Elevational gradients in ?-diversity reflect variation in the strength of local community assembly mechanisms across spatial scales.
ABSTRACT: Despite long-standing interest in elevational-diversity gradients, little is known about the processes that cause changes in the compositional variation of communities (?-diversity) across elevations. Recent studies have suggested that ?-diversity gradients are driven by variation in species pools, rather than by variation in the strength of local community assembly mechanisms such as dispersal limitation, environmental filtering, or local biotic interactions. However, tests of this hypothesis have been limited to very small spatial scales that limit inferences about how the relative importance of assembly mechanisms may change across spatial scales. Here, we test the hypothesis that scale-dependent community assembly mechanisms shape biogeographic ?-diversity gradients using one of the most well-characterized elevational gradients of tropical plant diversity. Using an extensive dataset on woody plant distributions along a 4,000-m elevational gradient in the Bolivian Andes, we compared observed patterns of ?-diversity to null-model expectations. ?-deviations (standardized differences from null values) were used to measure the relative effects of local community assembly mechanisms after removing sampling effects caused by variation in species pools. To test for scale-dependency, we compared elevational gradients at two contrasting spatial scales that differed in the size of local assemblages and regions by at least an order of magnitude. Elevational gradients in ?-diversity persisted after accounting for regional variation in species pools. Moreover, the elevational gradient in ?-deviations changed with spatial scale. At small scales, local assembly mechanisms were detectable, but variation in species pools accounted for most of the elevational gradient in ?-diversity. At large spatial scales, in contrast, local assembly mechanisms were a dominant force driving changes in ?-diversity. In contrast to the hypothesis that variation in species pools alone drives ?-diversity gradients, we show that local community assembly mechanisms contribute strongly to systematic changes in ?-diversity across elevations. We conclude that scale-dependent variation in community assembly mechanisms underlies these iconic gradients in global biodiversity.
Project description:The mechanisms determining community phylogenetic structure range from local ecological mechanisms to broad biogeographical processes. How these community assembly processes determine phylogenetic structure and patterns in rangeland communities across multiple spatial scales is still poorly understood. We sought to determine whether the structure of herbaceous and shrub assemblages along local environmental gradients (elevation) and broad geography (latitude) exhibited phylogenetic signal at different spatial scales, across 2,500 ha of a mountainous rangeland. We analyzed species distribution and phylogenetic data at two spatial scales: the community level (1 m2 sample units obtained by stratified random sampling) and the habitat level (plant assemblages identified categorically based on environmental and geographical variables). We found significant phylogenetic signal in structure and pattern at both spatial scales, along local elevational, and latitudinal gradients. Moreover, beta diversity was affected by different environmental variables in herbaceous and shrub species distributions across different spatial scales. Our results highlight the relative importance of local ecological mechanisms, including niche-based deterministic processes (environmental filtering and species interactions) as well as those of biogeographical processes, such as stochastic dispersal limitation and habitat specialization in plant assemblages of mountainous rangeland.
Project description:Biodiversity patterns across geographical gradients could result from regional species pool and local community assembly mechanisms. However, little has been done to separate the effects of local ecological mechanisms from variation in the regional species pools on bacterial diversity patterns. In this study, we compare assembly mechanisms of soil bacterial communities in 660 plots from 11 regions along a latitudinal gradient in eastern China with highly divergent species pools. Our results show that ? diversity does not co-vary with ? diversity, and local community assembly mechanisms appear to explain variation in ? diversity patterns after correcting for variation in regional species pools. The variation in environmental conditions along the latitudinal gradient accounts for the variation in ? diversity through mediating the strength of heterogeneous selection. In conclusion, our study clearly illustrates the importance of local community assembly processes in shaping geographical patterns of soil bacterial ? diversity.
