Abstract Many factors affect the distribution of species richness. This study examines the relative influence of habitat heterogeneity, climate, human disturbance, and spatial structure on the species-richness distribution of terrestrial vertebrates (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) in mainland Spain. The results indicate that spatial structure and environment exert similar influences on species richness. For all four taxa, species richness increases southward and northward, being lower in the center of the country, when controlled for other variables. This may be the result of a peninsular effect, as found in other studies, and reflect the importance of historical events on species richness in the Iberian Peninsula. Climate is more important than habitat heterogeneity in determining species richness. Temperature is positively correlated with amphibian, reptile, and bird species richness, while mammalian species richness is highest at intermediate temperatures. This effect is stronger in ectotherms than among endotherms, perhaps reflecting physiological differences. Precipitation positively correlates with bird and mammalian species richness, but has no effect on ectotherm species richness. Amphibian species richness increases with altitudinal range, and bird species richness with habitat diversity. Human population density is positively correlated with bird and mammalian species richness, but does not affect ectotherm species richness, while amphibian and bird species richness is highest at moderate levels of human land alteration (farmland). However, unexplained variance remains, and we discuss that the effects of environmental variables on species richness may vary geographically, causing different effects to be obscured on a national scale, diminishing the explanatory power of environmental variables.
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