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Concept: Montane


Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) is a remarkable genus of miniaturized frogs of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest. Many of its species are highly endemic to cloud forests, being found only on one or a few mountaintops. Such level of microendemism might be caused by their climatic tolerance to a narrow set of environmental conditions found only in montane regions. This restriction severely limits the chance of discovery of new species, given the difficulty of exploring these inaccessible habitats. Following extensive fieldwork in montane areas of the southern portion of the Atlantic Rainforest, in this study we describe seven new species of Brachycephalus from the states of Paraná and Santa Catarina, southern Brazil. These species can be distinguished from one another based on coloration and the level of rugosity of the skin in different parts of their body. These discoveries increase considerably the number of described species of Brachycephalus in southern Brazil.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Atlantic Ocean, Forest, Brazil, Montane, Florianópolis, German Brazilian, Joinville


We describe a new species of small strabomantid frog (genusPsychrophrynella) from a humid montane forest in the Peruvian Department of Puno. Specimens were collected at 2,225 m a.s.l. in the leaf litter of primary montane forest near Thiuni, along the Macusani-San Gabán road, in the province of Carabaya. The new species is assigned toPsychrophrynellaon the basis of morphological similarity, including presence of a tubercle on the inner edge of the tarsus, and call composed of multiple notes. We also include genetic distances for 16S rRNA partial sequences between the new species and other strabomantid frogs. The species with lowest genetic distances arePsychrophrynella chirihampatuandPsychrophrynella usurpator. Psychrophrynella glaucasp. n. is readily distinguished from the three other species ofPsychrophrynella(Psychrophrynella bagrecito,P. chirihampatu, andP. usurpator) by its small size, and by having belly and ventral surfaces of legs reddish-brown or red, and chest and throat brown to dark brown with a profusion of bluish-gray flecks. The new species is only known from its type locality. With the discovery ofP. glauca, the geographic distribution ofPsychrophrynellais extended to the Department of Puno, where it was no longer represented after the description of the genusMicrokayla. Furthermore, the Cordillera de Carabaya is the only mountain range known to be home to four of the seven genera of Holoadeninae (Bryophryne,Microkayla,Noblella, andPsychrophrynella), suggesting an intriguing evolutionary history for this group in southern Peru.

Concepts: Evolution, Forest, Montane, Amphibian, Frog, Peru


Higher global temperatures and increased levels of disturbance are contributing to greater tree mortality in many forest ecosystems. These same drivers can also limit forest regeneration, leading to vegetation type conversion. For the Sierra Nevada of California, little is known about how type conversion may affect streamflow, a critical source of water supply for urban, agriculture and environmental purposes. In this paper, we examined the effects of tree-to-shrub type conversion, in combination with climate change, on streamflow in two lower montane forest watersheds in the Sierra Nevada. A spatially distributed ecohydrologic model was used to simulate changes in streamflow, evaporation, and transpiration following type conversion, with an explicit focus on the role of vegetation size and aspect. Model results indicated that streamflow may show negligible change or small decreases following type conversion when the difference between tree and shrub leaf areas is small, partly due to the higher stomatal conductivity and the deep rooting depth of shrubs. In contrast, streamflow may increase when post-conversion shrubs have a small leaf area relative to trees. Model estimates also suggested that vegetation change could have a greater impact on streamflow magnitude than the direct hydrologic impacts of increased temperatures. Temperature increases, however, may have a greater impact on streamflow timing. Tree-to-shrub type conversion increased streamflow only marginally during dry years (annual precipitation < 800 mm), with most streamflow change observed during wetter years. These modeling results underscore the importance of accounting for changes in vegetation communities to accurately characterize future hydrologic regimes for the Sierra Nevada.