Project description:Ecological understandings of soil bacterial community succession and assembly mechanism along elevational gradients in mountains remain not well understood. Here, by employing the high-throughput sequencing technique, we systematically examined soil bacterial diversity patterns, the driving factors, and community assembly mechanisms along the elevational gradients of 1800-4100 m on Gongga Mountain in China. Soil bacterial diversity showed an extraordinary stair-step pattern along the elevational gradients. There was an abrupt decrease of bacterial diversity between 2600 and 2800 m, while no significant change at either lower (1800-2600 m) or higher (2800-4100 m) elevations, which coincided with the variation in soil pH. In addition, the community structure differed significantly between the lower and higher elevations, which could be primarily attributed to shifts in soil pH and vegetation types. Although there was no direct effect of MAP and MAT on bacterial community structure, our partial least squares path modeling analysis indicated that bacterial communities were indirectly influenced by climate via the effect on vegetation and the derived effect on soil properties. As for bacterial community assembly mechanisms, the null model analysis suggested that environmental filtering played an overwhelming role in the assembly of bacterial communities in this region. In addition, variation partition analysis indicated that, at lower elevations, environmental attributes explained much larger fraction of the ?-deviation than spatial attributes, while spatial attributes increased their contributions at higher elevations. Our results highlight the importance of environmental filtering, as well as elevation-related spatial attributes in structuring soil bacterial communities in mountain ecosystems.
Project description:A core issue in microbial ecology is the need to elucidate the ecological processes and underlying mechanisms involved in microbial community assembly. However, the extent to which these mechanisms differ in importance based on traits of taxa with different niche breadth is poorly understood. Here, we used high-throughput sequencing to examine the relative importance of environmental selection and stochastic processes in shaping soil bacterial sub-communities with different niche breadth (including habitat generalists, specialists and other taxa) across elevational gradients on the subalpine slope of Mount Wutai, Northern China. Our findings suggested that the composition of soil bacterial communities differed significantly different among elevational gradients. According to the niche breadth index, 10.9% of OTUs were defined as habitat generalists (B-value >8.7) and 10.0% of OTUs were defined as habitat specialists (B-value <1.5). Generalists and specialists differed distinctly in diversity and biogeographic patterns across elevational gradients. Environmental selection (deterministic processes) and spatial factors (stochastic processes) seemed to determine the assembly and biogeography of habitat generalists. However, for specialists, deterministic processes strongly influenced the distribution, while stochastic processes were not at play. Environmental drivers for generalists and specialists differed, as did their importance. Elevation, total nitrogen and pH were the main factors determining habitat generalists, and soil water content, nitrate nitrogen and pH had the strongest impacts on specialists. Moreover, variation partitioning analysis revealed that environmental selection had a much greater impact on both generalists (17.7% of pure variance was explained) and specialists (3.6%) than spatial factors. However, generalists had a much stronger response to spatial factors (2.3%) than specialists (0.3%). More importantly, null models of ?-diversity suggested that specialists deviated significantly from non-neutral assembly mechanisms (relative null deviation= 0.64-0.74) relative to generalists (0.16-0.65) (P < 0.05). These results indicate that generalists and specialists are governed by different assembly mechanisms and present distinct biogeographical patterns. The large proportion of unexplained variation in specialists (93.3%) implies that very complex assembly mechanisms exist in the assembly of specialists across elevational gradients on the subalpine slope of Mount Wutai. It is essential to understand the microbial community assembly at a more refined level, and to expand the current understanding of microbial ecological mechanisms.
