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Keywords:

  • Diversity gradients;
  • area hypothesis;
  • species-area relationships;
  • bird species richness

We tested the hypothesis that area represents the primary explanation for the latitudinal diversity gradient using breeding terrestrial birds of North America, the northern Palearctic, Australia and the Afrotropics as our focal group. We tested two propositions inherent to the area hypothesis: (1) tropical biomes are larger than extra-tropical biomes, and (2) there is a significant species-area relationship for birds at the biome scale of resolution. Using a more realistic definition of biomes which incorporates the effects of both energy and water, we find no support for either proposition, leading us to conclude that the area per se does not explain terrestrial latitudinal diversity gradients.