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A global comparative analysis of elevational species richness patterns of ferns


Kessler, M; Kluge, J; Hemphill, A; Ohlemüller, R (2011). A global comparative analysis of elevational species richness patterns of ferns. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 20(6):868-880.

Abstract

Aim: Elevational gradients offer an outstanding opportunity to assess factors determining patterns of species richness, but along single transects potential explanatory factors often covary, making it difficult to distinguish between competing hypotheses. Many previous studies on plants have interpreted their results as supporting the mid-domain effect (MDE) as a major determinant of species richness, even when climatic factors showed similarly high explanatory power. We compared fern species richness along 20 elevational transects to quantify the relative contribution of climate and MDE as drivers of elevational richness patterns.

Location: Twenty transects world-wide.

Methods: Ferns were sampled in 1039 plots of 400–2500 m2 each. Mean annual precipitation and temperature, epiphytic bryophyte cover (as a proxy for air humidity) and MDE predictions were included as independent variables. For each transect, we calculated multiple linear models and partitioned the variance to assess the relative contribution of the independent variables, selecting the most parsimonious models based on Akaike weights and multi-model inference.

Results: Along most individual gradients, nearly all variance of fern species richness that could be attributed to either space or MDEs was collinear with climatic factors. Yet, the comparison across transects showed that elevational richness patterns are most parsimoniously accounted for by climatic conditions, especially by low water availability at low elevations and in dry regions in general, and by low temperatures at high elevations and in extra-tropical regions.

Main conclusions: Fern species richness is most closely related to climatic factors, and while MDE, surface area and metapopulation processes may somewhat modify the patterns, their importance has been overstated in the past. Future research challenges include determining whether the richness–climate relationship reflects: (1) a direct relationship through the physiological tolerance of the plants, (2) an indirect influence of climate on ecosystem productivity, or (3) an evolutionary legacy of longer or faster diversification processes under certain climatic conditions.

Abstract

Aim: Elevational gradients offer an outstanding opportunity to assess factors determining patterns of species richness, but along single transects potential explanatory factors often covary, making it difficult to distinguish between competing hypotheses. Many previous studies on plants have interpreted their results as supporting the mid-domain effect (MDE) as a major determinant of species richness, even when climatic factors showed similarly high explanatory power. We compared fern species richness along 20 elevational transects to quantify the relative contribution of climate and MDE as drivers of elevational richness patterns.

Location: Twenty transects world-wide.

Methods: Ferns were sampled in 1039 plots of 400–2500 m2 each. Mean annual precipitation and temperature, epiphytic bryophyte cover (as a proxy for air humidity) and MDE predictions were included as independent variables. For each transect, we calculated multiple linear models and partitioned the variance to assess the relative contribution of the independent variables, selecting the most parsimonious models based on Akaike weights and multi-model inference.

Results: Along most individual gradients, nearly all variance of fern species richness that could be attributed to either space or MDEs was collinear with climatic factors. Yet, the comparison across transects showed that elevational richness patterns are most parsimoniously accounted for by climatic conditions, especially by low water availability at low elevations and in dry regions in general, and by low temperatures at high elevations and in extra-tropical regions.

Main conclusions: Fern species richness is most closely related to climatic factors, and while MDE, surface area and metapopulation processes may somewhat modify the patterns, their importance has been overstated in the past. Future research challenges include determining whether the richness–climate relationship reflects: (1) a direct relationship through the physiological tolerance of the plants, (2) an indirect influence of climate on ecosystem productivity, or (3) an evolutionary legacy of longer or faster diversification processes under certain climatic conditions.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany
Dewey Decimal Classification:580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:2011
Deposited On:01 Dec 2011 09:50
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 09:50
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:1466-822X
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1466-8238.2011.00653.x

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