Aim Global patterns of species richness are often considered to depend primarily on climate. We aimed to determine how topography and land cover affect species richness and composition at finer scales.
Location Sierra de Guadarrama (central Iberian Peninsula).
Methods We sampled the butterfly fauna of 180 locations (89 in 2004, 91 in 2005) at 600–2300 m elevation in a region of 10800 km2. We recorded environmental variables at 100-m resolution using GIS, and derived generalized linear models for species density (number of species per unit area) and expected richness (number of species standardized to number of individuals) based on variables of topoclimate (elevation and insolation) or land cover (vegetation type, geology and hydrology), or both (combined). We evaluated the models against independent data from the alternative study year. We also tested for differences in species composition among sites and years using constrained ordination (canonical correspondence analysis), and used variation partitioning analyses to quantify the independent and combined roles of topoclimate and land cover.
Results Topoclimatic, land cover and combined models were significantly related to observed species density and expected richness. Topoclimatic and combined models outperformed models based on land cover variables, showing a humped elevational diversity gradient. Both topoclimate and land cover made significant contributions to models of species composition.
Main conclusions Topoclimatic factors may dominate species richness patterns in regions with pronounced elevational gradients, as long as large areas of natural habitat remain. In contrast, both topoclimate and land cover may have important effects on species composition. Biodiversity conservation in mountainous regions therefore requires protection and management of natural habitats over a wide range of topoclimatic conditions, which may assist in facilitating range shifts and alleviating declines in species richness related to climate change.