Abiotic and biotic influences on spatio-temporal population dynamics in Alpine environmental conditions: the snowfinches as a case study

The mechanisms regulating populations are poorly understood and controversial, yet elucidating them is essential for predicting how populations will respond to environmental perturbations such as climate change. The combination of the exogenous (e.g. climate) and endogenous (e.g. dispersal limitation) forces acting upon a population will determine its fate, including the probability that a population goes extinct, and the probability that new populations will be established as a result of colonisations.

In this project we will address the relative roles of abiotic and biotic factors in shaping patterns of species abundance, distribution, and spatio-temporal population dynamics. Our biological model is one of the most emblematic passerine species of alpine environments in European mountains, the snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis nivalis. The snowfinch is potentially threatened by loss of habitat, range contraction and local extinction due to global warming. However, we still know very little about its ecological requirements and essentially nothing about its demography in order to adequately assess its vulnerability.

By identifying the mechanisms limiting population locally, and mechanistically linking the dynamics of the populations with climatic variability, we aim to gain insights into the relative importance of abiotic a biotic factors on the spatio-temporal dynamics of snowfinch populations – the results of which is a fundamental requirement in order to assess how alpine species adapted to cold climate will face new warming conditions.


Funded by:    ministerio  Gobierno de España, Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad