Species diversity and structure of phytophagous beetle assemblages along a latitudinal gradient: predicting the potential impacts of climate change

Authors

  • Nigel R. Andrew,

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    1. Key Centre for Biodiversity and Bioresources, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia
      *Nigel R. Andrew, Key Centre for Biodiversity and Bioresources, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, 2109, Australia. E-mail: nandrew@bio.mq.edu.au
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  • Lesley Hughes

    1. Key Centre for Biodiversity and Bioresources, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia
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*Nigel R. Andrew, Key Centre for Biodiversity and Bioresources, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, 2109, Australia. E-mail: nandrew@bio.mq.edu.au

Abstract

Abstract.  1. Assemblages of phytophagous beetles on Acacia were examined along a 1150 km latitudinal gradient in eastern Australia to investigate the potential effects of climate change on insect communities. The latitudinal gradient was used as a surrogate for differences in temperature. Several possible confounding variables were held constant by selecting comparable sites and emphasising a single host-plant species.

2. Total species richness increased towards the tropics, but there were no significant differences among latitudes for average species density, species richness, Fisher's α, or average Chao-1 index.

3. Beetles sampled along the gradient were classified into four climate change response groups, depending on their latitudinal range and apparent host specificity: cosmopolitan species, generalist feeders, climate generalists, and specialists. These four groups might respond differently to shifting climate zones. Cosmopolitan species (22% of community, found at more than one latitude and on more than one host plant) may be resilient to climate change. Generalist feeders (16%, found only at one latitude but found on more than one Acacia species) may well feed on several species but will have to move with their climatic envelope. Climate generalists (6%, found only on Acacia falcata but found at more than one latitude) may be constrained by the host species' ability to either cope with the changing climate or move with it. Finally, specialists (55%, found only on A. falcata and at only one latitude) may be forced to move poleward concurrently with their host species, or go extinct.

4. The analyses indicate that community structure may be fairly resilient to temperature change. The displacement or local extinction of species, especially the species that are found at only one latitude and on only one host plant, however, may lead to significant changes in community composition.

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