Disentangling the Role of Climate, Topography and Vegetation in Species Richness Gradients

  • Moura M
  • Villalobos F
  • Costa G
 et al. 
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Environmental gradients (EG) related to climate, topography and vegetation are among the most important drivers of broad scale patterns of species richness. However, these different EG do not necessarily drive species richness in similar ways, potentially presenting syner- gistic associations when driving species richness. Understanding the synergism among EG allows us to address key questions arising from the effects of global climate and land use changes on biodiversity. Herein, we use variation partitioning (also know as commonality analysis) to disentangle unique and shared contributions of different EG in explaining spe- cies richness of Neotropical vertebrates. We use three broad sets of predictors to represent the environmental variability in (i) climate (annualmean temperature, temperature annual range, annual precipitation and precipitation range), (ii) topography (mean elevation, range and coefficient of variation of elevation), and (iii) vegetation (land cover diversity, standard deviation and range of forest canopy height). The shared contribution between two types of EG is used to quantify synergistic processes operating among EG, offering new perspec- tives on the causal relationships driving species richness. To account for spatially structured processes, we use Spatial EigenVector Mapping models. Weperform analyses across groups with distinct dispersal abilities (amphibians, non-volant mammals, bats and birds) and discuss the influence of vagility on the partitioning results. Our findings indicate that broad scale patterns of vertebrate richness are mainly affected by the synergism between climate and vegetation, followed by the unique contribution of climate. Climatic factors were relativelymore important in explaining species richness of good dispersers. Most of the vari- ation in vegetation that explains vertebrate richness is climatically structured, supporting the productivity hypothesis. Further, the weak synergism between topography and vegeta- tion urges caution when using topographic complexity as a surrogate of habitat (vegetation) heterogeneity.

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