Climate warming threatens biodiversity at global, regional and local levels by causing irreversible changes to species populations and biological communities. The Himalayan region is highly vulnerable to climate warming. This calls for efficient environmental management strategies because biodiversity monitoring is costly, particularly for the developing countries of the Himalaya. Species distribution modeling (SDM) represents a tool that can be used to identify vulnerable areas where biodiversity monitoring and conservation are required most urgently and can be prioritized. Here, we investigated the potential present-day community compositions of river invertebrates in the central and eastern Himalayas and predicted changes in community compositions in future decades using SDMs. We then quantified the climate-induced range shifts of benthic invertebrates along the elevational gradient and tested whether the predicted community shift is fast enough to fully compensate for the projected climate warming. Our model predicts future increases in benthic invertebrate taxonomic richness. Further, projected community shifts are characterized by the movement of warm-dwellers to higher elevations and losses in cold-dwellers. The predicted model shows that benthic invertebrate communities would not be able to compensate climate warming through uphill migration and thus would accumulate climatic debts. Our findings suggest that the ongoing warming effect would cause continued elevational range shifts of mountain river communities.
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