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K-State Today

October 29, 2020

Kelsey Reider to present Division of Biology Seminar

Submitted by Division of Biology

Kelsey Reider, National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow in the biological sciences department at Murray State University, will present "Wildlife Responses to Rapid Climate Change in the High Tropical Andes" as part of the Division of Biology Seminar Series at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, via Zoom.

Research in tropical alpine areas provides a window into some of the most rapidly changing, yet least-studied, ecosystems on Earth. In the Cordillera Vilcanota in southeastern Peru, research conducted over more than a decade has revealed interesting adaptations to extreme environments above 5,000 masl and complex ecological and social responses to climate change. Global elevation records for many taxa have been set in the Vilcanota because plants and animals are colonizing new habitat at the retreating edges of melting glaciers and expanding upslope in response to climate change. Previous work has demonstrated nutrient limitation severely delays plant community development in tropical glacier forefields. The resulting decoupling between climate and primary succession may make Andean high-elevation grasslands far more vulnerable to range contraction than currently recognized. My work suggests that facilitation by large mammals is an important mechanism by which tropical Andean grasslands can shift upslope at a pace relevant to climate change: vicuña latrines shortcut a 100+ year lag between glacier retreat and primary succession. However, upward range expansions are not always positive developments — the Vilcanota has also yielded some of the best evidence that climate change can directly facilitate the spread of wildlife diseases — e.g., the deadly amphibian chytrid fungus — to very high elevations. In addition, for some aquatic species, upward expansion may be temporary — i.e., an ecological trap — if continued glacier cover loss causes the water table to drop and critical aquatic habitat to disappear in the future. The loss of glacial meltwater, the primary source of water in the dry season, also raises concerns about the precarious socio-environmental situation of indigenous pastoralist communities living in the tropical Andean highlands which depend upon high-elevation wetlands for key cultural and economic activities.

In 2021, Reider will join the faculty at James Madison University as an assistant professor. If you would like to visit with Reider, please contact Alice Boyle at aboyle@k-state.edu

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