Concepts: Precipitation, Climate, Ecosystem, Climate change, Forest, Vegetation, Montane, Sierra Nevada


We describe two new species of miniaturized toadlet in the B. pernix group of Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) from the Atlantic Forest of the state of Paraná, southern Brazil. The first new species is distinguished from all congeners by the pale red coloration from the head to the pelvic region, with sides of the body and thighs dorsally yellowish green. It is known only from the type locality in a cloud forest at altitudes ranging between 1,144-1,228 m a.s.l. The second species, although more closely related to B. izecksohni, is morphologically similar to B. brunneus in its overall brown coloration, but distinct from that species in the color of the iris (black with conspicuous golden spots, instead of entirely black). It was found on three mountains, at altitudes between 1,095-1,320 m a.s.l., and in vegetation types including cloud forest, montane forest, and secondary forest. The two new species exhibit neither vertebral fusions nor osteoderms, but one has both a distinct neopalatine and well-developed odontoids on the maxillae. We discuss the conservation status of both species.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Color, Forest, Green, Brazil, Montane, Primary color, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests


We describe a new species of Psychrophrynella from the humid montane forest of the Department Cusco in Peru. Specimens were collected at 2,670-3,165 m elevation in the Área de Conservación Privada Ukumari Llakta, Japumayo valley, near Comunidad Campesina de Japu, in the province of Paucartambo. The new species is readily distinguished from all other species of Psychrophrynella but P. bagrecito and P. usurpator by possessing a tubercle on the inner edge of the tarsus, and from these two species by its yellow ventral coloration on abdomen and limbs. Furthermore, the new species is like P. bagrecito and P. usurpator in having an advertisement call composed of multiple notes, whereas other species of Psychrophrynella whose calls are known have a pulsed call (P. teqta) or a short, tonal call composed of a single note. The new species has a snout-vent length of 16.1-24.1 mm in males and 23.3-27.7 mm in females. Like other recently described species in the genus, this new Psychrophrynella inhabits high-elevation forests in the tropical Andes and likely has a restricted geographic distribution.

Concepts: Species, Forest, Montane, Andes, Amphibian, Peru, Cusco


This study was designed to address a major source of uncertainty pertaining to coupled carbon-water cycles in montane forest ecosystems. The Sierra Nevada of California was used as a model system to investigate connections between the physiological performance of trees and landscape patterns of forest carbon and water use. The intrinsic water-use efficiency (iWUE)-an index of CO2 fixed per unit of potential water lost via transpiration-of nine dominant species was determined in replicated transects along an ∼1,500-m elevation gradient, spanning a broad range of climatic conditions and soils derived from three different parent materials. Stable isotope ratios of carbon and oxygen measured at the leaf level were combined with field-based and remotely sensed metrics of stand productivity, revealing that variation in iWUE depends primarily on leaf traits (∼24% of the variability), followed by stand productivity (∼16% of the variability), climatic regime (∼13% of the variability), and soil development (∼12% of the variability). Significant interactions between species composition and soil properties proved useful to predict changes in forest carbon-water relations. On the basis of observed shifts in tree species composition, ongoing since the 1950s and intensified in recent years, an increase in water loss through transpiration (ranging from 10 to 60% depending on parent material) is now expected in mixed conifer forests throughout the region.

Concepts: Soil, Ecosystem, Forest, Tree, Montane, Transpiration, Sierra Nevada


A new species of Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) is described from the Atlantic Forest of northeastern state of Santa Catarina, southern Brazil. Nine specimens (eight adults and a juvenile) were collected from the leaf litter of montane forests 790-835 m above sea level (a.s.l.). The new species is a member of the pernix group by its bufoniform shape and the absence of dermal co-ossification and is distinguished from all its congeners by a combination of its general coloration (dorsal region of head, dorsum, legs, arms, and flanks light, brownish green to dark, olive green, with darker region in the middle of the dorsum and a white line along the vertebral column in most specimens) and by its smooth dorsum. The geographical distribution of the new species is highly reduced (extent of occurrence estimated as 25.04 ha, or possibly 34.37 ha). In addition, its habitat has experienced some level of degradation, raising concerns about the future conservation of the species. Preliminary density estimates suggest one calling individual every 3-4 m(2) at 815-835 m a.s.l. and every 100 m(2) at 790 m a.s.l. Together with the recently described B. boticario and B. fuscolineatus, the new species is among the southernmost species of Brachycephalus known to date.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Vertebral column, Atlantic Ocean, Forest, Brazil, Montane, Florianópolis, Joinville


