Climate change has been linked to distribution shifts and population declines of numerous animal and plant species, particularly in montane ecosystems. The majority of studies suggest both that low-elevation avian and small mammal species are shifting up in elevation and that high-elevation avian communities are either shifting further upslope or relocating completely with an increase in average local temperatures. However, recent research suggests numerous high elevation montane species are either not shifting or are shifting down in elevation despite the local increasing temperature trends, perhaps as a result of the increased precipitation at high elevations. In this study, we examine common vertebrate species distributions across the Hubbard Brook valley in the White Mountain National Forest, including resident and migratory songbirds and small mammals, in relation to historic spring temperature and precipitation. We found no directional change in distributions through time for any of the species. However, we show that the majority of low-elevation bird species in our study area respond to warm spring temperatures by shifting upslope. All bird species that shifted were long-distance migrants. Each low-elevation migrant species responded differently to warm spring temperatures, through upslope distribution expansion, downslope distribution contraction, or total distribution shift upslope. In contrast, we found a majority of high-elevation bird species and both high- and low-elevation mammal species did not shift in response to spring temperature or precipitation and may be subject to more complex climate trends. The heterogeneous response to climate change highlights the need for more comprehensive studies on the subject and careful consideration for appropriate species and habitat management plans in northeastern montane regions.
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