ABSTRACT: Environmental energy availability can explain much of the spatial variation in species richness. Such species-energy relationships encompass a diverse range of forms, and there is intense debate concerning which of these predominate, and the factors promoting this diversity. Despite this there has been relatively little investigation of whether the form, and relative strength, of species-energy relationships varies with (i) the currency of energy availability that is used, and (ii) the ecological characteristics of the constituent species. Such investigations can, however, shed light on the causal mechanisms underlying species-energy relationships. We illustrate this using the British breeding avifauna. The strength of the species-energy relationship is dependent on the energy metric used, with species richness being more closely correlated with temperature than the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, which is a strong correlate of net primary productivity. We find little evidence, however, for the thermoregulatory load hypothesis that high temperatures enable individuals to invest in growth and reproduction, rather than thermoregulation, increasing population sizes that buffer species from extinction. High levels of productive energy may also elevate population size, which is related to extinction risk by a negative decelerating function. Therefore, the rarest species should exhibit the strongest species-energy relationship. We find evidence to the contrary, together with little support for suggestions that high-energy availability elevates species richness by increasing the numbers of specialists or predators.
Project description:A major goal of ecology is to understand spatial variation in species richness. The latter is markedly influenced by energy availability and appears to be influenced more by common species than rare ones; species-energy relationships should thus be stronger for common species. Species-energy relationships may arise because high-energy areas support more individuals, and these larger populations may buffer species from extinction. As extinction risk is a negative decelerating function of population size, this more-individuals hypothesis (MIH) predicts that rare species should respond more strongly to energy. We investigate these opposing predictions using British breeding bird data and find that, contrary to the MIH, common species contribute more to species-energy relationships than rare ones.
Project description:Environmental energy availability explains much of the spatial variation in species richness at regional scales. While numerous mechanisms that may drive such total species-energy relationships have been identified, knowledge of their relative contributions is scant. Here, we adopt a novel approach to identify these drivers that exploits the composite nature of species richness, i.e. its summation from individual species distributions. We construct individual species-energy relationships (ISERs) for each species in the British breeding avifauna using both solar (temperature) and productive energy metrics (normalized difference vegetation index) as measures of environmental energy availability. We use the slopes of these relationships and the resultant change in deviance, relative to a null model, as measures of their strength and use them as response variables in multiple regressions that use ecological traits as predictors. The commonest species exhibit the strongest ISERs, which is counter to the prediction derived from the more individuals hypothesis. There is no evidence that predatory species have stronger ISERs, which is incompatible with the suggestion that high levels of energy availability increase the length of the food chain allowing larger numbers of predators to exist. We find some evidence that species with narrow niche breadths have stronger ISERs, thus providing one of the few pieces of supportive evidence that high-energy availability promotes species richness by increasing the occurrence of specialist species that use a narrow range of resources.
Project description:Protected areas are generally regarded as essential for the long-term maintenance of biodiversity. Evidence for their effectiveness in this regard is, however, somewhat equivocal. Here, we document the relationship between the proportion of protected land and species richness in a region, both with and without taking spatial variation in environmental energy availability into account. Using the South African avifauna as a case study, we find that total and threatened species richness exhibit modest increases with the proportion of protected land. While the protected area network should be expanded, it is essential that conservation efforts also focus on maintaining biodiversity in the wider unprotected landscape that supports high species richness.
Project description:Although the relationship between species richness and available energy is well established for a range of spatial scales, exploration of the plausible underlying explanations for this relationship is less common. Speciation, extinction, dispersal and environmental filters all play a role. Here we make use of replicated elevational transects and the insights offered by comparing indigenous and invasive species to test four proximal mechanisms that have been offered to explain relationships between energy availability, abundance and species richness: the sampling mechanism (a null expectation), and the more individuals, dynamic equilibrium and range limitation mechanisms. We also briefly consider the time for speciation mechanism. We do so for springtails on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Relationships between energy availability and species richness are stronger for invasive than indigenous species, with geometric constraints and area variation playing minor roles. We reject the sampling and more individuals mechanisms, but show that dynamic equilibrium and range limitation are plausible mechanisms underlying these gradients, especially for invasive species. Time for speciation cannot be ruled out as contributing to richness variation in the indigenous species. Differences between the indigenous and invasive species highlight the ways in which deconstruction of richness gradients may usefully inform investigations of the mechanisms underlying them. They also point to the importance of population size-related mechanisms in accounting for such variation. In the context of the sub-Antarctic our findings suggest that warming climates may favour invasive over indigenous species in the context of changes to elevational distributions, a situation found for vascular plants, and predicted for springtails on the basis of smaller-scale manipulative field experiments.
