Rising global temperatures cause severe changes to the environment resulting, for example, in shifts in biomes and assemblages to higher elevational ranges. Therefore, it is integral to understand how species and assemblages will respond to this threat. Elevational gradients present a useful framework to measure potential changes to diversity due to climate change and human land use. Most studies focus on taxonomic diversity, and ignore functional diversity which provides a measure of the ecological roles of species within ecosystems. The aim of this study was to investigate taxonomic and functional diversity of as well as variation in assemblage structure of the insectivorous bat communities along the Mount Nimba elevational gradient. We predicted that both taxonomic and functional diversity would be negatively correlated with elevation, and that bat assemblages would show a nested pattern along the elevational gradient. Taxonomic diversity was calculated using species richness. Functional diversity of univariate and multivariate traits was calculated using two diversity indices: mean pairwise distance and mean nearest taxon distance. As predicted, species richness of bats was significantly negatively correlated with elevation. Functional diversity however, decreased significantly only at the highest elevation (and this may even be a sampling artifact given high human activities there in recent times). Contrary to predictions, metacommunity analyses revealed quasi-Gleasonian structuring of bat assemblages, indicating weak structuring forces along the elevational gradient. These results suggest that bat assemblages shifting in response to climate change along elevational gradients may change taxonomically but stay largely intact functionally.
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Vol. 19 • No. 2