Community and ecosystem responses to elevational gradients: Processes, mechanisms and insights for global change

Community structure and ecosystem processes often vary along elevational gradients. Their responses to elevation are commonly driven by changes in temperature, and many community- and ecosystem-level variables therefore frequently respond similarly to elevation across contrasting gradients. There are also many exceptions, sometimes because other factors such as precipitation can also vary with elevation. Given this complexity, our capacity to predict when and why the same variable responds differently among disparate elevational gradients is often limited. Furthermore, there is utility in using elevational gradients for understanding community and ecosystem responses to global climate change atmuch larger spatial and temporal scales than is possible through conventional ecological experiments. However, future studies that integrate elevational gradient approaches with experimental manipulations will provide powerful information that can improve predictions of climate change impacts within and across ecosystems.