Project description:AIM:Phylogenetic diversity patterns are increasingly being used to better understand the role of ecological and evolutionary processes in community assembly. Here, we quantify how these patterns are influenced by scale choices in terms of spatial and environmental extent and organismic scales. LOCATION:European Alps. METHODS:We applied 42 sampling strategies differing in their combination of focal scales. For each resulting sub-dataset, we estimated the phylogenetic diversity of the species pools, phylogenetic ?-diversities of local communities, and statistics commonly used together with null models in order to infer non-random diversity patterns (i.e. phylogenetic clustering versus over-dispersion). Finally, we studied the effects of scale choices on these measures using regression analyses. RESULTS:Scale choices were decisive for revealing signals in diversity patterns. Notably, changes in focal scales sometimes reversed a pattern of over-dispersion into clustering. Organismic scale had a stronger effect than spatial and environmental extent. However, we did not find general rules for the direction of change from over-dispersion to clustering with changing scales. Importantly, these scale issues had only a weak influence when focusing on regional diversity patterns that change along abiotic gradients. MAIN CONCLUSIONS:Our results call for caution when combining phylogenetic data with distributional data to study how and why communities differ from random expectations of phylogenetic relatedness. These analyses seem to be robust when the focus is on relating community diversity patterns to variation in habitat conditions, such as abiotic gradients. However, if the focus is on identifying relevant assembly rules for local communities, the uncertainty arising from a certain scale choice can be immense. In the latter case, it becomes necessary to test whether emerging patterns are robust to alternative scale choices.
Project description:We analyze the relative contribution of environmental and spatial variables to the alpha and beta components of taxonomic (TD), phylogenetic (PD), and functional (FD) diversity in ant communities found along different climate and anthropogenic disturbance gradients across western and central Europe, in order to assess the mechanisms structuring ant biodiversity. To this aim we calculated alpha and beta TD, PD, and FD for 349 ant communities, which included a total of 155 ant species; we examined 10 functional traits and phylogenetic relatedness. Variation partitioning was used to examine how much variation in ant diversity was explained by environmental and spatial variables. Autocorrelation in diversity measures and each trait's phylogenetic signal were also analyzed. We found strong autocorrelation in diversity measures. Both environmental and spatial variables significantly contributed to variation in TD, PD, and FD at both alpha and beta scales; spatial structure had the larger influence. The different facets of diversity showed similar patterns along environmental gradients. Environment explained a much larger percentage of variation in FD than in TD or PD. All traits demonstrated strong phylogenetic signals. Our results indicate that environmental filtering and dispersal limitations structure all types of diversity in ant communities. Strong dispersal limitations appear to have led to clustering of TD, PD, and FD in western and central Europe, probably because different historical and evolutionary processes generated different pools of species. Remarkably, these three facets of diversity showed parallel patterns along environmental gradients. Trait-mediated species sorting and niche conservatism appear to structure ant diversity, as evidenced by the fact that more variation was explained for FD and that all traits had strong phylogenetic signals. Since environmental variables explained much more variation in FD than in PD, functional diversity should be a better indicator of community assembly processes than phylogenetic diversity.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Understanding the large-scale patterns of microbial functional diversity is essential for anticipating climate change impacts on ecosystems worldwide. However, studies of functional biogeography remain scarce for microorganisms, especially in freshwater ecosystems. Here we study 15,289 functional genes of stream biofilm microbes along three elevational gradients in Norway, Spain and China. RESULTS:We find that alpha diversity declines towards high elevations and assemblage composition shows increasing turnover with greater elevational distances. These elevational patterns are highly consistent across mountains, kingdoms and functional categories and exhibit the strongest trends in China due to its largest environmental gradients. Across mountains, functional gene assemblages differ in alpha diversity and composition between the mountains in Europe and Asia. Climate, such as mean temperature of the warmest quarter or mean precipitation of the coldest quarter, is the best predictor of alpha diversity and assemblage composition at both mountain and continental scales, with local non-climatic predictors gaining more importance at mountain scale. Under future climate, we project substantial variations in alpha diversity and assemblage composition across the Eurasian river network, primarily occurring in northern and central regions, respectively. CONCLUSIONS:We conclude that climate controls microbial functional gene diversity in streams at large spatial scales; therefore, the underlying ecosystem processes are highly sensitive to climate variations, especially at high latitudes. This biogeographical framework for microbial functional diversity serves as a baseline to anticipate ecosystem responses and biogeochemical feedback to ongoing climate change. Video Abstract.
