Predictors of elevational biodiversity gradients change from single taxa to the multi-taxa community level

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Abstract

The factors determining gradients of biodiversity are a fundamental yet unresolved topic in ecology. While diversity gradients have been analysed for numerous single taxa, progress towards general explanatory models has been hampered by limitations in the phylogenetic coverage of past studies. By parallel sampling of 25 major plant and animal taxa along a 3.7 km elevational gradient on Mt. Kilimanjaro, we quantify cross-taxon consensus in diversity gradients and evaluate predictors of diversity from single taxa to a multi-taxa community level. While single taxa show complex distribution patterns and respond to different environmental factors, scaling up diversity to the community level leads to an unambiguous support for temperature as the main predictor of species richness in both plants and animals. Our findings illuminate the influence of taxonomic coverage for models of diversity gradients and point to the importance of temperature for diversification and species coexistence in plant and animal communities.

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Peters, M. K., Hemp, A., Appelhans, T., Behler, C., Classen, A., Detsch, F., … Steffan-Dewenter, I. (2016). Predictors of elevational biodiversity gradients change from single taxa to the multi-taxa community level. Nature Communications, 7. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms13736

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