Aim To evaluate the relative role of environmental factors and geographical position (latitude and longitude) in determining species distribution and composition of local assemblages of butterflies and birds.
Location Czech Republic, central Europe.
Methods Canonical correspondence analysis that ordinates species and samples (grid cells in distribution atlases) such that interspecific and intersample differences attributable to environmental factors are maximized. The technique allowed us to test the significance of individual factors, including the geographical ones, by controlling the other factors and accounting for spatial autocorrelation.
Results Altitude and climate (temperature and precipitation) accounted for most variance in the interspecific differences in distribution of both butterflies and birds. The distribution of birds was also strongly affected by the area of water bodies, and less strongly, but still significantly, by the area of meadows and mountain open habitats. Habitat types important for the differences in butterfly distribution were deciduous forests, meadows, swamps and mountain open habitats. Some less common habitat types were important only because of the presence of rare species. Latitude and longitude invariably accounted for a large proportion of total variance, and their effect was highly significant even after controlling for the effect of all other environmental factors.
Main conclusions Although environmental factors, especially those related to elevation and climate, represent the main determinants of species distribution and composition of local assemblages, the geographical position is very important on this scale of resolution. Understanding distribution patterns, thus, must include not only an understanding of species ecological requirements, but also an understanding of geographical context, which affects structure and dynamics of species’ geographical ranges.