Temperature and competition interact to structure himalayan bird communities

Umesh Srinivasan, Paul R. Elsen, Morgan W. Tingley, David S. Wilcove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Longstanding theory predicts that competitive interactions set species’ range limits in relatively aseasonal, species-rich regions, while temperature limits distributions in more seasonal, species-poor areas. More recent theory holds that species evolve narrow physiological tolerances in aseasonal regions, with temperature being an important determining factor in such zones. We tested how abiotic (temperature) and biotic (competition) factors set range limits and structure bird communities along strong, opposing, temperature-seasonality and species-richness gradients in the Himalayas, in two regions separated by 1500 km. By examining the degree to which seasonal elevational migration conserves year-round thermal niches across species, we show that species in the relatively aseasonal and speciose east are more constrained by temperature compared with species in the highly seasonal west. We further show that seasonality has a profound effect on the strength of competition between congeneric species. Competition appears to be stronger in winter, a period of resource scarcity in the Himalayas, in both the east and the west, with similarly sized eastern species more likely to segregate in thermal niche space in winter. Our results indicate that rather than acting in isolation, abiotic and biotic factors mediate each other to structure ecological communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20172593
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1874
StatePublished - Mar 14 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


  • Body mass
  • Elevational distributions
  • Range limits
  • Seasonality
  • Species richness


Dive into the research topics of 'Temperature and competition interact to structure himalayan bird communities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this