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Kent R, O Levanoni, E Banker, G Pe'er and S Kark (2013) Comparing the Response of Birds and Butterflies to Vegetation-Based Mountain Ecotones Using Boundary Detection Approaches. PLoS ONE

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Mountains provide an opportunity to examine changes in biodiversity across environmental gradients and areas of transition (ecotones). Mountain ecotones separate vegetation belts. Here, we aimed to examine whether transition areas for birds and butterflies spatially correspond with ecotones between three previously described altitudinal vegetation belts on Mt. Hermon, northern Israel. These include the Mediterranean Maquis, xero-montane open forest and Tragacanthic mountain steppe vegetation belts. We sampled the abundance of bird and butterfly species in 34 sampling locations along an elevational gradient between 500 and 2200 m. We applied wombling, a boundary-detection technique, which detects rapid changes in a continuous variable, in order to locate the transition areas for bird and butterfly communities and compare the location of these areas with the location of vegetation belts as described in earlier studies of Mt. Hermon. We found some correspondence between the areas of transition of both bird and butterfly communities and the ecotones between vegetation belts. For birds and butterflies, important transitions occurred at the lower vegetation ecotone between Mediterranean maquis and the xero-montane open forest vegetation belts, and between the xero-montane open forest and the mountain steppe Tragacanthic belts. While patterns of species turnover with elevation were similar for birds and butterflies, the change in species richness and diversity with elevation differed substantially between the two taxa. Birds and butterflies responded quite similarly to the elevational gradient and to the shift between vegetation belts in terms of species turnover rates. While the mechanisms generating these patterns may differ, the resulting areas of peak turnover in species show correspondence among three different taxa (plants, birds and butterflies).