Globally, terrestrial biological diversity shows clear patterns along latitude with most species inhabiting productive tropical regions. Also, hotspots of diversity are typically concentrated on tropical oceanic islands and in montane areas – both form differentiated biotopes unique from the surrounding landscapes. On a relatively small spatial scale, elevational gradients support a variety of environments, thus determining biogeographical patterns and increase observed species richness. Mountain species are characterized by relatively small geographical ranges and limited mobility, which is driven by high habitat heterogeneity because of complex topographic and climatic gradients. Our knowledge of African mountain biodiversity is very limited, and the ecology of most African montane species is poorly known. Given the rapid rate of change taking place in African mountains, understanding patterns and processes at fine scale along environmental gradients in African mountains can assist in understanding geographical ranges and predicting their changes under immediate human pressure and Global Change.

Elevational richness patterns show rather uniform trends across different locations with decreasing numbers of species towards montane regions, although the decline in diversity frequently shows peaks at mid-elevations. Besides, compositions of tropical assemblages frequently show high levels of turnover at mid-elevations. It suggests that lowland and montane communities mix within the middle elevation zone, which is challenging as no physical barriers limiting distribution of animals, can usually be detected. Therefore, alternative obstacles likely limit dispersal of lowland and montane species, respectively. The cloud zones form “thin curtains” that might be responsible. Darkness, coldness, and humidity of misty locations could importantly change parameters of vegetation such as tree structure or diversity of epiphytes. 

We corroborated abrupt changes in community composition also along elevational gradient of Mount Cameroon (Hořák et al. 2019). This Project will focus on the mid-elevation zone of contact between lowland and montane avian communities (1,000-1,500 m asl) of Mt. Cameroon and combine data about (i) avian species spatial distributions, (ii) variation in population densities and (iii) seasonality in bird activity with fine scale spatial variation in climatic parameters including mist. 

The applicant is expected to have conversational knowledge of English (French is an advantage), capacity to work independently within the multi-cultural team, fundamental knowledge of analysis in R and GIS, field work experience with birds (knowledge of Afrotropical birds in an advantage) and ability to work under tropical climatic conditions. 

Relevant publications of the research group:

Djomo Nana, E., Sedláček, O., Bayly, N., Ferenc, M., Albrecht, T., Reif, J., Motombi, F.N. & Hořák, D. 2014. Comparison of avian assemblage structures in two upper montane forests of the Cameroon volcanic line: lessons for bird conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation, 23(6), 1469-1484.

Djomo Nana, E., Sedláček, O., Doležal, J., Dančák, M., Altman, J., Svoboda, M., Majeský, Ľ. & Hořák, D. (2015). Relationship between Survival Rate of Avian Artificial Nests and Forest Vegetation Structure along a Tropical Altitudinal Gradient on Mount Cameroon. Biotropica, 47(6), 758-764.

Ferenc, M., Fjeldså, J., Sedláček, O., Motombi, F. N., Nana, E. D., Mudrová, K., & Hořák, D. (2016). Abundance-area relationships in bird assemblages along an Afrotropical elevational gradient: space limitation in montane forest selects for higher population densities. Oecologia, 181(1), 225-233

Hořák, D., Ferenc, M., Sedláček, O., Motombi, F. N., Svoboda, M., Altman, J., ... & Majeský, Ľ. (2019). Forest structure determines spatial changes in avian communities along an elevational gradient in tropical Africa. Journal of Biogeography, 46(11), 2466-2478.

Reif, J., Hořák, D., Sedláček, O., Riegert, J., Pešata, M., Hrázský, Z., Janeček, Š. & Storch, D. 2006. Unusual abundance–range size relationship in an Afromontane bird community: the effect of geographical isolation? Journal of Biogeography 33:1959-1968.

Vokurková, J., Motombi, F. N., Ferenc, M., Hořák, D., & Sedláček, O. (2018). Seasonality of vocal activity of a bird community in an Afrotropical lowland rain forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 34(1), 53-64.

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