Project description:Range overlap patterns were observed in a dataset of 10,446 expert-derived marine species distribution maps, including 8,295 coastal fishes, 1,212 invertebrates (crustaceans and molluscs), 820 reef-building corals, 50 seagrasses, and 69 mangroves. Distributions of tropical Indo-Pacific shore fishes revealed a concentration of species richness in the northern apex and central region of the Coral Triangle epicenter of marine biodiversity. This pattern was supported by distributions of invertebrates and habitat-forming primary producers. Habitat availability, heterogeneity, and sea surface temperatures were highly correlated with species richness across spatial grains ranging from 23,000 to 5,100,000 km(2) with and without correction for autocorrelation. The consistent retention of habitat variables in our predictive models supports the area of refuge hypothesis which posits reduced extinction rates in the Coral Triangle. This does not preclude support for a center of origin hypothesis that suggests increased speciation in the region may contribute to species richness. In addition, consistent retention of sea surface temperatures in models suggests that available kinetic energy may also be an important factor in shaping patterns of marine species richness. Kinetic energy may hasten rates of both extinction and speciation. The position of the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool to the east of the Coral Triangle in central Oceania and a pattern of increasing species richness from this region into the central and northern parts of the Coral Triangle suggests peripheral speciation with enhanced survival in the cooler parts of the Coral Triangle that also have highly concentrated available habitat. These results indicate that conservation of habitat availability and heterogeneity is important to reduce extinction of marine species and that changes in sea surface temperatures may influence the evolutionary potential of the region.
Project description:The association between species richness and ecosystem energy availability is one of the major geographic trends in biodiversity. It is often explained in terms of energetic constraints, such that coexistence among competing species is limited in low productivity environments. However, it has proven challenging to reject alternative views, including the null hypothesis that species richness has simply had more time to accumulate in productive regions, and thus the role of energetic constraints in limiting coexistence remains largely unknown. We use the phylogenetic relationships and geographic ranges of sister species (pairs of lineages who are each other's closest extant relatives) to examine the association between energy availability and coexistence across an entire vertebrate class (Aves). We show that the incidence of coexistence among sister species increases with overall species richness and is elevated in more productive ecosystems, even when accounting for differences in the evolutionary time available for coexistence to occur. Our results indicate that energy availability promotes species coexistence in closely related lineages, providing a key step toward a more mechanistic understanding of the productivity-richness relationship underlying global gradients in biodiversity.
Project description:The causes of global variation in species richness have been debated for nearly two centuries with no clear resolution in sight. Competing hypotheses have typically been evaluated with correlative models that do not explicitly incorporate the mechanisms responsible for biotic diversity gradients. Here, we employ a fundamentally different approach that uses spatially explicit Monte Carlo models of the placement of cohesive geographical ranges in an environmentally heterogeneous landscape. These models predict species richness of endemic South American birds (2248 species) measured at a continental scale. We demonstrate that the principal single-factor and composite (species-energy, water-energy and temperature-kinetics) models proposed thus far fail to predict (r(2) < or =.05) the richness of species with small to moderately large geographical ranges (first three range-size quartiles). These species constitute the bulk of the avifauna and are primary targets for conservation. Climate-driven models performed reasonably well only for species with the largest geographical ranges (fourth quartile) when range cohesion was enforced. Our analyses suggest that present models inadequately explain the extraordinary diversity of avian species in the montane tropics, the most species-rich region on Earth. Our findings imply that correlative climatic models substantially underestimate the importance of historical factors and small-scale niche-driven assembly processes in shaping contemporary species-richness patterns.