Project description:Species-centric approaches to biodiversity in ecological research are limited in their ability to reflect the evolutionary history and functional diversity of community assembly. Recently, the introduction of alternative facets of biodiversity, such as phylogenetic and functional diversity, has shed light on this problem and improved our understanding of the processes underlying biodiversity patterns. Here, we investigated the phylogenetic and functional diversity patterns of ?, ? and ? components in woody plant assemblages along regional and local elevational gradients in South Korea. Although the patterns of phylogenetic and functional diversity varied along regional and local elevational transects, the main drivers were partitioned into two categories: regional area or climate for phylogenetic diversity, depending on whether the transect was at a regional or local scale; and habitat heterogeneity for functional diversity, which was derived in elevational bands. Moreover, environmental distance was more important than was geographic distance for phylogenetic and functional ? diversity between paired elevational bands. These results support the hypothesis that niche-based deterministic processes such as environmental filtering and competitive exclusion are fundamental in structuring woody plant assemblages along temperate elevational gradients regardless of scale (regional vs. local) in our study areas.
Project description:Mountains are considered excellent natural laboratories for studying the determinants of plant diversity at contrasting spatial scales. To gain insights into how plant diversity is structured at different spatial scales, we surveyed high mountain plant communities in the Chilean Andes where man-driven perturbations are rare. This was done along elevational gradients located at different latitudes taking into account factors that act at fine scales, including abiotic (potential solar radiation and soil quality) and biotic (species interactions) factors, and considering multiple spatial scales. Species richness, inverse of Simpson's concentration (Dequiv), beta-diversity and plant cover were estimated using the percentage of cover per species recorded in 34 sites in the different regions with contrasted climates. Overall, plant species richness, Dequiv and plant cover were lower in sites located at higher latitudes. We found a unimodal relationship between species richness and elevation and this pattern was constant independently of the regional climatic conditions. Soil quality decreased the beta-diversity among the plots in each massif and increased the richness, the Dequiv and cover. Segregated patterns of species co-occurrence were related to increases in richness, Dequiv and plant cover at finer scales. Our results showed that elevation patterns of alpine plant diversity remained constant along the regions although the mechanisms underlying these diversity patterns may differ among climatic regions. They also suggested that the patterns of plant diversity in alpine ecosystems respond to a series of factors (abiotic and biotic) that act jointly at different spatial scale determining the assemblages of local communities, but their importance can only be assessed using a multi-scale spatial approach.
Project description:Characterizing trait variation across different ecological scales in plant communities has been viewed as a way to gain insights into the mechanisms driving species coexistence. However, little is known about how changes in intraspecific and interspecific traits across sites influence species richness and community assembly, especially in understory herbaceous communities. Here we partitioned the variance of four functional traits (maximum height, leaf thickness, leaf area and specific leaf area) across four nested biological scales: individual, species, plot, and elevation to quantify the scale-dependent distributions of understory herbaceous trait variance. We also integrated the comparison of the trait variance ratios to null models to investigate the effects of different ecological processes on community assembly and functional diversity along a 1200-m elevational gradient in Yulong Mountain. We found interspecific trait variation was the main trait variation component for leaf traits, although intraspecific trait variation ranged from 10% to 28% of total variation. In particular, maximum height exhibited high plasticity, and intraspecific variation accounted for 44% of the total variation. Despite the fact that species composition varied across elevation and species richness decreased dramatically along the elevational gradient, there was little variance at our largest (elevation) scale in leaf traits and functional diversity remained constant along the elevational gradient, indicating that traits responded to smaller scale influences. External filtering was only observed at high elevations. However, strong internal filtering was detected along the entire elevational gradient in understory herbaceous communities, possibly due to competition. Our results provide evidence that species coexistence in understory herbaceous communities might be structured by differential niche-assembled processes. This approach -- integrating different biological scales of trait variation -- may provide a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in the structure of communities.