and environments.
Species interactions link animal behaviour to community structure and macroecological patterns of biodiversity. One common type of trophic species interaction is disturbance foraging—the act of obtaining food at a disturbance created by another organism. Disturbance foraging is widespread across the animal kingdom, especially among birds, yet previous research has been largely anecdotal and we still lack a synthetic understanding of how this behaviour varies geographically, phylogenetically and ecologically. To address these gaps, we conducted a comprehensive literature review to test focal hypotheses about disturbance foraging behaviour in birds. We found that avian disturbance foraging was geographically ubiquitous, occurring in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats across six continents and four oceans. Consistent with predictions based on established species diversity gradients in different habitat types, the majority of terrestrial observations occurred at tropical latitudes, whereas aquatic observations took place most frequently in temperate marine waters. Although disturbance foraging was widespread across the avian phylogeny, contrary to our prediction, the behaviour was also conserved phylogenetically (Pagel's
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Publisher / Repository:
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- Journal of Animal Ecology
- Medium: X Size: p. 2263-2279
- ["p. 2263-2279"]
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Major taxa studied
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