Project description:Background: Tropical lowland rainforests are threatened by deforestation and degradation worldwide. Relatively little research has investigated the degradation of the forests of South-east Asia and its impact on biodiversity, and even less research has focused on the important peat swamp forests of Indonesia, which experienced major losses through severe fires in 2015. Methods: We acoustically sampled the avifauna of the Berbak National Park in 2013 in 12 plots split in three habitats: primary swamp forest, secondary swamp forest, and shrub swamp, respectively representing non-degraded, previously selectively logged, and burned habitats. We analysed the species richness, abundance, vocalisation activity, and community composition across acoustic counts, plots, feeding guilds and IUCN Red List categories. We also analysed community-weighted means of body mass, wing length, and distribution area. Results: The avifauna in the three habitats was remarkably similar in richness, abundance and vocalisation activity, and communities mainly differed due to a lower prevalence of understory insectivores (Old-World Babblers, Timaliidae) in shrub swamp. However primary forest retained twice as many conservation-worthy species as shrub swamp, which harboured heavier, probably more mobile species, with larger distributions than those of forest habitats. Conclusions: The National Park overall harboured higher bird abundances than nearby lowland rainforests. Protecting the remaining peat swamp forest in this little-known National Park should be a high conservation priority in the light of the current threats coming from wildlife trade, illegal logging, land use conversion, and man-made fires.
Project description:Broad-scale geographic gradients in species richness have now been extensively documented, but their historical underpinning is still not well understood. While the importance of productivity, temperature, and a scale dependence of the determinants of diversity is broadly acknowledged, we argue here that limitation to a single analysis scale and data pseudo-replication have impeded an integrated evolutionary and ecological understanding of diversity gradients. We develop and apply a hierarchical analysis framework for global diversity gradients that incorporates an explicit accounting of past environmental variation and provides an appropriate measurement of richness. Due to environmental niche conservatism, organisms generally reside in climatically defined bioregions, or "evolutionary arenas," characterized by in situ speciation and extinction. These bioregions differ in age and their total productivity and have varied over time in area and energy available for diversification. We show that, consistently across the four major terrestrial vertebrate groups, current-day species richness of the world's main 32 bioregions is best explained by a model that integrates area and productivity over geological time together with temperature. Adding finer scale variation in energy availability as an ecological predictor of within-bioregional patterns of richness explains much of the remaining global variation in richness at the 110 km grain. These results highlight the separate evolutionary and ecological effects of energy availability and provide a first conceptual and empirical integration of the key drivers of broad-scale richness gradients. Avoiding the pseudo-replication that hampers the evolutionary interpretation of non-hierarchical macroecological analyses, our findings integrate evolutionary and ecological mechanisms at their most relevant scales and offer a new synthesis regarding global diversity gradients.
Project description:Dryland ecosystems are highly vulnerable to climatic and land-use changes, while the mechanisms underlying patterns of dryland species richness are still elusive. With distributions of 3637 native vascular plants, 154 mammals, and 425 birds in Xinjiang, China, we tested the water-energy dynamics hypothesis for species richness patterns in Central Asian drylands. Our results supported the water-energy dynamics hypothesis. We found that species richness of all three groups was a hump-shaped function of energy availability, but a linear function of water availability. We further found that water availability had stronger effects on plant richness, but weaker effects on vertebrate richness than energy availability. We conducted piecewise linear regressions to detect the breakpoints in the relationship between species richness and potential evapotranspiration which divided Xinjiang into low and high energy regions. The concordance between mammal and plant richness was stronger in high than in low energy regions, which was opposite to that between birds and plants. Plant richness had stronger effects than climate on mammal richness regardless of energy levels, but on bird richness only in high energy regions. The changes in the concordance between vertebrate and plant richness along the climatic gradient suggest that cautions are needed when using concordance between taxa in conservation planning.