Our ability to model global carbon fluxes depends on understanding how terrestrial carbon stocks respond to varying environmental conditions. Tropical forests contain the bulk of the biosphere’s carbon. However, there is a lack of consensus as to how gradients in environmental conditions affect tropical forest carbon. Papua New Guinea (PNG) lies within one of the largest areas of contiguous tropical forest and is characterized by environmental gradients driven by altitude; yet, the region has been grossly understudied. Here, we present the first field assessment of aboveground biomass (AGB) across three main forest types of PNG using 193 plots stratified across 3,100-m elevation gradient. Unexpectedly, AGB had no direct relationship to rainfall, temperature, soil, or topography. Instead, natural disturbances explained most variation in AGB. While large trees (diameter at breast height > 50 cm) drove altitudinal patterns of AGB, resulting in a major peak in AGB (2,200-3,100 m) and some of the most carbon-rich forests at these altitudes anywhere. Large trees were correlated to a set of climatic variables following a hump-shaped curve. The set of “optimal” climatic conditions found in montane cloud forests is similar to that of maritime temperate areas that harbor the largest trees in the world: high ratio of precipitation to evapotranspiration (2.8), moderate mean annual temperature (13.7°C), and low intra-annual temperature range (7.5°C). At extreme altitudes (2,800-3,100 m), where tree diversity elsewhere is usually low and large trees are generally rare or absent, specimens from 18 families had girths >70 cm diameter and maximum heights 20-41 m. These findings indicate that simple AGB-climate-edaphic models may not be suitable for estimating carbon storage in forests where optimal climate niches exist. Our study, conducted in a very remote area, suggests that tropical montane forests may contain greater AGB than previously thought and the importance of securing their future under a changing climate is therefore enhanced.

Concepts: Climate, Forest, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Montane, Elevation, Cloud forest, Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests


There is widespread concern that fire exclusion has led to an unprecedented threat of uncharacteristically severe fires in ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa Dougl. ex. Laws) and mixed-conifer forests of western North America. These extensive montane forests are considered to be adapted to a low/moderate-severity fire regime that maintained stands of relatively old trees. However, there is increasing recognition from landscape-scale assessments that, prior to any significant effects of fire exclusion, fires and forest structure were more variable in these forests. Biota in these forests are also dependent on the resources made available by higher-severity fire. A better understanding of historical fire regimes in the ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of western North America is therefore needed to define reference conditions and help maintain characteristic ecological diversity of these systems. We compiled landscape-scale evidence of historical fire severity patterns in the ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests from published literature sources and stand ages available from the Forest Inventory and Analysis program in the USA. The consensus from this evidence is that the traditional reference conditions of low-severity fire regimes are inaccurate for most forests of western North America. Instead, most forests appear to have been characterized by mixed-severity fire that included ecologically significant amounts of weather-driven, high-severity fire. Diverse forests in different stages of succession, with a high proportion in relatively young stages, occurred prior to fire exclusion. Over the past century, successional diversity created by fire decreased. Our findings suggest that ecological management goals that incorporate successional diversity created by fire may support characteristic biodiversity, whereas current attempts to “restore” forests to open, low-severity fire conditions may not align with historical reference conditions in most ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forests of western North America.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, United States, Ecosystem, Forest, North America, Montane


Dust provides ecosystem-sustaining nutrients to landscapes underlain by intensively weathered soils. Here we show that dust may also be crucial in montane forest ecosystems, dominating nutrient budgets despite continuous replacement of depleted soils with fresh bedrock via erosion. Strontium and neodymium isotopes in modern dust show that Asian sources contribute 18-45% of dust deposition across our Sierra Nevada, California study sites. The remaining dust originates regionally from the nearby Central Valley. Measured dust fluxes are greater than or equal to modern erosional outputs from hillslopes to channels, and account for 10-20% of estimated millennial-average inputs of bedrock P. Our results demonstrate that exogenic dust can drive the evolution of nutrient budgets in montane ecosystems, with implications for predicting forest response to changes in climate and land use.

Concepts: Ecology, Nutrient, Soil, Ecosystem, Forest, Erosion, California, Montane