About this Research Topic
Globally, terrestrial biological diversity shows clear patterns along latitude with the majority of species inhabiting productive tropical regions. Also, hotspots of diversity are typically concentrated on tropical oceanic islands and in montane areas – both of these form differentiated biotopes unique from the surrounding landscapes. On a relatively small spatial scale, elevational gradients support a variety of environments, thus determining biogeographical patterns and increase observed species richness. Besides, eco-climatically stable island-like conditions in the tropical mountains support high species diversity because of active speciation (neo-endemics) and persistence of paleo-endemics. Mountain species are characterized by relatively small geographical ranges and limited mobility, which is driven by high habitat heterogeneity as a result of complex topographic and climatic gradients. Unlike other continents, most of Africa’s mountains are fragmented systems, with overall inter-African mountain isolation being higher than on other continents where linear mountain systems are typical; this has driven unusual patterns of endemism and diversity that have been the subject of much debate and research. Our knowledge of African mountain biodiversity is still limited, with large swathes of mountain systems partly, patchily, or unexplored by biodiversity scientists. In addition, the ecology and behavior of most African montane species are poorly known. Given the rapid rate of change taking place in African mountains (through direct human impact coupled with Global Change), upscaling biodiversity research in African mountains is imperative.
Understanding the ecological and evolutionary drivers of African mountain diversity is crucial to fill the gap in the current knowledge of biodiversity on Earth. We need to know how the climatic variation, habitat specializations, and biotic interactions shape geographical distributions of species. Specifically, how these distributions are affected by idiosyncratic parameters of the mountain environments such as strong environmental variation over relatively small spatial scales, resulting in heterogeneity of biotopes, topographical complexity, bedrock heterogeneity, the climatic influence of the oceans, and the presence of low cloud cover layers isolating lowland and montane environments. Understanding of the ecological links between species and their environment should be accompanied by evolutionary insights into the origination of species and ecological networks via mountain-specific interactions and forms of isolation, phylogenetic relationships between species inhabiting different parts of the ecological gradients and contrasting current and historical processes in shaping observed diversity patterns. Moreover, such knowledge is essential for the integrated management and practical conservation. Understanding patterns and processes at fine-scale along environmental gradients in African mountains can assist in understanding geographical ranges and predicting their changes under immediate human pressure and Global Change.
The aim of this Research Topic is to bring together the current ecological and evolutionary research on biological diversity in African mountains across different taxa of plants and animals, biotope types, and geographical locations. We will particularly focus on the role of environmental gradients in ecological differentiation of individuals and communities, the origination of species and shaping their geographical distributions. Further, we encourage research on inter-specific interactions, the importance of ecological adaptations, and the significance of evolutionary history for current patterns of biodiversity. We particularly stimulate multidisciplinary research linking ecology, evolution, ecophysiology, geography, meteorology, and geology. Submissions from immediately adjacent oceanic island groups or locations with a strong analogy to African montane systems will be considered.
We welcome manuscripts on the following subjects:
(i) Biodiversity patterns and ecological networks along Afrotropical elevations
(ii) The role of mountain topography, geology, and climate in shaping species’ geographical distributions
(iii) Mountain gradients as barriers for dispersal and generators of new species
(iv) Eco-physiological limits on montane diversity
(v) Biogeography of parasites and their role in shaping the geographical distribution of hosts
(vi) Historical processes behind phylogenetic diversity of mountain biota
(vii) Seasonality, resource variation, habitat heterogeneity, and migration as determinants of Afromontane diversity
(viii) Biodiversity and biographical research that is clearly linked to global instruments and policy, and delivers practical objectives for active conservation/sustainability implementation.
Keywords: elevation, forest, grassland, savannah, plants, animals, tropics, sub-tropics, temperate, endemism, Afromontane, Afro-alpine
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.